Get excited, y’all — summer is practically here! Here’s to long sunny days spent at splash pads, Barton Springs Pool and the lake! Swimming is a favorite summertime activity for littles of all ages and stages. I both adore and respect the water…I grew up on the Texas Gulf coast, am a former lifeguard and even started my child in swim lessons at just three months old. Plus, I’ve thrown in some sun-smart & water safety tips from experts I’ve learned along the way.
Alright, let’s get prepped with these 10 tips and enjoy time in the water this summer with the whole family.
The CDC reports that drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children under the age of 5. In fact, the rates even surpass those of traffic accident fatalities in recent years. When having pool parties, the more guests you have assigned to supervising, the less they actually watch. One person should be designated to take full responsibility. If it is a large party or alcohol is involved at all, hiring a lifeguard could save a life. There are multiple companies in the Austin area that will send a lifeguard to your house. You can get more information at safeguardaquatics.com.
While fabric is actually our first line of defense, sunscreen with SPF 50 is generally considered the gold standard. Personally, I’ve encountered many varying viewpoints on sunscreen among women here in Austin: —Are the active ingredients safe for everyday application? —Are the spray mist cans bad for us? —Do organic-only formulas really matter? The practice in our household is to not apply sunscreen directly to our skin on a daily basis but definitely utilize it to the most stringent SPF and application standards (every two hours!) when we are on the beach, golf course, or at the pool.
3. Age limits:
This official advice from the Skin Cancer Foundation was news to me: infants under 6 months should be kept out of the sun. The reason behind this is twofold: their skin is too sensitive for sunscreen and it also possesses little melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives color to skin, hair and eyes and provides some natural sun protection. Therefore, babies are especially susceptible to the sun’s damaging effects.
4. Be #SkinSmart:
May is Skin Cancer Awareness month and this is especially important to be aware of with the little ones under age 3. Just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. According to one US study, 54 percent of children become sunburned or tanned in their second summer, versus 22 percent in their first.
5. Sun protection fabrics:
Did you know that there are actually clothes that come with UPF 50+ (ultraviolet protection factor) already built right in? Coolibar, a maker of sun protective clothing, began developing these pieces based on scientific studies conducted as early as 1997, which rated a light-colored cotton shirt at an SPF of 10. Today, studies like those published by the Skin Cancer Foundation say, “A shirt with a UPF of 50 allows just 1/50th of the sun’s UV radiation to reach your skin. This would provide excellent sun protection, in contrast to a thin white cotton T-shirt.”
6. Reusable swim diapers:
Brands like iPlay make eco-friendly & effective swim diapers, effectively replacing the need to buy disposable swim diapers ever again. Tip: get ’em tight and you can’t go wrong by doubling up.
7. Water acclimation:
My daughter takes lessons at Emler Swim School and Megan Lantz the Aquatic Director there says, “When you introduce children to water at an early age, you are actively preventing aqua-phobia.” It is important to find year-round access to water instead of starting from scratch every season.
It’s never too early to start! In fact, Emler offers a free Bathtime Babies class for infants aged 2 – 6 months ($30 registration fee applies). There are many options around Austin for instructors to teach your kids to swim.
9. Getting the right gear:
Some swim school favorites:
- Goggles: Finis or Frogglez are the only way to go in the goggle department — they are made for tiny faces.
- Lifejackets: lots of options are out there, but look for the “coastguard approved” symbol on the inside.
- Puddle Jumpers: are my favorite because they prevent children from tipping forward & being unable to get themselves back up. They do have some drawbacks through — they have to fit well: when buckled and tightened, you should NOT be able to lift it over their head.
10. Water Safety:
If you are not going to be hands-on and actively interacting with a child while they are near water, make them wear a lifejacket. Even older, stronger swimmers get tired. There is a reason that lifeguards blow their whistles for 5 minute breaks at community pools. Most kiddos won’t admit they are tired until it too late and they have put themselves in a dangerous situation.