Water fun

Little girl playing at splash pad

Water play is arguably one of the best parts of summer.

When I was little I loved the water… swim lessons, swim team, river tubing, water slides. If it was wet, I loved it. We lived in a neighborhood with a pool so we were there all summer long. Over time I became a strong swimmer.

In the summer, the entire family (including grandparents and cousins) would go to the river for a camping trip. It was definitely not a glamping experience…we slept in sleeping bags on the ground in a tent, no air mattresses, no pillows, and no electricity. We brought our toilet paper to pee in the woods then disposed of the paper in the camp fire. It was all that AND a bag of chips!

When the days got especially hot, we’d canoe on the river and find a sandbar to swim at. We were all out there together and everyone knows that there is safety in numbers. One day, we were all out swimming. The water wasn’t all that deep, my 10 year old self could stand in it. My older cousin was within an arm’s reach of me. My parents were both in the water with my sister and brother. We were safe.

Sometimes we’re not as safe as we think.

I didn’t understand why suddenly I just couldn’t get my footing. My toes kept sliding thru the water, refusing to get a hold in the sand. My head would bob up and down.  I’d take a quick gulp of air when I could.  Thank goodness I was really good at holding my breath. There was no fear at first.  That older elementary age rarely is rarely truly scared– they don’t really understand that bad things happen.  Trying to convert to more of a swimming position didn’t work,  I was stuck. I didn’t seem to be able to do anything other than what I was doing… bobbing up and down, taking quick gasps of air. Fatigue was setting in and I was starting to get worried. My family was right there, they could reach me. But I couldn’t talk. They probably thought I was playing.  They didn’t know I was in trouble.

It only takes 1 person.

I wasn’t really aware of my grandfather’s presence on the bank, but he was watching. Luckily he was paying attention.  It’s easy to surrender to the sights and sounds of summer, of giggling children and splashing water.  Luckily for me,  he recognized the quiet bobbing and realized I was in trouble. He jumped in and fished me out. I was safe.

Drowning is not a loud boisterous event.  In most cases it is quiet and easily masked by sounds of others playing.  Most children who drown each year do so just inches from their loved ones who may interpret the bobbing motions as playful jumping and not a sign of distress.

Can you spot a drowning child?

There is a great post by the daily mail that shows a video of a timely rescue by a skilled lifeguard.  You can watch it here.

There is another another story about drowning here.

The article also lays out a great list of signs to look for if a child is in trouble.  I will summarize the list here.

10 Signs that Someone may be drowning

  1. Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  2. Head tilted back with mouth open
  3. Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  4. Eyes closed
  5. Hair over forehead or eyes
  6. Not using legs – vertical
  7. Hyperventilating or gasping
  8. Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  9. Trying to roll over on the back
  10. Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

I was lucky. Each year, many are lucky. But water can be dangerous, and many are not so lucky. I still love to swim. In fact, my youngest begs to go swimming at every opportunity.  But my experience when I was young (and let’s face it, a little bit cocky at my abilities) stays with me. I enjoy pools but avoid water that I can’t see the bottom of.. not that seeing the bottom of the river ground would have changed the undertow that got me. Fears and associations are often illogical. I watch my kids in the water a little more critically, and keep my eyes on other littles around me. Because it truly only takes a moment.

Water is a wonderful way to cool off in the summer.

Water is great. It cools us off when it’s hot, allows us to do things like flips that most of us can’t do on dry land, and happens to be a great way to get in some whole body cardio. Enjoy the water, but be safe. Watch the kiddos. Especially if you are at a pool that doesn’t have a lifeguard or at a friend’s house.

Little boy with floaties in pool

Here’s a checklist to keep in mind.

1. Make sure an adult is watching the swimmers at all times or consider hiring an lifeguard to keep an eye on all of the swimmers.

2.  Pay attention.  Even if you are at a pool with a lifeguard on duty, pay attention to where your littles are at all times.  You may be the closest person able to reach them in case of a problem.

3.  Consider swimming lessons for your youngsters.  It’s obviously not a foolproof method for avoiding issues, but it can help.  For your older kiddos, consider a lifeguard training course.  These are often available for teens, can give them an “in” for a neat summer job, and will teach them skills that they can use forever.

4.  Set firm rules for what depth your little is allowed to go in without an adult right there with them.  And don’t hesitate to enforce it.   Kids are always trying to go just a little bit deeper, but unless you are right there within arm’s reach, they shouldn’t be in over their head.

5.  If you want to bring your kids to get wet but don’t really want to get in with them, consider a local splash pad.  They are usually free and are gaining in popularity.

So get out there, have fun, and be safe! And if you’re lucky, maybe the littles will need an earlier bedtime tonight!

Happy 4th of July!

Sparkler fireworks
Who wouldn’t want to play with these?

Happy 4th of July!

In case there is any doubt, summer is most definitely here! Days are long, hot, and sticky. Normal bedtimes are shattered. Who wants to go to bed when there is still light outside to play  Most of us have settled into the more relaxed routine of summer and things aren’t so much GO, GO, GO! When we get to this part of summer, the 4th of July and fireworks are right around the corner.

4th of July is a time of celebration—celebration of the freedoms that we are lucky enough to have and often take for granted.  We celebrate friends and family, and if we’re lucky, celebration of an extra day off of work!

The Fun Begins…

I don’t know about the rest of you, buy my kids’ favorite part of July 4th is the fireworks. They start seeing those big tents pop up over town sometime in June and they start getting excited. Fireworks mean fun and excitement, loud pops, beautiful colors, and staying up way past bedtime. But along with all of that fun and excitement comes danger to rain on the parade. Each year, ER rooms fill up with firework related injuries.

The Good Old Days

Do you remember fireworks growing up? I remember cousins playing with bottle rockets. They were a bit older than me, but not by much… certainly no older than middle schoolers. They’d grab an empty glass soda bottle and pop one of those suckers in, light it up, and then run. Sometimes they’d aim at something to see if they could hit it, other times they’d just watch to see where it would go. Our parents weren’t out there, and I’d guess probably didn’t know what we were all getting into. It’s probably a small miracle that none of us were injured in the process.

The Scoop..

Each year, there are over 10,000 ER visits between mid June thru mid July attributed to fireworks-related injury. Crazy! And this is an underestimation of injuries.  Parents  often treat minor injuries at home, and many of the more significantly injured go to local urgent care centers or their pediatrician’s office. The group that is most likely affected?…. Teen and young adult males. Probably not shocking information to most.

Bottle rockets and roman candles are among the biggest offenders for injuries.  Once they are lit, their course can be extremely unpredictable. Once a bottle rocket is lit, you have absolutely no control over where it may land. It may fly away from you or you may be chased by it. If they do hit you, the damage can be irreversible.

Sparklers are also big offenders for ER visits around the 4th. We generally think of them as safe because nothing is shooting off anywhere. But they can reach up to 3000 degrees Fahrenheit.! 😮

The Irony of it All

We shoe our kids out of the kitchen and away from the stoves.  Childproofing supplies are in highest demand.  But around the 4th of July, all of our child-proofing goes out the window.

Do any of you remember the “toy guillotine” that is given to Dracula’s grandchild for his first birthday in Hotel Transylvania 2? (If you’ve not seen the movie, go watch it right away!)  I giggled at that scene, but really we’re not that far off the mark!

My First Guillotine

The Danger

A young child who grabs a lit sparkler can severely burn his/her hands.  If the sparkler pops and scares them, they may drop it on themselves also causing burns. Older children with some sparkler experience may feel very safe with sparklers and set themselves (and siblings) up for injury. Happily waving around their sticks or start trying to do “tricks” with sparklers leads to injury.

Cut down on the risk of fireworks injury

If you decide to have fireworks as part of your July 4th celebrations this year, there are things that you can do to minimize risk..

1. Consider attending a public fireworks display.

  • Many communities have absolutely beautiful fireworks displays planned to celebrate the 4th. They are designed by the professionals to not only look beautiful, but to be safe for observers. Generally, these are WAY more impressive than anything you could pull off at home. (The “good” fireworks are EXPENSIVE!) You may have the added hassle of finding parking and dealing with crowds, but you will spend less money and avoid the risk.

2. If you set off fireworks at home, set them off as far away from the viewing area as possible.

  • A responsible adult should be the one to light the fireworks and there should be another adult watching the kids to make sure no one is running around in a risky area. The ONLY thing the person lighting the fireworks should be worrying about is doing their part safely.

3. DO NOT allow your kids to light the fireworks.

  • No explanation necessary.  It’s dangerous and not worth the risk.

4. Do Not Leave your Children Unattended

  • If you decide to partake in the “sparkler experience” do NOT leave your children unattended. Make sure there is a safe distance between the kids so that any of those sparkling arm circles don’t accidently whack someone in the face.

5.  Don’t force the Issue

  • If mini-me is afraid and doesn’t want to hold a sparkler, don’t force the issue. Fear can be a wonderful self-protective mechanism. In this case, he may be showing more intelligence than we adults (haha). If you need more convincing, remember that scared children are more likely to drop a lit sparkler right on top of those cute little toes.

6.  They are still kids.  Don’t forget it.

  • If mini-me is excited and comfortable holding a sparkler, don’t assume that this means they will use good sense with them. Children do not come with great “self-protective” mechanisms.  Don’t hand out more responsibility than is appropriate. How many times a day do we watch our otherwise seemingly intelligent children make less than stellar decisions in routine every day situations? They are certainly not immune to bad decisions now.

7. If all else fails, consider crafts.

  • Consider other “fireworks” related crafts and activities leading up to the big day.

How do each of you celebrate the 4th and stay safe? Feel free to share your experiences!