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10 Swim Safety Tips

July 9th, 2011 · 10 Brilliant Opinions · Travel Tips

Yesterday we saw the lifeguards haul a guy out of the ocean in the Hamptons.   Fortunately, he was okay.  Years ago, when we put in a pool at our vacation home, we got a lot of blank stares from friends and family.  You would have thought we had said we were buying kiddie coffins.  Water, pools, beaches are a source of a lot of dread – particularly for urban families.  I remember going to the Caribbean with my Mom as a kid.  My dad’s only admonition “Watch those kids in the water.” But by his tone, he might have well said to my mom –  “If those kids drown, don’t come back.”  Don’t let a tragedy ruin holiday travel.  Here are 10 tips for swimming safely.

  1. Take swimming lessons. Babies, kids, teenagers and  adults can take lessons fairly cheaply at their local Y.  Swimming is like reading and writing. It’s a life skill.  You don’t have to be Michael Phelps but you do need to know how to tread water, place your face in water without panicking and how to  breathe correctly .
  2. Have zero tolerance for horseplay, fighting, diving in pools and open water.  My kids know that if they even scream help – as a joke – pool time is over.
  3. Use life vests and other  floatation devices for kids and inexperienced swimmers.
  4. Teach kids to have a healthy respect for the power of water.  Early on we explained to our kids how much fun the water was but that it could also be dangerous.  Explain the tides, waves, sink holes.
  5. Do not swim alone, during storms or if you are drunk.
  6. Swim with extreme caution and at your own risk at beaches and pools without lifeguards.
  7. Keep a charged cordless or cellular phone with you at all times. If you are at a vacation home KNOW YOUR EXACT LOCATION. YOU MUST KNOW THE ADDRESS.
  8. Remove all toys from the pool and surrounding decking at the end of the day to prevent children from reaching in to get them.
  9. Teach kids that swimming is a group sport.  We are all responsible for each other at the beach and at the pool. We go together, play together and we all leave together.
  10. Supervision. Supervision. Supervision.  Adults are ultimately the ones who must supervise kids at the pool and at the beach.  Many accidents occur when we are off talking, drinking and partying.  If we have a party and the pool is open, we hire lifeguards.  We are still watching but its great to have several experienced folks on deck.
Do you have any swim safety tips?
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10 Comments so far ↓

  • Juli

    I just learned that NYC Parks and Rec. offers free swimming lessons at their public pools. They begin with tots-ages 1-5, as well as lessons for older kids. While there aren’t as many “stages” of lessons as the Y, or other private facilities it’s still valuable and I believe a child can either learn to swim, or begin a foundation that can lead to further skill development with the parks dept. program. Needless to say my kids are having a blast!

  • Ann

    Juli – that’s good to know. I wasn’t aware of the program. I think programs like these help take some of the “elitism” out of swimming. Swimming is for everyone. Every age, sex, race. Its great fun and wonderful exercise. I think lessons help reinforce the idea of “respecting” the power of water. Enjoy your summer!

  • Cayenne

    Great list. Having your child learn how to swim is one of the best gifts that you can give them. Our local lifeguards also give lesson fairly inexpensively to kids. $10 or so for a 1/2 hour lesson a lifetime of comfort in the water priceless.

  • Ann

    Cayenne – I would really like to see swimming incorporated into the public education system. We don’t ask folks to pay to learn to read and write. (Although, maybe I should not hold my breath on that one – might give someone ideas.)

  • Ann

    I just read this horrible story about a drowning that occurred at a NYC pool http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/14/nyregion/one-man-drowns-and-another-is-critically-injured-at-a-public-pool-on-staten-island.html?hpw
    My kids like to do this “game” of seeing who can hold their breath the longest under water…I didn’t realize it could be so dangerous.

  • betty ming liu

    these are great tips. and you’re kids are lucky to have a pool! i think that’s a great way to teach them water safety. the fact that they’re growing up around water says a lot. i grew up with water fear — which i’m getting over now as an adult. taking adult swim lessons changed my life.

  • Ann

    Betty – I also started learning to swim in my late 30s. We had a distant relative who actually drowned trying to save her own kid. The child did survive. That was enough for me. I always loved the water but my parents were terrified of it and my mother didn’t want to have to re-straighten my hair (that’s another blog post!) Its never to late to learn basic strokes and how to tread water.

  • Annw Andre

    When my daughte was about 20 months we arrivsed on paradise beach Carriacou, opened to car door and see snuck out and headed for the sea, i soon realised she was missing and saw her running towards the water, luckily her older brother Daniel was quick off the mark and retrieved her, needless to say the contents of my stomach had turned to water. I promised myself she would have lessons as soon as humanly possible, she had an unhealthy fear of water.
    That unhealthy fear worked to her benefit as she learned to swim very quickly and at a young age became a confident swimmer, she is now 14 and can easily do several lenghts in different strokes without stopping. All my children swim well, its a life skill that could save your life and its important that our children learn to swim. I have recently started swimming lessons, not because i cannot swim but because i want to swim correctly, its always been about the hair as most of my black sisters will agree, I now have natural hair but still take precautions as chlorine and salt can damage hair. there are products on the market that you can coat your hair with so that water does not penetrate to the hair folicle and after shampoo for pools and sea water. Do not let your hair stop you or your children from swimming. If your hair drops out chances are it will grow back, If you cant swim you will loose more than your hair…..It’s a life skill worth having

  • Ann

    Ann – children have a natural affinity for the water. They are fearless and will definitely take a chance at the pool, beach or lake. I just read there has been a 12% reduction in the amount spent on chemical hair relaxers/straighteners last year in the US. … so I think as more folks go natural, we will hopefully see more women of color excercising and swimming. Thanks for sharing.

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