I often get asked about living near water with small children. We didn’t have children when we moved to the lake, but as soon as Hailey arrived, considering what factors we needed to focus on became a top priority. I believe lake safety with small kids is mostly common sense, but here are a few of the boundaries, safeguards, and rules we have implemented to make us feel more comfortable about living near the lake.
Safeguards and Rules for Lake Safety
Installing a Baby Gate on the Dock
Our dock has a landing area, then a walkway (with rails) out the the main dock where the boat is kept. Since the water is relatively shallow (about 1 1/2 ft deep in summer and it turns into a beach in winter) at the shoreline, the deep water is only accessed via that pathway.
It’s a pretty tricky gate that neither girl can open right now, but it also just slows things down for all of us, so there is no accidental running down the dock if someone spots a duck or cool fish.
You Must Hold a Hand when Getting on the Boat
Slips often happen by accident and falling between an object (boat) and the dock can be especially dangerous. We have a rule that the kids must be holding an adult hand when stepping over to the boat, no matter how small the step may seem.
Always Have an Adult with You and Be Wearing a Life Jacket When on The Dock
Non-negotiable. Probably until they are about 25 and can swim like Michael Phelps. You can view the specific life jacket laws for your state here. In North Carolina, all children under age 13 must wear an approved PFD (personal flotation device) while on a boat. Most life jackets will say on the label whether they are Coast Guard Approved.
Knowing Basic Water Safety
Learning to swim is important and why we do swim team each summer (and will probably start lessons again this fall). However, the basics of jumping out and away from the dock, as well as being careful not to jump on top of others is very important too. Also, no diving if you don’t know the depth of the water.
*Kaitlyn wears an approved life jacket on the boat, but switches into this swim vest when she gets in the water to swim. She also uses it in the pool and it’s perfect for toddlers learning to swim. We used it all last year and this summer too. I highly recommend it.
Electric shock drowning has made more headlines in the news over the past year or so. It’s still rare, but to me, every risk is with considering. Though our dock is on the newer side and we currently have all electricity cut off to it, I still am looking at getting an alarm that can detect electric current in the water just to ease my mind (like this one that is portable and could be taken with us when we move swim locations). Without an alarm, it’s always best to stick a hand or foot in the water before jumping in, just to see if you feel any tingling that could be a sign of electricity in the water.
Also, I’m hyper-aware of breathing in exhaust, so if anyone is swimming, the boat in completely turned off.
Since the girls could understand speech, they’ve been told the boundaries. They know they are allowed to go to the swing set or play in the driveway, but they are not to in or near the water without an adult. It’s the same way that they are not allowed to go into the road. It’s strictly off-limits, no exceptions.
Really it all boils down to this. Even with our strict boundaries, I still worry too much to let them be in the backyard without me. I’m always peeking in on them if they are at the playground and if they want to check out the garden or splash their feet in the shallow water, they wait until I can come too.
Having access to the water is so much fun, but with kids, safety is always top of mind. By following some basic rules and being watchful, I feel more able to enjoy the beauty and fun of being near the water.
I hope all my fellow Americans have a wonderful 4th of July! Though we’ve been seeing (or mostly hearing) fireworks for a few days now, we hope to spend some time with friends and take the girls out on the boat to see more fireworks. We’ll see if the weather cooperates!
What are your 4th of July plans?
Do you have any rules regarding water, whether it be pool, lake, or ocean?