Although the beginning of the school year is in sight, there are still plenty of sunny summer days left to fill with beach days, cookouts, and the kids’ favorite summer activity … swimming. And for those of us who have a back yard pool, sharing it with friends and family can be a great way to spend time in the sunshine.
A pool is a great source of entertainment, but it can also be a liability if precautions aren’t taken to keep everyone safe in the water. Every year, there are sad stories in the news about kids who drown in back yard pools – often while a party or gathering is in full swing poolside.
When I invite kids to my pool, the rule of thumb is that an adult needs to be paying attention to the water every moment that the kids are in the pool. Counting heads can be tricky when kids are constantly diving, resurfacing, getting out and running to the bathroom, and then slipping back into the water, so it’s essential to make sure that someone always has eyes on the pool without being distracted. Since it’s my pool, I feel that the role of lifeguard falls largely to me, but if I need to run into the house to replenish snacks or grab the phone, I always make sure to turn over pool duty to another adult. If there are no other adults, and the pool will be out of my view, I ask the kids to get out and wait until I come back outside.
I’ve also had some large parties with multiples families involved, and when I’m running around setting out food, chatting with guests, and cleaning up, I find it’s been useful to hire a trained lifeguard for the duration of the party. (Many local babysitting services offer this service – SeekingSitters Boston has a handful of certified lifeguards on their team who can be hired for pool parties) This way, the other grown-ups can feel free to socialize and I don’t have to rely on others or myself to make sure everyone is safe in the pool.
Posting, or at least announcing, pool rules can help cut down on too much craziness in the water. Excited kids tend to run, and you definitely don’t want someone breaking a leg at your pool by slipping in a puddle. I keep an eye out for roughhousing, especially when there are little kids in the pool, and I draw an absolute line at dunking, which can be scary and dangerous.
The other side of having a back yard swimming pool is what I like to think of as “swim party etiquette.” I have a good friend (who doesn’t have a pool of her own) who is absolutely wonderful about bringing snacks, juice boxes, and her own sunscreen and towels whenever she brings her kids to hang out for the day. Her reasoning is that if the hosting pool owner always has to provide the amenities for a fun afternoon, it can be an expensive proposition and end up being a lot of work. I really don’t have a lot of friends who come unprepared, but it’s worth pointing out that it’s the people who don’t always expect me to provide limitless snacks and endless rounds of towels who are more likely to be invited back.
Another nugget of pool etiquette is that it’s thoughtful to remind your kids to dry off thoroughly before using a host’s bathroom so that no one will slip on wet floors. The same goes for kids who decide to get out of the pool and go indoors – ask your kids to change into their clothes before they plop down on a couch to play video games. Better yet, keep the party outside – the kids will be longing for the chance to swim in just a few short months!