My toddler Quinnlyn’s aunt bought her a water table, which is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a plastic tub on legs that you’re supposed to fill with water and toys. Then you put the kids in clothes you don’t mind getting soaked, stand back and let them go crazy. If you forget that first part and have a child like mine who has an unhealthy attachment to her socks, you’ll find her confusion about her wet feet really frustrating.
I knew the water table would be a huge hit and a colossal mess at the same time. We can’t leave our dog Sprocket’s water dish down for more than a few minutes at a time without it winding up all over the kitchen, living room, stairs and Quinn’s clothes. Incidentally, Sprocket is quite excited about his new giant water dish on legs but finds the toys floating in it a nuisance.
As a parent, the joy a child gets from splashing in the water is hard to contain, but I can’t help but be concerned about Quinn’s lack of respect for the dangers that water hides. Drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional death of children ages 5-24 and could happen in any standing water 2 inches deep or more.
This puts Quinnlyn’s new water table on the list of water-related dangers in and around the house; a list that already contains buckets of standing water, toilets, fish tanks, the bathtub, washing machine, sinks, wading pools (and larger pools), the puddle created at the end of our patio by our sump pump discharge, and rain water. Let’s not forget about ponds, lakes, streams and rivers; we live in Minnesota, after all. You can’t throw a rock without hitting water somehow. (Please don’t throw rocks, people.)
So, in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (and a home of 1,000 puddles), how can we make water fun while keeping our little ones safe? Here are some tips:
Pools, lakes and beaches
- Swimming lessons are of utmost importance – for caregivers and kids. And in the event of the unexpected, make sure you know CPR.
- Every swimmer should have two companions – one buddy in the water and one adult supervising from the edge of the water. Lifeguards will help in an emergency but won’t always alert your kids to dangerous behaviors. Adult supervisors should not be distracted by other things.
- Lifejackets should be properly fitting and U.S. Coast Guard-approved. Check the labels for weight requirements and be sure the jackets fit snug and don’t slide up when in the water.
o As an aside, Minnesota law requires all children younger than 10 wear a life jacket while aboard any moving watercraft.
- No pushing, shoving, pulling or standing on others in or near the water.
- Never dive into shallow waters or natural bodies of water where you can’t see beneath the surface.
- Do not swim during storms, especially when lightning is present.
- If you have a pool at home or in an apartment building – either in-ground or inflatable/free-standing – put up a fence all the way around the water.
o Fences should have vertical supports to make climbing harder, should be at least 5 feet high, and have a self-closing gate.
- Know how to use pool-rescue equipment such as throwable inflatables and a shepherd’s hook.
- Be aware of unsafe drains and encourage kids to never play around any drains as they can become entrapped in the suction. Visit Abbey’s Hope for additional information on this hidden danger.
- Never leave children unattended around water. Bath time can be fun, but recognize the danger if children are unsupervised or not taught appropriate behavior while in the water.
- Keep the doors closed to rooms where kids could turn on water or gain access to standing water. Consider using safety devices such as toilet locks and safety straps.
- Slippery surfaces also can create opportunities for injury. Keep floors dry and encourage kids not to run or rough-house on wet surfaces.
- Some organizations offer swimming lessons for children as young as infants. Though young kids won’t likely learn how to float by themselves or swim, they may develop a respect for water as they grow older.
At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we care for more pediatric emergency and trauma patients than any other health care system in our region, seeing about 90,000 kids each year between our St. Paul and Minneapolis hospitals. Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis is the area’s only Level I pediatric trauma center in a hospital dedicated to only kids, which means we offer the highest level of care to critically injured kids. From the seriously sick to the critically injured, we’re ready for anything.
Find more water safety tips in today’s post on Children’s MN’s Mighty Kids Blog.
Dex Tuttle is the injury prevention program coordinator at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Follow Children’s on Twitter @ChildrensMN.