If you’re planning to send your child off to a fun-filled summer camp this season, do so knowing that you’ve taught your child all he or she needs to know about water safety. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Make water safety a priority before camp begins
Don’t let your child’s first day of summer camp be their initial exposure to recreational water activities. Months before camp, enroll your child in an age-appropriate swim class. Teach your child to never swim outside of supervised areas and to stay with a buddy at all times. Swimming with one to two friends is an excellent way to know if someone goes missing. Younger children should always be supervised by an adult and should be taught from an early age to always ask permission prior to going near a swimming pool, lake, or other open body of water.
Teach paddle safety, even if you don’t own a watercraft
Boating, kayaking, and canoeing are fun and relaxing activities that the whole family can enjoy long after summer camp is over. Make sure your child always wears a Coast Guard-approved lifejacket and is aware of boundaries on where on the boat he or she is allowed to go. Children should not be permitted to hang off railings or to exit the boat while it’s moving. Lifejacket should fit snugly and should be designed in a way that keeps your child’s head floating out of the water in case of an emergency.
Consider the summer camp’s qualificationsWhen comparing summer camps, consider more than cost. Ask if the camp counselors are CPR-certified and trained in water rescue. Find out the adult-to-child ratio and get a list of all activities that your child will participate in throughout the course of the summer. The summer camp program should have a nurse on staff and take precautions to keep wayward children out of canoes, kayaks, and other tempting water toys. Ask where these items will be stored when not in use, as an unattended beach ball is an open invitation to an excited child. Summer camp costs can vary but a lower price tag isn’t necessarily the best value for your child’s safety and enjoyment.
Show interest in your child’s curiosity of the water
Teaching water safety means being interactive with your child when he or she is in the water. Never take your eyes off of a young child when they are near the water as it takes as few as 25 seconds for a drowning to occur. Keep your cell phone out of sight and silenced in a bag - no text message is worth losing sight of your little one in a potentially dangerous situation. If your child becomes used to having close-range supervision in the water, they will, hopefully, be less likely to wander off while away at summer camp.
Don’t rely on inflatable or foam toys or loungers to keep your child safe
It is easy to get caught up in marketing hype that would lead you to believe that your child is safe using a particular flotation device. Unless it is a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, it was not designed to save a life or to prevent submergence.
Understand water temperature
In the early spring and summer months, water may not have reached an optimal temperature for swimming. Water as warm as 50- to 60° can lead to Cold Water Shock, a situation where a swimmer is suddenly immersed in cold water and begins gasping for air and experiences an increased heart rate. Hypothermia is another concern, especially in cold, moving bodies of water such as those that would be used for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing – all common summer camp activities.