I always get asked why my kids are so confident around water. There are many reasons for their confidence, and I’m sure some of them are genetic (I’m a swimmer, and just love the water). But, I also contribute most of their love for water, to swimming lessons. Yep, I’m that mum who has dragged their kids to weekly swimming lessons, rain, hail or shine. But, that doesn’t mean that I am not worried for them around water, especially when we are out camping.
Firstly, I make sure that where we are camping is not right next to a watercourse. I know this is hard to accommodate sometimes, but I try very hard to be at least 100m from the water. This “out of line of sight of water” rule is important to me, as I know my kids tend to gravitate towards the wet stuff.
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Next, if we are close to the water, I make sure my kids have flotation devices on at all times. We have Wahu brand flotation jackets, and they have been fantastic for my kids, especially because they have a groin leash that keeps the PFD from riding up to their faces. Our kids love these PFD’s too, and know how to keep their heads above water in them. That being said, they are always supervised around water.
Supervision is the most important tool, and one that cannot be understated. So many times over the past few years, I have heard of young children drowning in waterways only metres from their parents. I am sure these are amazing parents, and their kids are good around water, but it only takes one second for things to turn deadly. If people are drinking alcohol, make sure a few parents are sober, to be the ‘designated supervisors’ of the kids. Even better, get into the water with the kids – it’s so much fun and they will love playing with you.
Be wary of undercurrents, tides, and underwater hazards (think how many shopping trolleys get dumped in the Murray River alone each year?) These things can get even an expert swimmer into trouble. If you don’t know the area, speak to the locals or the Surf Lifesavers nearby. Do your research. Is this a safe place to swim? What are the rips like? Is it a patrolled beach? Is the current strong? What is the tide doing? Are there powerboats using the area?
If you are heading to the beach, please swim between the flags, on patrolled beaches. We have all watched “Bondi Rescue”, and marveled at how amazing Surf Life Savers are at saving people’s lives. As a Surf Life Saver myself, it always shocks me how people will bring their young children to the beach, and then let them swim outside the flag zones. This is not only dangerous for your family, but is also putting Life Saver’s lives at risk by making them patrol a more hazardous area.
Enjoy the water this year, but please be safe. And consider starting your children in swimming lessons – it might just save their life.