One of the best ways to beat the summer heat is to cool off with some water fun! My little ones (ages 2.5 and 4.5) are all about embracing water play –they love all things water in the summer: swimming in the pool, playing in the water table, squirting each other with super soakers, throwing water balloons, and even “washing” the car with Daddy. I love how much they enjoy cooling off, in fact, I will never complain if I get splashed during our hot and humid Pittsburgh summers; but as a Mom, I am continuously worrying that they will accidentally get hurt while running and playing in these conditions. You cannot prevent every injury that comes their way, but when it comes to good ol’ backyard water fun there are some necessities to keep in mind my kids stay happy and safe.
1. Sun protection- I remember seeing our pediatrician when our son was just a baby, she informed us that the majority of sun damage occurs during childhood. She went on to warn us that sun exposure in early childhood increases the risk of developing skin cancer later in life. From that point on I realized it was my responsibility as a parent to do everything I could to provide our children with the best sun protection I could find, and thankfully there are several affordable ways to do so. First and foremost, utilizing a mineral-based sunscreen has been incredibly important to our family. I would encourage you to do some research on this topic and find the best sunscreen for your family and budget. Personally, our family has been using Young Living’s mineral sunscreen and ThinkBaby’s mineral sunscreen. Utilizing these phone apps have been wonderful in finding the right sunscreen for our family: Think Dirty and EWG.
Another way to provide sun protection with your little ones is through layers. Hats, UV-protection clothing, and sunglasses. I have found with my son, if he refuses to wear sunglasses, I can usually get him to wear a hat – and vice-versa for my daughter. The earlier you start a good habit, the more likely that habit will stick. Some of our favorite brands for these layers include Beau & Belle Littles, Swim Zipper, and Babiators (I have even used plenty of Target Dollar Zone sunglasses when I am in a pinch). Again, do some research and find what is best for your family and budget. Remember, that UV-protection clothing should NOT be used in a dryer, as it will deteriorate the UV-protection over time.
2. Bug protection- I hesitate to mention this safety step, but living in Pennsylvania, we have some serious tick offenders in our backyard. Therefore, I always make sure to apply bug protection after sun protection on our littles. I personally swear by our Young Living Insect Repellent, but I would encourage you to find an all-natural deet-free insect repellent if you are worried about bugs when you are outside with your family.
3. Proper footwear- I believe whole-heartedly that running barefoot in the grass is one of the best parts of childhood (and adulthood). However, when my kids are running in wet grass, from water balloons or a sprinkler I quickly pull out some water shoes. If I foresee them running onto the hot sidewalk or steamy pool deck, I strap on their water shoes and breathe a sigh of relief. There are plenty of brands and types of swim footwear out there. Make sure you have something that protects your little one’s toes and stays on snuggly for all the running and water play they will be enjoying.
4. Hydration- Even as an adult, I am constantly trying to remind myself that I need to hydrate daily, but even more so during physical activity. I realized my son was dehydrated earlier this year when he described a runner’s cramp to me that he had formed throughout the day while being outside. Sometimes little ones are having so much fun running and playing outside that they do not stop to rehydrate. Ever since that day with my son, I have made sure I always have a full cup of water for both of my kids outside and in a visible spot for them to see as they are playing. If I notice they have not hydrated recently, I make them take a drink break or even a snack break – because who doesn’t love snacks?!
5. First-aid ready- Accidents happen and that’s okay (isn’t that what our friend Daniel Tiger always says)? Of course, there will be boo-boos along the way when your little ones are playing outside. The best advice I can offer is to be prepared for accidents. Always have a first-aid kit nearby, make sure you are familiar (if not already certified) in CPR, and pay attention to your little one’s behavior, because mom intuition is huge. If you suspect your little one is hurt, do not hesitate to get them into the pediatrician or call 911 for those worst-case scenarios. Stay calm in the moment. Children have an innate capability to pick-up on our emotions, so the calmer and more collected we can appear to them, the more likely they will mimic us and stay brave.
I hope these tips for safe backyard water play are helpful to you! Remember, do your research, be brave and most of all – do not be afraid to jump in the pool and have some fun with your kiddos along the way. Go make some fun memories!