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Water Workouts: Fun for Kids, Great (& Easy) Exercise for Parents

I am not one of those moms. Not the one who has an endless repertoire of educational and enjoyable crafts activities. Not the one who is genuinely excited about the endless games of trains or Candyland. Not the one who invites 10 5-year-olds over to make designer cupcakes from scratch, with matching hand-cut doilies, after the personalized pedicures. And I never really enjoyed watching many children’s TV shows or movies, with the exception of Lazy Town when my kids were little.

Let's go swimming for the first timeSadly my motivation for watching Lazy Town was not very pure. A truly wonderful show which encouraged an active lifestyle, exercise, friendship and kindness, I admit that I let my kids watch every afternoon when they were young because the star was a hunk and in those early days of sleep deprivation, baggy and stained clothing, my rear and stomach wobbling and sliding south and what felt like zero physical appeal it was like watching mom porn. Fit! Active! Positively Perky!

And then I found the answer. The pool. Not swimming laps, because I’d manage maybe 10 minutes of that before I was recalled to active mom duty, but in the best possible way that also played to my mom-strengths – teaching my kids to be safe while we all had active fun in the water. I got my mojo back (and my figure), which made me a much better mom who happily did some crafts and games and always made time for our beloved story time when my kids were happy and worn out from being in the water and we’d snuggle together.

Not that long ago, I wrote about how parents are the first lifeguard on duty for your child, which means you need to be in the water with less confident swimmers and arms-length from non-swimmers. I promised my tried-and-true fun for kids, great easy workout for mom or dad, so here it goes! Repetition is key, as many times as your child is enjoying the exercise and every time you go in the pool. Think of how many times you say ‘look both ways before you cross the street’ as your inspiration. The goal is to teach your child to not panic, to be able to possibly save themselves if they do find themselves in water unexpectedly, or at least give you a couple more minutes to find your missing explorer, and to give them a positive and enjoyable introduction to water.

Humpty Dumpty’s for upper body. Sit your young child on the side of the pool (mine started when they were 4 months old). Recite the nursery rhyme and when Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall, lift your child and ‘fall’ off the wall, gently forward with their head always above water, then say the same words every time ‘turn around and hold on’ and place their clenched little fists against the wall. As your child gets older they will learn to turn and hold the wall on their own, they will be willing to have their head go under water as they ‘fall’, and eventually you can spot them while they fall, turn, and climb out themselves.

Monkey Hands for a full body workout. Hold on to the wall with your hands and have your child do the same. You are vertical and your feet will be against the wall helping to move you. Use ‘monkey hands’ to scoot around the pool to the ladder or steps. Start with a short distance, expand to the entire side or around the entire pool as you and your child build strength and endurance. You are teaching them to get to a place where they can climb out safely and building their confidence and muscles.

Helicopters for core and arms. Hold your child under their arms and twirl them around in the water with their feet in the water and their head and shoulders held well clear of the water. Children love the feel of the water rushing against their legs, and it’s better than a thousand crunches for you.

Coral Reef Dives for legs. When your child is old enough to dive under, stand with your legs wide and have them dive between your legs without touching. You can start with lifting one leg and then the other to give them more space. For my son, the budding marine biologist, he knew that coral is sharp and if he rubbed the coral and was cut it would attract sharks, which increased his determination, but that might be too much information for many children, so use your judgement. Fun, not fear is the goal.

Finally, anything you do in the water, whether it’s walking at the edge of the surf, walk in the water holding a baby, catching your child as they practice big jumps – it’s going to the gym times two because of the resistance of the water. No matter how you move in the water, it’s going to make you stronger, healthier and in much better shape. But you probably already knew that if you watched Katie Ledecky or Caeleb Dressel, or maybe you were a secret Lazy Town viewer like me.

Personal WaterCraft & Kids: Can They Be Fast AND Safe??

Watercraft familyFor those of us here in the U.S., summer is here, it’s hot out and that means that thousands of children will be hitting the water looking to go fast! Summer is the time to think about the beach and being outside and speeding around oceans, lakes or canals in (PWC) or personal watercrafts. PWC have steadily risen in ownership in the U.S to well over a million and with that increase in ownership come’s an increase in operators and injuries to the tune of over 12,000 documented injuries annually. Most injuries seem to occur when PWC collide—either with other vessels including other PWC or with fixed objects such as docks or tree stumps. Behavioral factors cited in 3 studies include operator inexperience (most operators had <20 hours of experience in boat operation), operator inattention, and excess speed or reckless operation. Some PWC can seat as many as 3 people and hit speeds of 60 mph. PWC are the only recreational boats for which the leading cause of death is not drowning; most fatalities result from blunt trauma.

The answer to the question of how to keep our children safe on the water seems to be the same as it has been for quite some time. Education and hands on practice. We need to educate our children and ourselves on water safety, both in and out of the water and both for operating and riding on a PWC. The Personal Watercraft Industry Association has the following recommendations:

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. No one younger than 16 years should operate PWC.
  2. The operator and every passenger must wear a US Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device.
  3. Alcohol or other drug use should be avoided before and while operating PWC.
  4. Participation in a safe boater course with specific information about PWC should be required before operating PWC.
  5. Safe operating practices, such as no operation between sunset and sunrise, no wake jumping, and observing posted speed limits or no-wake zones, should be followed. (No-wake zone means the craft speed is slow enough that no wake is formed behind the craft as it crosses a specific area.)
  6. PWC should not be operated where swimmers are in the water.
  7. If a PWC is being used to tow another person on skis, knee boards, tubes, or other devices, a second person must face the rear to monitor the person being towed.
  8. All persons who rent PWC should be required to comply with these recommendations.
  9. Protective equipment such as wet suits, gloves, boots, eyewear, and helmets may be appropriate to wear.

When it comes to PWC, owning and operating a PWC is the same as owning and operating a car and should be treated with the same amount of respect. Would you hand over your car keys to your child who has little to no driver training? Of course not and the same should hold true when it comes to any PWC. The numbers don’t lie. Everyone needs PWC drivers Ed. Putting in the time before hand will save a lot of pain and suffering during what should be the most fun time of the year for kids.

Thank you and be safe

A Little Change & Prep Now, A Year of Safety for Your Family

Time for a changeGreetings to all and I hope everyone is having a great 2023 thus far. It’s hard to believe we are already in March, and with the month of March comes the beginning of spring and a time for change and preparation.

As the saying around the firehouse goes: when the clocks change, its time to change the batteries in all of your detectors in your home, whether they be smoke or gas detectors.

A properly functioning detector is key in the safety of you and your family in early trouble detection from smoke, flames and harmful gases in your home day and night. So please do not put this off, it only takes a few minutes and can make all the difference in the world and while you are at it, maybe you can make a fun family fire drill out of testing your new batteries in your detectors.

The preparation part of what I would like to talk about is the fact the spring is here and that means that summer is rapidly approaching. With summer comes the kids being home, at camp and almost assuredly being around water a lot more than the rest of the year. I cannot stress enough the importance of water safety and preparedness. Enrolling children in swimming lessons or teaching them yourself now is a great way to give them added protection for the summer months ahead. It is an all too common occurrence in the summer that children have near drowning or complete drowning events in pools or lakes and in many of these cases the child was not taught how to swim. Please contact a local instructor or organization in your area and arm your child with the ability to swim and in the mean time get some good fun quality time together.

Thank you and I wish you health and happiness.

5 Beach Safety Tips for Family Fun

When temperatures soar, families hit the beach. In 2021, Americans spread out their towels and smelled the sea an estimated 400 million times, according to the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA).

But while beach outings are one of the highlights of summer, they also present serious hazards – from sunburn and jellyfish stings to riptides and lightning. Here’s how to protect your family:

Sun Exposure

Some experts believe that just one blistering sunburn can double your risk for getting skin cancer, which is why the American Cancer Society recommends avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are strongest. Make a firm rule that kids sit under a beach umbrella whenever they’re not swimming. Have them wear a hat, sunglasses and a shirt or cover up when they’re walking around or playing in the sand. And of course, slather on the sunscreen and SPF lip balm.

Tip: Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and use approximately 2 tablespoons of it to cover your entire body. Apply a half hour before heading out, and reapply every two hours or right after swimming or heavy sweating.

Dehydration

When you spend too much time in the sun and heat or have a severe sunburn that gives off heat, it’s easy to become dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when your body loses too much water and essential salts, and the symptoms include dizziness, thirst and fatigue. Children and adults over age 60 are most at risk of developing life-threatening complications if they don’t replace lost fluids. The key to preventing and treating mild dehydration is simple: Drink plenty of fluids, including sports drinks, which restore body fluids, salt and electrolytes.

Tip: In addition to drinks, pack your cooler with fruit, which has a high liquid content. Cold watermelon chunks or frozen grapes are summertime favorites.

Rip Currents

Nearly 80 percent of beach lifeguard rescues are due to riptides – strong currents of water that pull away from the shore – according to the USLA. The worst thing you can do if you’re caught in a riptide is try to fight the currents and swim to shore. Remember to stay calm and swim parallel to the shore until the current relaxes – which usually doesn’t take long – and then swim to shore. Or just float or tread water until you’re out of the current. Teach your kids to do the same if they get caught too.

Tip: Swim near a lifeguard. The chance of drowning is five times higher at a beach that doesn’t have one, according to the USLA.

Jellyfish Stings

Jellyfish are a pain – literally – to swimmers in every ocean of the world. Some are harmless, but others are poisonous, with barbed tentacles that inflict pain and irritation on people who come in contact with them. Mild to moderate stings can produce immediate burning pain, itching, blisters, numbness and tingling. They can also leave painful red marks that may take one or two months to go away. But prevention is easy: Don’t swim, play or sit anywhere near them! (Note: If you feel sick or have trouble breathing after a jellyfish sting or if the stings cover a large area, seek emergency treatment.)

Tip: Soothe the discomfort with ice packs and skin creams.

Lightning Strikes

Lightning kills about 60 Americans a year, according to the National Weather Service, and injures more than 300, often leaving them with debilitating long-term conditions such as memory loss, dizziness, chronic pain and muscle spasms. Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from where it’s raining. As soon as you hear thunder, leave the beach and take shelter in an enclosed vehicle or building. (Open-sided beach pavilions or snack shacks won’t protect you.) Stay off the beach for 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

Tip: When you get to the beach, scope out a safe shelter in case there’s thunder. Make sure your kids know to come out of the water at the first rumble.

Can Your Child Recognize a Rip Current?

The summer I turned 12 I visited my cousins in California. Boogie-boarding in the surf at Santa Monica I had a real scare. A rogue wave flattened me and started dragging me out to sea. 36 years later I can vividly remember the sensation of being in a washing machine, being churned around with the sand scraping against my back and stomach as I was dragged out to sea. The combination of panic and being under water for so long robbed me of the last of my oxygen as I desperately fought to get a foot hold on solid ground. Finally my feet connected with the ocean floor and I stood up – knee deep in water.

I felt foolish, never told my cousins or my aunt. I mean, it’s hard enough being 12, but almost drowning in under 2 feet of water? But I didn’t know. I didn’t understand how to read the ocean and I didn’t know what to do if the water behaved differently than in my local pool and Lake Michigan is a different story from the Pacific Ocean, although just as dangerous if you don’t know what to look for.

When I look at the primary misleading signals that water can give, rip tides or rip currents is probably one of the scariest and least understood, but understanding them prepares you for other events, such as the occasional rogue wave.

I’ll defer to the experts for all the information on rip current, but the most important thing that you need to know, and what you need to teach your children, is how to recognize a rip current, and how to escape if you do get caught.

  • First, a rip current is a strip of deceptively calm water. On either side you’ll see choppy waves, but the rip current is enticingly, beckoningly smooth. That’s the water heading out at a rate faster than an Olympic swimmer can paddle. So, first step, survey the water, and if you see a flat patch, avoid it.
  • Second, if you do get caught, don’t try to fight the water, you’ll never win. Swim slowly and steadily sideways, parallel with the shore. You will either be able to eventually leave the rip current or it will spit you out at the end of the rip current and you just need to swim back to shore.

Ideally you have also chosen to swim near a lifeguard and have checked out any signs warning of rip current or dangerous surf, but since water doesn’t always abide by the rules, it’s best to understand how water acts.

Of course the most important message is ‘don’t panic’, but it’s a lot easier to keep yourself, or your child from panicking if they understand what is happening to them, and go with the water instead of fighting it. I think Dora said it best in Finding Nemo, ‘Just keep swimming….just keep swimming’.

The Magic of Children’s Bath Time

Rubber-duckyOne of the loveliest videos I have ever seen is of baby Sonia receiving her first bath. I get teary just watching it as I remember the first baths I gave my beloved babies. Just as with baby Sonia, they were so relaxed, so calm, so utterly at peace. It made perfect sense to me then, and now. After all, a baby has spent 9 months floating in liquid in a warm and safe environment. How comforting to be back in familiar territory. It’s a feeling that we keep our entire lives.

As parents we tend to forget how important and soothing water is, not just for babies, but to toddlers, teenagers….and adults. Why, just the other day my 11-year old son took one look at my frazzled face and said, ‘maybe you should take a lavender bubble bath tonight’. (That is code in our house for ‘the pin has been pulled on the mom-grenade, we need to minimize collateral damage).

As winter extends, think about extending bath time in your house. Take inspiration from Sonia’s bath. Water gently poured over the face and head, a peaceful environment, a loving touch. Maybe add some bubbles as your child gets older. (I swear by l’Occitane Foaming Lavender Bath – the lavender calms everyone immediately and promotes a restful sleep. It’s pricey, but half a capful gives plenty of bubbles so the bottle lasts a long time). By all means, add some fun bath toys. A simple cup or a few pieces of Tupperware can mean hours of pleasure or Amazon has a huge selection of creative toys. For your teenagers, try not to rip your hair out at the hours spent in the bathroom and the piles of towels on the floor. Remember, calm and in control is good, and if water dampens the hormonal flames, maybe it’s worth the short-term aggravation.

The other bonus? Bathing as a positive introduction to water eases the way for swimming classes, which keeps your child safer in the water their entire life. Naturally you should NEVER leave a child unattended in the bath, not even to run into the other room for a clean diaper. Remember, drowning can happen in 2 minutes in under 2 inches of water. Just as important, young siblings do not make good babysitters when water is around as they don’t understand that little brother or sister lying in the water is not a problem, or maybe they put them there in a moment of conflicted feelings, not knowing what could happen.

Looking for further inspiration for bathing? I recommend that all-time classic, Ernie, singing ‘Rubber Duckie’.

p.s. As I listened to the video my golden retriever, Neptune, came rushing into my office with his ears cocked and a look on his face that said ‘Duck??? You have a DUCK???!!!’ It’s true, everyone loves bath time, especially with Rubber Duckie.

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