*This is a sponsored post by Nationwide on open water safety. All opinions are my own.
I’m not the best swimmer. In fact, I’m self-taught. Basically, if I jump into the deep end of the pool, I’m not stopping until I reach the other side. Not only that, but my swimming looks funnier than it sounds because my arms flail everywhere as though I am swimming for my life. But not really knowing how to swim is no laughing matter to me for a couple of reasons.
First, as a kid, I remember watching other kids having so much fun in the pool while I was pretending to have fun in the shallow end with the little kiddies. Secondly, I may play around in pools, but I really don’t venture out into open water (lakes, rivers, oceans, and ponds). But now that I have four kids, I want to make sure they have as much fun as they want, whether they are in the pool or in open water.
While drowning in swimming pools gets a lot of attention (especially on my local news stations) the fact is that more kids and teenagers fatally drown in open water (lakes, rivers, oceans, and ponds).
In 2016, 43% of childhood drownings happened in open water.
Make Safe Happen partnered with Safe Kids Worldwide on a report to highlight the realities and hidden dangers associated with swimming in lakes, rivers, oceans, and other bodies of open water. They found that “despite a 28 percent decrease since 2000, 2016 saw the biggest increase in fatal drownings in children 0-19 years of age in the past five years. Tragically, more than 1,000 children fatally drowned in 2016.”
Did you know that an estimated 70 percent of fatal drownings occur between May and September? This is why Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen program is sharing vital information about open water safety to help parents and caregivers keep their small children safe, especially during the summer months when outdoor activities increase.
Nationwide launched Make Safe Happen in 2015 to empower parents and caregivers with tools and resources to make homes safer. Make Safe Happen is dedicated to reducing accidental injury – the leading cause of death of children 0-12. (Check out the Make Safe Happen App which contains specific water safety content and tips.)
3 Ways to Make Sure My Kids Have Fun and Stay Safe
1. Face Your Fears
I have a confession to make. We live near one of the best lakes in the country, Lake Lanier. But until this year, I never took my kids there because of my fears. Every year, I hear about accidents and drownings at the local lakes and so I decided not to allow my kids to participate in all of the fun activities at Lake Lanier such as their beaches, water park, or events.
But knowledge is truly empowering. This year, I got the facts on open water hazards and open water safety and I now I feel more confident about keeping my kids safe at the lakes. So, my advice to you is to get the facts and empower yourself to keep your kids safe.
Here are 5 Hidden Hazards of Open Water that every parent should know.
- Limited Visibility: Water in lakes and ponds can be murky, hiding hazards such as rocks, logs, and uneven surfaces. When entering unfamiliar water, go in feet first and wade out slowly.
- Depth, Distance, and Drop-offs: Open water rarely has depth markings, making it difficult to know if kids are getting into water that is over their heads. When looking for a safe place to swim, choose a designated swimming area and check for signs warning about potential hazards.
- Currents and Tides: Currents in rivers, creeks, and streams can be fast-moving and unpredictable. Before allowing kids to swim in open water, make sure they know how to deal with a crashing wave and escape a rip tide or strong current.
- Water Temperature: Open water is usually colder than water in a pool, which can affect a child’s swimming ability. When participating in boating or other recreational water activities, families should remember to dress for the water temperature, rather than the air temperature, and to always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
- Weather and Seasonal Differences– Changes in the weather can make open water more hazardous. Check the weather and water conditions before you leave home and again when you arrive. Stay alert for changes while you are on site and always stay out of the water if you hear thunder or see lightning.
Tip: Use designated swimming and recreational areas whenever possible. Professionals have assessed the area, and there are usually signs posted regarding hazards and lifeguard schedules.
2. Watch Your Kids
One way I ensure that my kids are safe AND having fun is by being present. This means I am not on my cell phone or off somewhere reading a book. I actually watch the kids and a lot of times I am playing with them.
Tip: Watch kids when they are in or around water. Keep young children and inexperienced swimmers within arm’s reach of an adult. Make sure older children swim with a partner every time.
3. Make Sure Your Kids Learn How to Swim
I made a commitment to myself that all of my kids would know how to swim. We live in a neighborhood with a pool and I want my kids to fully and confidently enjoy their time at the pool. Additionally, we also go on a lot of vacations and I want my kids to enjoy the beaches that we visit.
Tip: Every child is different, so enroll children in swim lessons when they are ready.
Just because kids swim and play in a pool doesn’t mean they are prepared for play in open bodies of water like beaches, lakes, rivers and more. But, unlike me, don’t shy away from enjoying the open water. Get the facts to keep your kids safe and have fun this summer.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Nationwide. The opinions and text are all mine.
Content for hidden hazards of open water and open water safety tips developed in partnership with the safety experts at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Worldwide. For more information download this Make Safe Happen Open Water Safety Checklist.