Safety at Water Parks and Public Pools

by: Lydie Thomas

Summer is here and kids everywhere are ready to live it up at a good ol’ waterpark. As fun as they are, they are often a scary place for parents with smaller kids who aren’t strong swimmers yet.

Drowning is the second most common cause of death from injuries among kids under the age of 14. Drowning can happen so fast — sometimes in less than 2 minutes after a person's head goes under the water. That leaves very little time for someone to help.


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Here are some quick tips on keeping your kids safe in the summer in those crowded water parks.

For Non-swimmers


  1. Set up the rules. No running or jumping by the pool or on wet surfaces. No pushing or jumping on each other in the water. No diving in a shallow pool. Listen to the life guards. Don’t eat or chew gum while swimming.  You could choke easily

  2. Take swimming lessons. The best advice is to have them take swimming lessons. If you’re not a good swimmer, you probably want to take a course as well. Both you and your kids should know how to swim and not panic in unexpected situations in the water. Kids should be able to learn this around 5 years of age. Check with your American Red Cross, YMCA, local park and recreation organizations, health/sports club, and swim clubs for group lessons, semi-private, or private lessons for your kids.

  3. Wear a life vest. Unlike other flotation devices, a life vest is designed to keep little ones from getting stuck head forward in the water. It allows you not to worry so much about your non swimmer that you neglect watching your kids who can swim independently.

  4. Do not leave them in the responsibility of older children. Non-swimmers are our responsibility as parents. Waterparks are so fun that even the most mature older kids can get distracting. Remember, kids are just kids and can often have bad judgment.

  5. Never let kids out of your sight. Drowning children often do not make a lot of noise and can drown in even the shallowest of waters. Things can happen quickly.

  6. Make them aware of the lifeguards. These are their “life” guards. Whether they are having trouble in the water or lost, they should go to them and trust them.


For Swimmers

They will want more freedom and should be given a little bit more, but not don't get too complacent.

  1. Know where your kids are at all times and assign buddies. For younger kids, keep an eye on them at all times. For older kids, allow them to enjoy the park with a buddy.  We always take a friend or a buddy of my oldest daughter (now 11), so the two can swim, slide and scream together in the pool and on the rides.

  2. Test the water temperature. Cold water can shock your body and make your blood pressure and heart rate go up. You might accidentally open your mouth to yell and accidentally breathe in some water. Cold water can also slow your muscles, making it hard to swim.

  3. Read and listen. Some water slides are often fast and furious, so make your kids listen to the ride operators on how to position their bodies. Remind them to listen to the lifeguards. The rules are for their own safety, not for people to be a pain. Encourage them to read the signs for each water ride and pool.

  4. Have a routine check-in time. Have them check-in with you at various points in the day especially if you’re busy with a non-swimmer. Depending on the size of the water park, every hour or so is usually a good timeframe. 

  5. Lather on the sunscreen re-apply. Make sure to re-apply every two hours. Water and sun are a powerful combination and can make any skin sizzle. Make sure it’s not your kid’s

  6. Identify safe people who can help.  Water Parks can be very large and chaotic.  When you first arrive, help your child identify safe people who they can go to for help if they need help but can't find you, or if your young child gets lost.  Generally speaking a lifeguard can help with emergencies, cashiers usually have been fingerprinted, and a mom with with kids are safe.

For more information, go to Kids Health. Get out there and have a good time.


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Lydie Thomas is a Travel Whisperer and mother of two little avid travelers. She is sharing her tips and tricks on visiting the San Francisco Bay Area with children. She also loves to share her French culture and tips on vacationing in France with little ones. Subscribe to her blog or follow her on twitter @lydiethomas.

updated: July 09 2009 by Lydie

at 07/20/2009 10:01AM Aquaman wrote:
Good info! You can get more info at
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