Pool Safety for Kids: Everything You Need to Know

January 27, 2015
Pool Safety for Kids

There is nothing kids love more than living in a house with a swimming pool in the backyard. It doesn’t matter if it is an aboveground pool or an in-ground pool–a pool is still the greatest thing in the world when summer rolls around!

After all, when the weather is hot and the sun is shining, they can splash around and play all day long in the cool water. Those with a pool are the kings of summer!

But pools aren’t just for fun and play. They can be quite dangerous if you aren’t careful, and your kids run a much higher risk of injury or harm thanks to the pool.

That doesn’t mean you need to be terrified and keep your kids as far away from the pool as possible, but it does mean you’ll need to be cautious and teach pool safety for kids. It’s the best way to ensure there are NO accidents in your epic swimming pool!

Why is a Pool Dangerous?

There are a surprising number of dangers surrounding a pool area! Here are a few things that could happen if your children don’t follow proper pool safety rules:

  • Drowning — If your kids don’t know how to swim and they fall or climb in, there is a very real risk of drowning.
  • Slipping – If water gets on the deck surrounding the pool, your child may slip and fall if they move too quickly on the slippery floor. They can either fall into the pool or fall onto the hard floor around it. Either way, it’s an injury for sure.
  • Ingesting chemicals – If you don’t take care to lock away the chemicals you use to clean your pool, your smaller children or toddler may run across them and somehow ingest them. If you think ingesting bleach or dish soap was bad, imagine how much worse pool-grade chlorine is! (Below we’ve got a list of the side effects of pool chemicals…)

These are just a few of the serious threats to your children’s health and wellbeing, so it’s imperative that you take your pool safety for kids seriously!

Thankfully, this is a complete guide to pool safety for your children, so read on to find out everything you need to know about keeping your kids as safe as possible…

Which is Safer: An Aboveground or In-Ground Pool?

In-ground pools are the luxury option for those who can afford the added expense to their home, but aboveground pools tend to be much cheaper–and thus more common. Both types of pools are WONDERFUL for those hot summer days, but do you know which is safer?

Pros and Cons of In-ground Pools

  • The pool is usually fenced off, so it’s harder for small children to climb or fall in by accident
  • There is usually more visibility with an in-ground pool, making it easier for the adults to see what’s going on in the pool
  • The walls of the pool are very sturdy, and there’s little risk of the pool being damaged
  • The tiles around the pool tend to be slippery when wet
  • If the pool is emptied, it can be very dangerous if your kids fall in

Pros and Cons of Aboveground Pools

  • A ladder is needed to enter the pool, making it a challenge for kids to climb into. There is little risk of a toddler stumbling into the pool by accident
  • An aboveground pool can be placed on grass, eliminating the risk of wet and slippery floors around it
  • The smaller pool is easier to keep clean, and requires less chemicals than the larger in-ground pools
  • The walls are less sturdy, meaning it’s harder for your kids to climb out of the pool unaided
  • Kids and adults tend to be less cautious in aboveground pools–both in pool play and pool safety

The truth is that both above and in-ground pools do present risks to your children’s safety. Depending on the type of pool you have, you need to enforce pool safety rules accordingly!

Pool Safety Tips for Conscientious Parents

Pool Safety Tips for Parents

Below you’ll find a lengthy list of safety tips for parents to keep in mind. Not only will these simple steps help to reduce your children’s risk of injury, but you can increase the quality of their pool time while keeping them safe.

Enjoy our awesome pool safety tips!

Always Keep an Eye on Kids

Your children must be supervised at all times when playing in and around the pool. Just because they are happy and laughing at the moment, that doesn’t mean they are safe. If you turn your back on the children, you may not see when one stumbles, falls, or hits their head.

Smart adults make it a point to NEVER leave children unattended in the pool or anywhere in the vicinity. If you have to go inside or run an errand, make sure your kids get out of the pool and/or the pool area.

No amount of whining and complaining is worse than what you would feel if one of your children ended up in the hospital thanks to something that happened when your back was turned.

Pair an Adult with Smaller Children

If your child is younger than 4 or 5 and cannot swim, never let them get into the pool without an adult. Small children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water, so even a kiddy pool isn’t safe without someone there to keep an eye on them.

Your older children may want to bring the toddler or infant into the pool with them, but you should carefully consider before permitting it. If your older child is responsible, let them take the smaller child but always keep an eye on them. If you cannot trust the older child with the life of the younger one, it’s better to get into the pool yourself.

The truth is that the smaller child is not going to like it, and they’re going to whine, cry, and beg to get into the pool. As the parent, it’s your responsibility to make sure your children are safe, so it’s time to turn a deaf ear to those complaints. You’re doing it for their good!

Teach the Kids to Swim

Every child over the age of 4 or 5 should have at least a working knowledge of how to swim! If your home has a pool–above or in-ground, it doesn’t matter–you should teach your children at least the basic swimming strokes (breast stroke, the crawl, backstroke, etc.).

If your pool is too small to teach them to swim, sign the kids up for swimming lessons in your local recreational center. There they can learn under a qualified instructor, who will teach them everything they need to know about swimming properly and safely.

Children who do not know how to swim should not be allowed into the deep end of a pool, or to enter a pool without the supervision of an adult. You can use this as an incentive to get your child to take swimming lessons. After all, the faster they learn to swim, the sooner they’ll be able to swim in the deep end on their own.

Have an Adult in or Near the Pool with New Swimmers

Even if your child/children have been swimming for a year or two, that doesn’t mean they are strong swimmers. It’s a good idea to have an adult in the pool with the new swimmers, or at least sitting on the sideline.

New swimmers may try to be confident in their abilities, but the truth is that they are far more likely to panic if they grow tired or have trouble swimming. It’s at times like this that you need an adult handy for support, or to rescue them should they need it.

Keep the Pool Temperature Balanced

If the water of your pool grows very cold (as it will in the winter), the children run a risk of hypothermia. Even if the sun is shining brightly overhead, cold water can lower their body temperature. If the temperature of the water is lower than 70 degrees F, it’s too cold! Use a thermometer to test the water temperature before allowing your kids to swim.

The ideal pool temperature hovers somewhere between 82 and 86 degrees F. This is perfect for kids who are enjoying recreational swimming, and you’ll find that even small children and babies can swim when the water is this warm. If your pool doesn’t have a heater, either install one, or wait until the weather warms up before allowing your kids into the pool.

Swim at the Right Time of Year

Never allow your children to swim during the winter, as the water will be VERY cold and can lead to hypothermia. The winter wind can be very chilly, and your kids will run a much greater risk of getting sick. Even early to mid-spring will be too cold for swimming, and only once you get to the summer months will it be warm enough to swim.

Your kids will clamor to swim during spring and fall, but you should always check the weather forecast before giving them a the go-ahead. If you see that the weather is still cold, it’s better to put off swimming for another day, week, or month until things warm up.

Watch for Shivering Kids

If you see that your child is shivering, it’s time to take them out of the pool. Body temperature drops much more quickly in water than in the open air, so your children are far more likely to get sick or suffer from hypothermia while inside the pool.

Blue lips and pale skin are another sign that your kids need to come out of the pool. Cold children will usually move much more slowly, and will often cling to the walls of the pool. If you notice any of these signs, take your child out of the pool, bundle them up in a towel, and get them warm and dry as quickly as possible.

Teach Them to Avoid Drains and Pipes

If your child plays around the pipes and drains, their risk of injury greatly increases. Why is this? Simple: a small child can insert their hand into a pipe and get it stuck. If they cannot remove their hand, they may be unable to come to the surface for air and thus they risk drowning.

Show your children all of the pipes, drains, and openings in the pool, and teach them to stay well away from them. Explain why it could be a hazard to them, and enforce the rule any time they play with the pipes or drains. They will learn fairly quickly.

Learn the Basics of CPR and First Aid

As the parent, it’s in your best interest to learn as much as you can about first aid, injury treatment, and CPR. Even if you never need to use it, it’s better to know the procedure than to find yourself in a dire situation without the knowledge of how to perform CPR.

You can have a First Aid course taught in your home, and all of the older children and adults at home will need to attend. You’ll learn the basics of CPR and other important life-saving techniques, which may very well come in handy in the pool–as well as in other areas of life!

Install a Pool Alarm

Did you know that you can install an alarm in the fenced-off enclosure around your pool? An alarm will tell you if the pool gate has been opened, or if someone has climbed over the fence to get into the pool area. If you have small children, it’s definitely worth installing an alarm.

An underwater alarm is also a great idea. This alarm will be triggered when something heavy hits the pool (a dog or cat may trip the alarm, falling debris will not). You’ll turn the alarm off when you are playing around in the pool, but you can turn it back on when the pool is meant to be empty.

Consider a Pool Cover

A pool cover will prevent your children and pets from getting into the pool, and will make the area much safer. If you use a motorized pool cover, it will allow you to cover the pool with far less effort.

Just make sure that there is no water on top of the pool cover, as that may press it down and cause it to dip below the surface of the pool water. Also, ensure that there are no openings in the pool cover where a child could fall in. If a child falls into a covered pool, they may become trapped and, due to the cover, you wouldn’t be able to see them in time to help.

Empty Inflatable Pools

This applies for small inflatable kiddy pools, not aboveground pools. If you are playing in a kiddie pool with your child, make sure to empty the pool and deflate it.

This will reduce the risk that your toddler or small child will fall into the pool at any time, and can prevent a serious accident.

Pull All Toys out of the Water

Pool toys can make swimming a lot of fun, and your child may want to bring their own toys into the pool as well. This isn’t a problem, but you just need to make sure that the kids take all of the toys out of the pool once they finish swimming.

Why is this? Simple: your child may try to retrieve the toy later and could fall into the pool. For this reason, make sure that all toys are removed before your children leave the pool.

Always Have Safety Equipment Handy

A safety ring is a “must-have” for parents who own pools. The buoyant safety ring will provide your child with something to cling to if they run out of energy or panic and can’t swim. You should always have it handy in case of an emergency, within each reach and highly visible.

Safety rings can save lives, so hang it on the fence or by your chair. When your child begins to panic, throw them the ring so they can cling to it and calm down.

Keep a Phone Handy

Always make sure that you have a phone handy when your kids are swimming in the pool. You need to be able to dial 911 IMMEDIATELY in case of an emergency.

If your cordless home phone doesn’t get signal out by the pool, make sure to bring your cell phone with you. The risk of the phone getting wet is nothing compared to the risk of your child drowning because you couldn’t get the ambulance to your home in an emergency situation.

These tips will help you to keep your kids safe in the pool, and will reduce your risk of pool-related injuries as much as possible.

Pool Safety Rules to Keep Your Kids Safe

kid in the pool

Your children need to be responsible for their own safety. You can’t be the only one worrying about them, but you should teach them to be concerned for their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of the others in the pool.

Before you allow your children to swim, make sure they learn the following rules:

  • Don’t spend too much time in the sun The more time they spend in the sun, the greater the risk of sunburn, fatigue, and dehydration. Make sure to apply sunscreen before they go in the pool, and use hats and sunglasses where necessary,
  • Consider using floaties and swimming aids – Smaller children should ALWAYS use U.S. Coast Guard-certified life-jackets in the pool, but even older children can benefit from swimming aids. You can use floating, pool noodles, and even small boogie boards in the pool if they need help swimming.
  • Drink up Make it a point to have all the kids get out of the pool and drink a glass of water every hour. Oddly enough, the risk of dehydration in the pool is much higher, as the presence of water makes the kids think they don’t need to hydrate.
  • Store all of the pool toys neatly Teach your children to pull all of their toys from the pool and store them neatly in their place. Not only will this reduce your risk of injury, but it will also help to reduce the contamination of your pool.
  • No running by the pool Water makes things slippery, and both tiles and grass can be quite hazardous. For this reason, you need to teach your children not to run around the pool. This is one to enforce AT ALL TIMES!
  • Dive only in the deep end If you are going to allow your children to dive in the pool, make sure that they ONLY dive in the deep end. The risk of injury is much higher in the shallow end, where they could hit their heads on the bottom of the pool.
  • Watch where you are jumping or diving Your motto should be “Look before you leap!” Kids should always be aware of the others in the pool, and never jump into the pool if there is someone nearby. The risk of injury is much higher, as they could collide with or land on top of a fellow swimmer. Another rule to enforce AT ALL TIMES!
  • No rough housing in the pool Active kids love to play rough in the pool, but you need to rein it in. There are lots of fun, active games you can play, but you want to stop rough-housing before it gets out of control. Anything that could turn into a fight or argument has the potential to lead to a serious injury.
  • No dunking Dunking is one of the most dangerous things your kids can do in the pool, so NEVER allow them to push their brothers, sisters, or friends underwater. Give a harsh consequence to anyone who breaks this rule.
  • Keep an eye out for younger kids and weaker swimmers When your older children are swimming, it’s important that they watch out for the smaller children and weaker swimmers in the pool.
  • Smaller children in the shallow end only It doesn’t matter if your small child thinks they can swim; they need to stay in the shallow end only, unless they are using floaties!

Make sure your children respect and obey the rules. Never hesitate to enforce a consequence if they break a rule–it’s for their own good!

Teach Your Kids to Respect the Pool Safety Rules for Their Own Sake

pool safety

Why does it matter that you enforce all of these rules?” That question is going to be running inside the children’s minds at all times, and it’s one you need to address.

You know how dangerous the pool can be, so it’s up to you to teach your children about the various hazards of a swimming pool. It may surprise them to learn just how many ways they can be injured, as well as all the things that can lead to death.

Your children should develop a healthy respect–not fear–of the pool. They need to realize that their safety is as much in their own hands as in yours, and that will help them to be smart in their pool play.

It’s worth giving them a short, simple course on pool safety. You can take the highlights of this article and make a slideshow to show them. With just 5 to 10 minutes, you can teach your kids everything they need to know about being safe in the pool. Doing so, especially with older children, is one of the best ways to instill concern over pool safety in your kids’ minds.

Why Pool Fences are So Vital

If you own an aboveground pool, you MUST have a pool fence. Not only will it help to keep small children out of your pool area, but it will stop pets and strange animals from getting in as well.

The pool fence should:

  • Stand at least four feet tall. This is tall enough to stop most children from climbing over, and only larger, more agile pets will be able to scale it.
  • Bullet Point 2Have a self-latching gate. You want the gate to stay closed at all times, so a self-closing, self-latching gate will ensure that it is never left open.
  • Be climb resistant. Chain-link fences are too easy to climb, so you should look into fences that are not easy to climb. Also, make sure that there are no lawn chairs, ladders, or other items that your kids can use to climb over the fence.

Understanding Pool Chemicals

You need chemicals to ensure that your pool stays in good condition, but you should realize that pool chemicals are VERY dangerous to your child.

If your child somehow manages to ingest, inhale, or even come in contact with the highly concentrated chlorine, the symptoms can be pretty nasty:

  • Symptoms of the circulatory system include low blood pressure and pH level changes
  • Symptoms of the respiratory system include fluid in the lungs and difficulty breathing
  • Symptoms of the digestive system include pain and swelling in the throat, blood in the stool, vomiting, stomach pain, and a burning sensation in the mouth

BE CAREFUL WITH CHEMICALS!

The Pool is NOT a Bathroom

It’s essential that you teach your children NOT to pee or poop in the pool. Not only will it make the pool dirty and difficult to clean, but there is a very real danger when they relieve themselves in the pool.

See, chlorine is used to keep the pool water clean, but when chlorine mixes with the uric acid in urine it creates something called cyanogen chloride. Cyanogen chloride is a harmful gas that can cause problems with your heart, lungs, and nervous system if inhaled. Up to 68% of this chemical byproduct is the result of uric acid.

Medical Daily has more information on the hazards…

Don’t Let Them Spend Too Much Time in the Water

Aside from dehydration, fatigue, and sunburn, there are other hazards of allowing your kids to spend too much time in the pool. Exposure to the chlorine in the pool can lead to:

  • Skin infections
  • Eye infections
  • Kidney disorders/cancer
  • Cardiovascular defects
  • Digestive problems
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Liver infections
  • Respiratory defects
  • Epiglottitis
  • Neurological dysfunction

These are serious problems that may set in if your children are exposed to too much chlorine, and that’s not even counting the damage that can be done to their hair and skin! It’s important that you limit the amount of time your kids spend in the pool for their own sakes!

Diving: Good or Bad?

Diving isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there’s a reason that most public pools prohibit it: it increases the risk of injuries.

Diving injuries are far more common than swimming injuries, as divers often don’t see what they’re doing, dive incorrectly, and land on other swimmers’ heads.

You can permit your children to dive, but make sure:

  • They know how deep the water is in certain parts of the pool
  • They know how to adjust the angle of their dive according to the depth of the water
  • They only dive into the deepest part of the pool, NEVER in the shallow end
  • They only dive when no one else is around
  • They dive into the center of the pool, not at an angle
  • They avoid diving through inner tubes or around other pool toys

NEVER allow your children to dive into an above-ground pool. They are far too shallow, and the risk of injury is much greater!

Diving incorrectly can lead to serious injuries of the spinal cord and skull, resulting in concussions, permanent brain damage, and even death. It’s not something to take lightly!

Pool Safety Resources:

Find a CPR course near you…

Learn about swimming safely from the CDC…

Download a PDF on pool safety from Safe Kids Worldwide…

Kaitlin Gardner

About the Author

Kaitlin Gardner

Kaitlin Gardner currently lives in Pennsylvania and is married to her best friend. In her spare time, she loves to go hiking , hand with her family and friend and enjoy nature.

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Mary Levitt

Wow – what a post! These tips will come in handy as soon as the summer hits us.

Robyn

This is such a fantastic resource. It’s SO important to keep safe near water. In Australia every second house has a swimming pool outside, so this would be a great read for us Aussie mums. I’m going to share it with my readers xx

Kaitlin Gardner

Thanks Robyn. I’d love to write a guest post on the topic just for your blog!

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