Do your research
Before you and your little ones hit the beach or head off on holiday, it pays do some research. Look into which beaches have good family facilities and safety features.
Child safety expert Katrina Philips, CEO of Child Accident Prevention Trust (capt.org.uk), says, “find beaches that gently slope out to sea, with safe places to swim and lifeguards. Then you know you aren’t going to somewhere that’s a complete unknown.”
When you arrive, take a look at the surroundings and find the safest area for your kids to play. “Once you become familiar with a beach, you’ll notice the safer areas, like where it slopes gently into the sea” says Katrina.
A good source of insider knowledge is other parents. “Pick other parents brains for safe places on the beaches that they’ve found for their kids. There are lots of tips and advice you can get from other parents.”
- Katrina advises checking out the RNLI website list of beaches before you go.
Learn the flags
A lot of big beaches have flags to show you where it’s safe to swim. Teach your little ones about the flags, so they know they should only swim between the red and yellow striped flags.
“It’s good to give children the skills so that they are safe around water by teaching them to look out for the flags,” says Katrina. “Then you are actually helping them learn how to keep themselves safe.”
It’s best to be cautious when it comes to your child’s abilities in the water.
“Obviously it depends on how good and how confident a swimmer your child is, but even good swimmers can sometimes get into difficulty,” advises Katrina.
“If everything you have done before is swimming in a pool then actually the currents in the sea can be disconcerting, they can be even for grown ups.”
- Teach children about what the safety flags mean
Supervision is the key
Keep your little ones in your sight, so that you know where they are at all times and you can get to them easily.
“You need to think about how quickly could you get to them if they did get into trouble,” says Katrina. “In this case, I think common sense rules and they should be in sight.
“Remember that smaller children can get into difficulty in water quite quickly so you need to remember to keep a bit of an eye out for them,” she explains.
It’s a good idea to make sure you are keeping watch even when you’re a bit distracted. If you are going to the beach abroad, you may be feeling distracted on the first day or the day you’re are leaving. Remember to still keep an eye on your little ones at all times.
“Try to find yourself somewhere where there’s quite a few parents with kids, and you can help to keep an eye out for each others children,” she says. “It can just take a little bit of the pressure off knowing that you’ve found somewhere that’s a bit safer.”
- Make sure you are in a good position to keep your eyes on your little ones at all times. Get stuck in playing with them or the sand or in the sea, too.
Inflatables and floats
Inflatable toys and floatation devices can be great fun, but it’s important to remember a few things so that your children are safe when using them.
Inflatables are best used in pools. General advice is that it’s best to avoid using them in the sea because there is a high chance of being swept out to sea. If you do want to use an inflatable in the sea, it should be on a beach with a lifegaurd and only between the red and yellow flags.
“It’s important not to completely rely on a floatation device, you need to be supervising, too,” Katrina says.
“They are helpful, fun and help children get used to being in the water, but our advice would be yes, but don’t think they are completely safe when they are in them” she adds.
You shouldn’t use inflatables in choppy water and make sure you check there’s no offshore wind by looking for the orange wind sock. Sometimes the sea can look calm and flat but it can quickly sweep inflatables out to sea.
“Look for an orange wind sock because if that’s flying it means that the wind is really dangerous”, she says.
- Children’s inflatables can be secured with a line, which you can hold on to for peace of mind.
Being aware of safety is very important, but it’s also good to have fun. As long as you’re aware and keep an eye your children, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy yourself, too.
“Trips to the beach, summertime and holidays ought to be fun, and you need to relax, too,” says Katrina.
“Instead of hiding behind your book, get stuck in and do some paddling, too,” she says.
“You can be down at the waters edge running in and out with them, knowing that by being around and keeping an eye on them in the water, you’re doing your bit and having fun at the same time.”
- Be aware, but have fun, get stuck in and enjoy yourself!