How to Easily Take Your Young Kids Swimming – Any Season- A Swimmer’s Minimalist Guide

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Ahhhh, Summer. The sun, the sunscreen, the chlorine, the salt water… someone get my kids some popsicles! Oh wait, that’s my job… okay fine! While I’m at it I’ll get myself a lawn chair and a good book. Summer is a time when parenting always feels easier to me. We can just run outside without the winter gear, play in the sun for hours, I can work in the garden, then throw them in the bath when we go inside (in which they will play and wash off all their caked on dirt for about an hour) and then they are completely wiped out for a solid nap time. As a swimmer and water polo player in high school and college, I knew I would want to instill the same love for the water in my own kids as I had growing up. As I became a mother however, I will not lie, I felt so overwhelmed at the idea of being able to make it a consistent part of our lives. Especially so when I knew I would be at the pool alone with them. Once you have more than one kid you start to feel like you’ve created an army that could run off at any given moment. Children are simply a whole different ballpark. Throw in winter with the lower temperatures and extra gear and you kind of want to throw in the towel for those six months or so.

(Looking for more simple, abundant family living? Check out: “Why Your Baby Does Not Need All That Stuff”.)

However, we have now implemented it into our weekly schedule year round, and my kids love the water. I think it’s safe to say it’s their (and my) favorite part of the week. I would like to share the ways that I have found to simplify the process and make it a positive experience for all of us. I will cover water safety and minimalist gear. As I do, you’ll see pointers for warm and cold season.

Of course, I have to throw in that disclaimer here that everything in this post refers to my own personal experience and advice. I am not a professional telling you exactly how to do things. I am merely offering my experience, what you choose to do with it, and the safety of your own children depends solely on you as their provider. 

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Water Safety

According to the CDC, “Every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States”.

This is another reason why I want to make sure my kids are confident and capable swimmers. Breathe a sigh of relief though, there is an easy going way of going about it without compromising safety. Diving right into it (ha…ha…) Basic safety tips from me look like this:

  • Do a lesson on pool rules and safety with your kids every. single. time. before you go to the pool, ocean, lake, river, splash pad or water park. Give them the pep talk! They need to hear it. They need the reminder. If they act out and refuse to follow the rules then follow through and take them out. Go home if you have to. They absolutely need to know that safety is paramount. 
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  • Practice “scanning” and never turn your backs to your kids. From my years as a lifeguard and nine years of swim lesson instructor experience, the best advice I could give you if nothing else in this post is to constantly be scanning for visuals on your kids. This is not done frantically, or stressfully. Calmly be aware and bounce from kid to kid with your eyes to maintain a visual. This should be maintained the entire time you are swimming. For those kids who still need assistance- stay within arms reach of them at all times and never turn your back to them- ever. If you are swimming with friends or family, that is great, but never assume that someone else is watching your kids. Sometimes swimming with extra adults gives a false sense of security- where everyone else thinks the adult next to them are watching the kids, when in reality little John over there has wandered off into the deep end and no one has noticed. When we swim with friends or family I hang out and visit, but always keep my eyes on the kids. 
  • Teach your kids to “check in” with you. This is pretty self explanatory. Tell them to come say hi every few minutes (or longer if your kids are older). Keep that communication going.
  • Keep those swim diapers on your babies, or children still potty training. I use reusable cloth diaper covers and they work great. We have Bum Genius and love them, but many other brands work great. Some pools may be stingy about no cloth diapers but we have never run into trouble. 
  • Get the older ones ready first, then work your way down to the littlest. Give the littles a snack or toy to keep them occupied if you need to. Have the older kids wait until all of you are ready before they wander off. This teaches your older ones to be helpful, patient and gives them time to soak in their environment before action starts. My oldest will now help put sunscreen on her younger sister and it is so helpful. 
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  • Have a “home base” set up & make sure your kids know exactly where it is. This may only apply to larger water parks, the beach etc. but I feel is worth mentioning. 
  • Enroll your kids in annual swim lessons or swim team. This is perhaps one of the best things to do for your kids when it comes to water safety. If you are not going to the pool regularly as a family, the time in the water during lessons or swim team can be invaluable. If going the lesson route, I would recommend doing private or semi private lessons. Group lessons you just don’t get as much one on one time. If socialization is the primary goal then group lessons are great.
  • For those kids who have Autism– absolutely enroll your child in swim lessons! Drowning is also one of the leading causes of death for children with Autism. They just love the water and cannot resist it. Set them up with a life skill that will protect them for the rest of their lives. Many parents are surprised that their child is capable of learning to swim when they struggle with so many other things. Trust me, they will surprise you! Also look into swim teams that offer adaptive staff for children with disabilities. We are blessed to live in a time where there are plenty of resources for us.
  • Learn basic rescue, first aid & CPR/ AED if you don’t already. Obviously this will allow you to feel more prepared in case of an emergency. This is especially useful when swimming in lakes, rivers, oceans, splash pads etc. where there are no professional staff immediately available. Click HERE to get information and resources from American Red Cross and their Water Safety site. For a reasonable price, you can get certified in CPR/AED and you never know when that lifesaving skill could be needed.
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Minimalist Gear Checklist

Here is my short list of things we bring every time we go swimming: (I am able to fit everything in my backpack pictured below for a family of five). Your list will differ depending on climate, amount of kids, preferences etc.

  • Sunscreen– I’ll link to the sunscreen we’ve used for years and love, called Nature’s Gate. I used it when I taught swim lessons for 6+ hour time blocks. It’s thick for a good application, but feels light on the skin and is not greasy at all. It’s also vegan, and SPF 50.
  • Towels– In the summer, we share, winter everyone gets their own. 
  • Swimsuits– Whenever possible we get in our suits and do sunscreen at home before we set foot outside.
  • Diapers– Cloth diaper covers (Bum Genius), diapers for after we get out. Bring a bag to put soiled diapers in, and wash immediately when you get home.
  • Wipes
  • Change of clothes– Summer I’ll do sundresses for our girls (easy to throw on!) and sandals. Winter we do fleece zip up onesies, beanies and rain boots (see photo below). Not very fashion forward but don’t hate until you try it! These onesies and boots are easy in the winter and get us through the snow and to the warm car quickly. Then we quickly take them off and jump into the warm bubble bath at home.
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  • FloatiesPuddle Jumpers are by far my favorite. For little ones who still need a little support these are fantastic. They are US Coast Guard approved and allow kids to still swim horizontal on the surface of the water. They are also very affordable compared to many life jackets.
  • Baby Wrap or Carrier– This is a must if you have a baby and toddler in tow. Strap that baby in and boom- you have two hands again to chase your other kid(s). I have a gorgeous Ring Sling and a comfy Moby Wrap. Both are versatile and do the job.
  • Goggles, Other Swim Gear or Toys– This is personal preference. My girls are still a bit young for goggles but they love bringing toys to the pool to play with. Most of the time they are indoor toys that can also be played with in the water. We keep it simple- one to two toys each. If you do decide to buy some goggles- please take my word for it as a swimmer/ swim instructor and get these goggles from Speedo. Don’t go for the cheap ones… they seriously don’t last and do not keep water out. I promise you they are the absolute best and most comfortable.

Hopefully this has been helpful to you! If you can be consistent your kids will have a love for the water and confidence that matches their skill level. This will in turn help you to be at peace knowing your kids are being set up for success.

(Looking for more simple, abundant family living? Check out: “Why Your Baby Does Not Need All That Stuff”.)

Do you have any other recommendations? Thoughts? Share them below. We would love to hear how your swimming adventures are going with your kids. If you like what you see here at Herbs, Birds & the Bees please subscribe and grow with us! Good luck and happy swimming!


Herbs, Birds & the Bees

Less Dependence, More Abundance

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