It's summertime and our pools are brimming with activity. After all, spending time at the pool is a favorite summer pastime. That clear, sparkling water is just so much FUN, and it's something that kids look forward to the minute pools open. Despite the fun, though, it's a sobering fact that more than 600 children drown every year. That's why learning water safety essentials and being aware of drowning dangers is so important. Toward that end, the children participating in the Summer Adventure Camp at Walton Reserve, Walton Ridenour, Walton Village and Walton Crossing received two weeks of swimming lessons this summer, courtesy of the YMCA. These lessons didn't stop at just trying to teach children to swim — the main focus was to teach children HOW NOT TO DROWN — a big difference. The kids learned all kinds of things about safety around the water, from the obvious things like not diving in shallow water, to learning how to get out of the water while fully clothed to learning how to stop the panic and float on their backs until help can arrive.
Parents, drowning is not like most people think. Don't assume you'll hear your child yelling or splashing if he needs help — that's something you see in movies. In real life, most kids and adults drown quietly and quickly — in as little as 25 seconds. It's important that you understand and adhere to the following safety rules:**
* Never take your eyes off your child when he is in or around the water. Not even for a moment. He needs 100 percent of your attention. Very young children should always have a parent or responsible adult in the water with them.
* Ignore your phone. Make a pact with yourself: When you're at the pool or the beach or the lake, silence your phone and stow it out of reach in your bag so you're not tempted to use it. In the event of an emergency, you'll have your phone so that you can call 911, but you won't be drawn into to "taking a quick look" — long enough for a child to go under.
* Don't rely on water wings, inflatable toys or pool noodles. These were never meant to be life preservers. It's okay to let your little one use floatie toys, but only if you're right there next to her in the water. The only safe flotation device is a well-fitting Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
* Make older kids buddy up. Pair your child with a friend or sibling and explain that each kid is responsible for where their buddy is at all times. But remember — this isn't a replacement for parental supervision.
* Don't rely on a lifeguard or pool monitor. While they add an additional level of security, they do not take the place of close supervision by a parent or other adult. With many people in the pool at one time, it's easy for a child to slip underwater unnoticed. Be aware!
* Teach your child the rules. No running, no diving in shallow water, no pushing people in, no pulling other kids under the water and no swimming without adult supervision — ever. Adults should never swim alone either.
* Learn CPR. If the worst happens and you have to rescue a distressed swimmer, conducting CPR until help arrives could save a life. When it comes to drowning, doing something is always better than doing nothing.
* Sign your child up for swimming lessons. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children, age 4 and up, take swimming lessons. But don't let lessons give you a false sense of security. NEVER take your eyes off your child in the water!
Enjoy your summer and have fun while visiting the pool, but be safe!
**Water safety lessons from Parents Magazine