CANADA has its share of swimming pools, rivers, lakes and oceans and once summer arrives most of us can't wait to hit the beach.
Because so much of our summer fun happens near the water, it's important that every child have basic swimming ability. There are lessons available in most community pools, even for very young children. When kids are comfortable in the water and confident that they can take some basic strokes or float on water, they are less likely to panic if they find themselves out deeper than expected or fall off the dock.
The second thing that will keep them safe around the water is a well-fitted life jacket. It can be a challenge to find a small jacket for an infant but they do exist. Some of the jackets for babies have a crotch strap so the device won't float over baby's head.
Just like any of your child's clothing, life jackets can be passed down to younger siblings. Just make sure they're in good shape without rips, tears or broken buckles or zippers.
Life jackets are not just for kids. If you are going out in a boat, everyone should be wearing a jacket. Having enough life jackets in the boat but having them tucked under the seats doesn't help. If you have a problem you will not have the time to find the jacket and put it on.
Wearing a life jacket encourages your kids to do the same. You set the example and they will follow. In the case of an accident, it helps you and your child because if you both suddenly find yourselves in the water you can't be much help to your child if you are flailing about in the water.
Cameron Taylor, president of BOATSmart Canada, states that up to 86 per cent of boating fatalities could have been
prevented if the people were wearing a personal flotation device.
Before you go out in a boat and certainly before you take children, ensure that you have taken the courses you need to ensure that you are well educated about how to safely take your family on a fun outing.
Boating is only one way to enjoy the water. We are much more likely to be heading to a local beach. Before you choose a beach make sure there are not unduly high waves (great for surfers but not for your preschooler) or strong currents or undertows.
If the weather is lovely, you can count on the fact that whatever beach you choose will be busy. So bring your patience and good humour as you search for your perfect spot on the sand. It's a good idea to have a brightly coloured umbrella or flag to use as a beacon so that when family members are coming back from the water or washroom they can find you.
Before you actually go to the beach set the ground rules with the kids. Younger kids are not to go into the water without a parent but the older kids may go, particularly if they are in pairs. Check out the depth of the water so the kids know how far they are allowed to go.
The kids need to be wearing hats and sunscreen. And just like life jackets, adults need these as well. Sunburn is not limited to children.
Once you've taken safety considerations into account and you have ensured that your kids are comfortable around the water and they know the rules, then you can relax. Remember the whole point of the outing is to enjoy the summer weather and have fun with the kids.
Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert who is a professional speaker, broadcaster, columnist and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? For information go to her website at www.ParentingToday.ca.