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May 17, 2018

Don't make these summer safety missteps

With warm weather within reach, here are some tips for keeping our little ones safe at the pool, beach and lake

Children's Health Prevention
Katie's Baby_WaterSafety Juan Salamanca /

We have finally made it!

After what seemed like a Game of Thrones-esque march through an endless winter, warm weather is here! Your kids may be in school a bit longer this year because of those annoying snow days, but the summer season is almost upon us with pools and beaches opening for business again soon.

Since we seemed to skip over spring this year, it may seem premature to refresh ourselves on water safety and how to make the most out of the approaching fun summer days but you will be lathering the sunscreen on your protesting children before you know it. Prior to that first cannonball, here are some of the things I am keeping top of mind to ensure my son has a safe and happy summer.


Drowning is a leading cause of death among children so we should never, ever leave kids alone near open water. Not for one second. For babies, toddlers and kids who cannot swim, touch supervision is endorsed which means they are always in your hands in the water and no more than an arm’s length away. If children are swimming it is best to have around someone who knows CPR. Lifeguards are an extra layer of security to keep your kids safe but that does not mean Mom and Dad are off the hook for paying attention. Head off emergency situations in advance by teaching your children how to swim.

We enrolled Killian in swim lessons last summer when he was between 8 and 10 months. Honestly, it was a waste of money – he was just too young – but we are going to do it again this summer and every summer until he learns because I want him to know how to swim as soon as possible. If you own a pool there is another level of precaution and responsibility which should include fencing, locks and an alarm. Is this all starting to sound like the fun getting sucked out of summer? The idea here is to enhance your family’s enjoyment by keeping your kids safe. So here’s what to remember: never take your eyes off children in and around water; never take your hands off children who cannot swim; ensure children cannot get into water without your supervision; and teach your kids to swim.


Many of the beaches in our area have lifeguards, but just like in the pool I endorse touch supervision for the littlest ones and an eagle eye for the older kids. My family likes to get on the beach early before the guards are on, but experts recommend that you only swim in the ocean when lifeguards are on duty which makes a lot of sense because the sea can be very unpredictable and dangerous. I have been swimming in the ocean since I was a baby but I am still cautious because I know firsthand how rough currents, rip tides and waves can be.

Last summer Killian hung out in the wet sand by the water’s edge. This summer I know he will be itching to get into the breakers which sort of scares me but I know if we always have our hands on him and teach him the importance of safe swimming, like only going in the water in front of the guards stand and always paying attention when the guards blow their whistles, he will learn to enjoy and respect swimming in the ocean as much as his Mama. If your beach is at a lake, swim in front of the guards and always confirm the water depth before your kids start diving off the dock.


Adults need to wear lifejackets on boats, so of course should our little ones. Put them on as soon as you arrive to ensure your kids are protected even at the boat launch. If you are going on a friend’s boat or renting one, make sure to ask in advance that they have the right size life jacket for your child. A loose life jacket is ineffective. On the open water, flotation devices or rafts are not a substitute for life jackets.


The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that all children wear (and often reapply) a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher. Kids can put up a fight with sunscreen but there are a bunch of different kinds to try to find the best one for your family. I use Babyganics sunscreen on my son because I know it is made with only natural ingredients and Killian tolerates its application pretty well. I use a Neutrogena spray on myself because it allows for fast application which is important for any parent with their hands full. Friends of mine really like the sunscreen stick because it is the only thing their kids will not completely fight.

In addition to sunscreen keep your children’s skin covered as much as possible with hats, rash guards and long sleeved-shirts. If your child falls asleep in a sunny spot, cover them or move them into a shaded area. We have a pop-up beach umbrella tent that provides a place to get out of the intense rays whether in the backyard or on the beach. I also think it is a good idea to head indoors midday to take a break from the hot sun. Sunburn is not just dangerous for little ones but for the whole family.


It is easy to just go with the flow during the hazy, lazy days of summer. And it is good for children to learn to adapt to changes in plans, like taking a nap on the fly, because flexibility is an important skill. But kids thrive on routine and it is especially important to keep your baby and toddler’s schedules intact most of the time. Have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the usual times, even if that means on a sandy beach towel or grabbing something from the snack bar at the pool club.

Most importantly, keep to the sleep schedule. This is as much for their benefit as it is for your own sanity. Killian is 19 months and still going between one and two naps a day. His morning (and sometimes only) nap happens around 10 a.m. and it is an absolute priority in my house. There are some days when it is a little earlier or later or in the car, but he needs that nap to be his best. Sleep is such an important part of his overall health and wellness that no matter how much fun we are having at the pool or beach, we will be taking a break from the water for Killian’s naps and continue to prioritize his bedtime routine.


Long ago are the days when I could just grab a bikini and a towel and head to the shore. When you are a parent, preparation is key to an enjoyable day for the whole family. At first, it can seem like a lot but if you plan ahead it becomes easy to grab and go. In addition to the things I have already mentioned, I do not head to the pool or beach without multiple water bottles with spouts (that everyone in the family can use), swim diapers for Killian, a pack of baby wipes and sanitizing wipes, extra dry clothes and towels for us all, and healthy, nonperishable toddlers snacks like puffs and pouches that you can always keep in your bag.

When we are heading onto the beach, we use our jogging stroller to haul Killian and all the gear. The big tires make it easy to push in the sand and it is big enough to hold everything we need for the day. Don’t worry about lugging those sand toys; big clam shells and your hands can build great sand castles.

For the pool, there are mixed opinions about flotation devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not endorse floaties for babies but we used one for Killian last summer that we all loved. If you also use one, do not rely on it to keep your child afloat. It is imperative to always keep your hands on your kids when they are in the pool until they are fully competent of swimming by themselves.

This Memorial Day, remember to be safe and have fun around the water while also paying tribute to the heroes for whom  this national holiday is designated. Thank those who are currently serving and remember those families who have given the ultimate sacrifice to a grateful nation. Enjoy the time with family and friends. Happy Summer!

What are your water safety tips and summer hacks? Share with me and other parents in the comments section below or Tweet me @ThePhillyVoice and @KathleenEGagnon.

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