Essential tips for staying safe in the water

Essential tips for staying safe in the water

Advice from the experts

We are lucky in south west London and Surrey to have many places to enjoy water. But recent tragedies have highlighted how important it is to use our rivers and lakes responsibly, as well as instilling in our children how to stay safe.

Many parents will also be booking holidays where a pool or the sea will form a big part of the fun of the trip. With that in mind, if a child can’t already swim, booking a course in advance will help their confidence when they get there. If you’re a non-swimming adult, you’re never too old to learn.

SwimWay has quick results with its methodology, which avoids using flotation devices. The teacher is in the water alongside the child providing support and adjusting a child’s body position or moving their arms or legs into the correct position. With a week-long course, children can go from being nervous beginners to being able to kick a little way independently by the end of the week.

Tamsin Watt, head coach at SwimWay, which has sites in Wandsworth Common, Clapham, Balham, Wimbledon, Putney, East Sheen, Kew Gardens and Kensington, advises how to build up to a holiday: “Before you go away, encourage your child to blow bubbles, play and submerge their face in the water at bathtime. Make it fun with lots of toys and be prepared to get wet demonstrating!”

When you arrive on holiday, it can be easy to get distracted unpacking or trying to sort out your keys to the villa. If there’s a pool, keep your children in sight. But when you do get to the pool or sea, Tamsin says: “Encourage your child to enjoy the water even if that is just sitting at the side splashing their legs. Take it slowly, if you rush them and they feel scared or uncomfortable you are only going to delay the learning process.

If your child still wants to use a flotation device, SwimWay says that armbands are better than backpacks. “Either way, with or without floats, it goes without saying that you will need to be in the pool or sea with your child so you can provide support.”

Be sure to check out the pool and beach rules and potential hazards. In the sea, don’t go too far out, enter the water slowly, stay within reach and within a standing depth. The RNLI says that if you or someone else is in trouble in the water, float: lie on your back with your ears just below the water (this will help your legs to float). Try to breathe slowly, use your hands to gently scull the water.

If someone has fallen in, throw them something that floats like a ball or will reach them like a branch. Don’t enter the water yourself. If you’re on the Thames, there are emergency boards with throwline bags at busy locations: you access them with a code when you dial 999, which also gives the emergency services the location. Ask passers-by to help and keep an eye on the person in the water, they will move with the river.

Water safety advice from accident-prevention organisation ROSPA 

  • Before you enter water, consider water temperature, depth, currents, and hidden dangers such as rocks or rubbish.
  • If you’re renting a holiday home, check the pool has a safety fence.
  • Keep an eye on your kids, even if the pool has supervision as the attendant may have other duties and not be watching the whole time.
  • Strong winds and currents can sweep inflatables out to sea in minutes.
  • Do not dive into unknown depths of water.