I hate to be a scrooge, but it’s time to declare that pool parties with lots of kids are typically just not safe. As we head towards summer, this fact is becoming increasingly relevant. Parents can get distracted (it’s a party, after all) or misjudge their children’s swimming capabilities or feel a false sense of security because, look, there are so many adults here.
The fact is that drowning remains the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4, and the second most common cause of death among children ages 5 to 14, according to U.S. health authority, the CDC.
Some parents set up a “water watcher” system where adults who are strong swimmers take turns completely focusing their attention on the kids in the pool.
This is smart, but as we learned, drowning can be surprisingly difficult to spot. If you’re going to have a children’s pool party, I would also do this: Make it a life jacket party.
The idea comes from drowning investigator Natalie Livingston, who recently wrote a viral Facebook post on water safety (you should read the whole thing — it’s fantastic).
She admits that making everyone wear a life jacket might sound supremely uncool, but that’s just because our culture has a negative attitude toward life jackets. (I, too, cannot help but think of the Feegans on South Park.) Let’s end the stigma. “We just need to make them cool again,” Livingston writes. “ ... Having everyone in one makes it much ‘cooler’ and doesn’t embarrass the littler kids or weaker swimmers.”
Livingston gives ideas for activities that kids can do in life jackets: “rolling log” challenges, water balloon tossing contests, and relays where you pass rings from your toes. Sure, your children might want to lose the jackets and show off what they’ve been learning in swim class, but they can do that when they’re with you by themselves. At a pool party, when so much is going on, there needs to be rules.
Just make sure the life jackets are approved as safe, Livingston warns. “Noodles, inflatables, baby circles, tubes, and all other items are not safety related and should not be used or trusted to keep your child safe,” she writes. If you’re hosting the party, you might purchase a basic $15 life jacket for each guest.
As Livingston explains, even if the kids are wearing life jackets, you still need to diligently supervise them as they can get into positions that obstruct their airways. But having the life jackets on gives them an added layer of protection, and lets them still have some summer fun.