Mom and ChildAsk many kids what their favorite summer activities are, and swimming is sure to be mentioned among their top picks.

While swimming is an excellent way to cool off, burn energy and have fun, it can also be a danger to young swimmers.

How can we, as moms (and dads, too), thwart danger? As with many safety issues we encounter, using the tools of clear communication, education, parent/caregiver proximity and common sense are vital to instilling safety in our children.

Here are some steps to take to make pool and water play time safe:

1. Introduce water at an early age. Starting in the bathtub is a great way to introduce water. Sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” and substitute “clap your hands” with “wet your face,” “wet your hair” and so on. Show children how to blow bubbles in the water. Simple rhymes or songs can teach water awareness skills in a relaxed, non-intimidating way.

2. Perhaps the most obvious: Aways supervise your child when he/she is around water.

3. When using a plastic baby pool, Slip and Slide, or other water-retaining basin, always empty and store in an upright position when not in use. The same applies with water tables—empty when not in use.

4. If you have a permanent structure pool, remove all toys and floats from the pool when finished swimming. This stops the temptation of going back to the pool to find a toy.

5. Fence in your permanent pool with at least a 4-foot-high fence. Double check with your local municipality for regulations regarding pool fencing. Make sure there is a lock that is positioned up and out of a child’s reach. Lock the pool when not in use. For maximum security, install an alarm, such as the Safety Turtle (www.safetyturtle.com/pool-safety-products/pool-gate-alarm.html) on the gate.

6. Set ground rules and communicate why you are establishing them. If your children are old enough, ask for their ideas about what safe behavior at the pool looks like. Be upfront with your children, and let them know that you are setting these rules because you love them and you want them to be safe and happy.

Examples of some ground rules are: Only swim when a parent, or a trusted adult/sitter who knows how to swim and who is certified in infant/child CPR and first aid is able to supervise you. Swim with a buddy. Jump in feet first. Walk on the pool deck.

Post these rules so older kids can’t present the argument “…but you didn’t say that…”

7. Keep a cell phone or cordless phone at the poolside with you in case of an emergency. On that note, if a child falls in the pool and stops breathing, begin CPR and call 9-1-1. If another person is with you, that person should call 9-1-1 as you continue to perform CPR. To learn about CPR, visit the following links: www.aap.org/family/infantcpranytime.htm and www.heart.org/HEARTORG/CPRAndECC/CPR_UCM_001118_SubHomePage.jsp

8. Take parent/child water safety lessons. Check with your local community pool, Infant Swimming Resource (www.infantswim.com) or the YMCA (http://www.northpennymca.org/) for such programs. The National YMCA Shrimp and Kippers classes are offered for children ages 6 months to 3½ years. For older children, skill-based classes begin at age 3½. These classes are a great way to develop safe water habits in very young children and for older children to learn swim strokes.

According to a March 2009 article in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/163/3/203), researchers concluded that among young children ages 1 to 4 years, there was an 88 percent drowning risk reduction from taking formal swim lessons.

Brenner et al pose a caution, though, as even the strongest and skilled of swimmers can succumb to drowning.

Overall, parent/caregiver vigilance, communication, opportunities for children to learn about water safetey, and creating safe pool and water play environments are some of the keys to avoid accidental drowning.

What kind of pool safety advice do you practice or encourage your children to practice?

Originally posted on http://lansdale.patch.com/articles/moms-talk-summer-pool-safety.