I read two terrible news stories recently, of children drowning while their families were camping. In one, a child wandered away while his mother was cooking at their campsite. In the other, two children woke up early in the morning and left camp while their parents still were asleep. My first reaction to these tales was, “DON’T CAMP RIGHT NEXT TO WATER.”
Later I remembered a time when our oldest, at four, went out to play next to our trailer while we were still eating lunch. He came back drenched to the armpits. We were at a beach, but the tide was way out. We never did figure out where he had been, but we were so grateful that he was safe!
My heart goes out to the families who lost their children. I began to think of ways parents I interviewed for Camping With Kids safeguarded their children in camp, especially when they had a task, like cooking, that took their attention. Some of them used a harness and a long strap or rope (yes, a leash!) to keep a child close to a tree or a tent pole or the leg of a table, just so he/she remained within sight and conversational distance. Some used a very long rope to create a play space, tree to tree to table leg or tent pole. Others carried portable enclosures or play pens. Some took turns being the designated parent to be the child-watcher. For children who might leave a tent while their parents are still sleeping, my informants recommend attaching a bell to the zipper of the tent, or sealing the tent closures with duct tape.
On one of my favorite websites, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, I found a link to National Water Safety Month. Water Safety Month was May, but where I live, in Seattle, only polar bears are swimming in May. Most of us wait for the 4th of July to begin swimming outdoors, unless we have access to heated pools. The list I found on that site, Water Safety Tips from our friends at the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF), would be useful in any month, especially in the summer. Many private campgrounds and even some state parks have swimming pools, but even where there are lifeguards, the final responsibility for children’s safety remains with their parents. Most of the instructions I copied below, from the “Simple Step Saves Lives Program,” hold true near any body of water, so where you read “pool,” think also lake, stream or beach.
Staying close, being alert and watching children in and around the pool
- Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa and always watch your child when he or she is in or near water
- Teach children basic water safety tips
- Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments
- Have a telephone close by when you or your family is using a pool or spa
- If a child is missing, look for him or her in the pool or spa first
- Share safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors
Learning and practicing water safety skills
- Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim
- Learn to perform CPR on children and adults, and update those skills regularly
- Understand the basics of life-saving so that you can assist in a pool emergency