Sometimes, I think kids have a button in their heads –like in the movie Inside Out — and it gets pressed whenever they see water. When activated, it’s like this button overrides all rational thought with POOOOOOOL! the second they see one. That’s why it’s important to etch some essential pool rules for kids into their brains from moment they’re old enough to step into the shallow end without you — so they’ll remember and adhere to important safety rules, no matter how immersed in splashy fun they might be.
While we’ve put together 11 pool safety tips in the past, we’re condensing here to the 5 most important rules, which are the best place to start.
Plus, maybe we parents can rest a little easier poolside, too.
Top photo: rodrigolourenco via pixabay
1. No swimming without an adult.
The most important pool safety rule for kids is vigilant supervision. And that falls on us.
Basically, all of these other rules on this list are moot if there’s no responsible grown-up to supervise kids in the pool in the first place.
Enforce the rule that, as the Red Cross states, a guardian must be present when kids are swimming in the pool — even if there are lifeguards around.
If you have young children, you should always stay within arm’s reach, even if you consider them strong swimmers. And of course if you have non-swimmers in flotation devices, be in the pool with them.
To make sure you’re really heeding the #1 pool safety rule for kids, really try to avoid distractions while supervising. I find it helpful to remember that drowning doesn’t look or sound like drowning — there’s no waving, splashing, or yelling — and, while that’s terrifying to think about, it just means it’s extra-important that you let those Facebook posts or the end of that juicy novel wait until after the kids are safely out of the water.
2. Ignoring you or the lifeguard means instant pool ejection.
As parents, we all know it’s wildly frustrating to shout out an important direction or reminder to our kids, who promptly ignore us. This is especially problematic — and dangerous — when it happens at the pool.
Thanks to our associate editor Kate who shared this excellent family pool safety rule with me: The kids must listen and respond immediately to acknowledge they’ve heard her, or they sit out.
Works for me! And works for the kids.
3. Don’t run, push, or jump.
Sure, your kids have probably heard this a million times already, but remember that POOOOOOOL! echoing in their ears? Excited kids want in the water now. And wet cement means slick surfaces and a higher chance of slipping and getting hurt, which is worth talking about. So, no running.
Also, pushing or jumping on other people in the water is a huge no-no (as fun as it looks on YouTube videos); and they should never dive or even jump into the pool at depths that may be too shallow.
I’ve found that reminding my kids the lifeguard will whistle (loudly, so everyone can hear) if my kids forget any of these rules seems to help them take more seriously. Funny how far a little bit of public embarrassment goes.
Plus, there’s rule #2.
4. Don’t swim when and where you shouldn’t be swimming.
It’s easy for kids to get distracted and drift deeper into the deep end than they can handle, end up in the middle of a lap lane, or too close to an active diving board.
Younger kids may even wander over to the diving pool without permission as I well know. (Ugh, that was a fun day. Especially at a public pool, setting clear boundaries is a good thing but you can do it at home too. If you’re lucky enough to have a pool in your backyard, make sure it’s secure so that kids (yours, or neighbors and friends) can’t accidentally wander to the pool without proper supervision.
And by all means, set your own “don’t go here” boundaries, and make sure the kids memorize them.
5. Adhere to all rules of the pool.
Public or private pools often have their own specific rules, and they’re required to list all of them on signage. So be sure to spend a moment with your kids going over the rules before entering the pool area.
Maybe there’s no food allowed near the water, glass containers are banned, or before entering the pool everyone has to shower. Or hey, if the pool you’re visiting doesn’t allow mermaid tails or certain floatation devices for safety reasons, it doesn’t matter that Grandma does. Today, the tail stays dry.
I tell my kids they have to play by the pool’s house rules, or there’s no playing at all.
Finally, this is a tip more than a rule; but no matter what activity we’re about to do — trampoline, mini-golf, amusement park — we go over the dos and don’ts first. And then again. Pool time is no different. So before anyone dips even a toe in the water, say the rules together, out loud, and have your kids say the rules back to you.
With that checked off, you your kids can get to another important pool rule: Having as much fun as humanly possible.