Water play is a way to keep cool and have fun during late summer’s heat and humidity. Guest blogger Jamie Smith, ISU Environmental Rating Scale Assessor, shares important considerations when staying safe while keeping cool!
Summer is here! Summer time is synonymous with water-pools, wading pools, water play. The pool is the most likely destination for most of us looking to enjoy some sunshine and a favorite place for children. The chance to be outside, socialize, and get some exercise is very important for children and adults. Do you have concerns about children and pools? Are you going to be responsible for a group of children at the pool? Even if your program does not take children to an actual swimming pool or use wading pools, it is still very important to form a safety plan for water play.
Let’s take a look at some recommendations for safe pool use and water play. Remember, it is important to evaluate your comfort level and address safety concerns before you agree to be in charge of children near water. Don’t put yourself at risk by being in charge of water play without knowing some basic safety rules.
Ratios – Ratios may need adjusted when children are in or near water. 1 teacher to every 12 preschoolers may work in the classroom, but will not meet safety standards during water play or swimming. Extra adult supervision can prevent accidents and drownings. Even if lifeguards are present, it is vital that all providers are carefully supervising the children. Caring for Our Children provides important recommendations for water play ratios.
Access – Closely monitor who can access water play and when. As always, fencing is important to any outdoor play area, but especially pools. A fence will help keep children out of and away from pools and water play when they are not supervised, as well as prevent them from leaving a designated area in which adults are present to monitor them. Also, if you are at a pool, you will want to control which children access which parts of the pool. I worked at a program that required parents to complete a swim-ability form, detailing their child’s level of competence and exposure to water. Based on that form, children were assigned different colored bracelets. A red bracelet meant that child had to stay in the shallow end of the pool, blue allowed up to 5 ft. of water, etc. Most pools have a “diving board test,” requiring children to prove to the lifeguards that they are able to swim a certain length, tread water, etc., in order to be allowed to use the diving board or use the deep end. Use these opportunities to help ensure children in your care are safe.
Supervision – Adults supervising children involved in swimming or water play must be actively supervising. It is a good idea to assign each adult to a specific area to remain in and watch closely. Keep in mind that another adult may be needed for additional duties-taking children to the restroom, applying sunscreen, monitoring the children sitting on their towels taking a break, etc. Caring for Our Children provides more specifics about water safety supervision.
Again, it is important that each person required to monitor children in or near water is comfortable and confident doing so. Take time to develop safety plans and communicate with other providers-a brainstorming session may really be helpful. Forming a group of providers that engage in water play at the same time may also lead to more adults being present and available to supervise.
What are some safety rules you adhere to when children engage in water play? Do you have any tips for supervising children near water?