Pool Party time!
By Lisa Cook, Guest Contributor
CEO & Master Swim Instructor, kidSwim
Pool parties can be marvelous! Several hours of exercise and entertainment for kids with little cost to the homeowner besides heating the pool and hiring a lifeguard, plus some floating rafts, noodles and water guns. Right? Right!
But pool parties can be danger zones if some situations are not handled correctly. Here are ten very valuable tips that will ensure your party is safe and successful:
1. Age. If the average age of the children attending the party is under 5, I recommend insisting that at least one parent be in a bathing suit and in the water. Even if you have a lifeguard (and you should) no lifeguard has the superpowers to watch 10-20 children at once.
2. Ratio. The ratio of children to lifeguards should be as follows: 1-12 children under 6 yrs= 1 lifeguard. 12-up = 2-3 lifeguards. For children between the ages of 6-10 the ratio is 1-15 = 1 lifeguard, 15-up = 2-3 lifeguards. Children above age 10, your discretion. Two to three lifeguards is still recommended if there will be over 20 children. But under 20, you can probably manage with 1.
3. Lifeguard Positioning. Remember that the lifeguards need to be ‘active’ when guarding. Tell them you expect them to stand and pace in their area – generally with 2-3, they will pick a position such as one in the deep end, one in the shallow and one who floats around the perimeter. They should rotate every 15-30 minutes and they should be allowed a 5-10 minute break every hour.
4. Pool Rules. Establish your rules with the lifeguards before the children arrive so they’ll know what to enforce and what to let go. Some common rules to consider are: no running, no jumping from certain areas, no diving in the shallow end, no jumping into the jacuzzi or into the pool from the jacuzzi (these are just examples, of course).
5. Deep End Test. Make sure the lifeguards do a quick deep end test to see which kids can and can’t swim in deep water. There’s always at least one who says he can but really can’t.
6. No Diving. Just to keep things simple for you and the lifeguards, you’re better off not allowing diving at all – only feet first jumps.
7. Beware of Floating Rafts. Large floating rafts are all the rage right now – swans, pizzas, watermelons, donuts…you name it. I tend to steer away from these during large parties. They can obscure the lifeguard or parents’ vision from seeing their child. Plus, kids are always falling off and getting stuck underneath. Small floating mesh rafts or small donut-shaped floaties are okay as are noodles but I’d keep the big ones out if you have a large party in the water.
8. Diversify! It’s always smart to have a ‘sideshow’ water activity in the yard area if you can, such as a small bouncy waterslide or slip n’ slide or even a non-water related bouncy house for younger children. This keeps some options open for kids that just don’t like to swim and helps keep overcrowding down in the pool.
9. Stay With your Child. Parties for children under 8 should never drop off. There should always be one parent or guardian there for every child at the party.
10. Floor Protection. If your pool deck tends to get very slippery when wet, consider laying down some rubber mats or something that has friction enough to keep kids from slipping too badly. No matter how many times you tell a child to ‘walk’ they can’t seem to help. themselves.