Ocean safety tips for your next family vacation

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ocean safety tips, children in knee-deep water near shore, yellow swim rope across water

Vacation season is now in full swing. Many families are traveling to their favorite beaches to spend time relaxing in the sun and playing in the sea. Especially if it’s your child’s first trip to the seashore, there are several helpful ocean safety tips to keep in mind. When I was a young mother, my father used to remind me never to leave my toddler unattended, even for a split second. He would say, “A split second is all it takes for a tragedy to occur.” He was right and I was always mindful of his advice. I’m giving you the same advice now for when you take kids to the ocean. NEVER let them out of your sight, even if there are lifeguards on duty. NOT EVEN FOR A SPLIT SECOND.

This might be your first time taking children to the beach or perhaps, you’ve been doing it for years. Either way, it’s important to remember that swimming in a swimming pool is A LOT different than swimming in the ocean. Family vacations can be adventurous, fun, relaxing and memorable. However, we want the memories to be good ones, not disastrous ones that include trips to the emergency room or worse. Sometimes, bad things happen, even when you’ve been as careful as you can possibly be. Practicing basic ocean safety tips can, at least, help reduce the chances that an injury may occur, especially concerning children.

Make survival swim lessons part of your ocean safety tips

ocean safety tips, child wearing goggles and life jacket in water
Increase ocean safety with survival swimming lessons

As I mentioned earlier, there’s a significant difference between swimming in a pool and swimming in the ocean. The force of water in an ocean is one of the strongest natural forces on earth. You might think that it’s not really a big deal if your kids are playing near the shore. In reality, many accidents happen in knee-deep water! At the top of your ocean safety tips list, you might want to include survival swimming lessons, especially a program designed to teach ocean swimming.

Also, consider the personality, strengths and weaknesses of each child. Do you have a son or daughter who doesn’t like being splashed in a pool? Chances are, he or she might become agitated or panicked if a big wave hits in the ocean. Survival swimming lessons can help raise a child’s awareness and provide valuable skills to help him or her stay safe in the sea. Read this to help reduce the risk of drowning!

Children should face the horizon when they’re playing in the ocean

ocean safety tips, two girls splashing in waves, blue bathing suit
Do NOT turn your back to the waves like this

Among numerous other ocean safety tips, it’s helpful to teach your children that they should never turn their back on the sea. Picture in your own mind that you are standing facing a certain direction. Coming right at you is a person who has fists raised as though about to strike. Now, imagine if you will, the same scene, except that you have your back toward your would-be attacker and have no idea that he or she is there. In which scenario do you think you would be better able to brace yourself and protect yourself? It’s logical to assume that you’d be able to have a stronger stance and prepare to defend if you were able to SEE what was about to happen.

Think of your children standing in the ocean water near the shore. Getting hit from behind with a big wave can knock a person right off of his or her feet, especially a child. If a child isn’t expecting the hit, he or she might take in big gulps of salt water. A child can easily become disoriented as an unexpected wave sends him or her tumbling under water. It’s easier to stand strong and jump through a wave near the shore if you’re facing the wall of water that is coming toward you. Teaching your children not to turn their back on the ocean helps them stay safe.

Include rip current information in your ocean safety tips for kids

man, woman, two kids standing on pier, sun rising high in background, rough water
Rip currents often form near piers

Some people refer to rip currents as rip tides. No matter what you call it, it’s a severe hazard to swimmers! A rip current forms when a strong current of water flows outward from the beach through the surf zone. A rip current can EASILY pull a child out to sea. In fact, a rip current can EASILY pull an ADULT out to sea, as well! Make “rip current safety” part of your ocean safety tips before letting your kids swim or wade in the sea. Teach your kids where they’re most likely to encounter a rip current, which is near a pier or low spots, such as a break in a sandbar. A rip current might form near any type of permanent structure.

Rip currents can do two things: They can pull a swimmer under or pull a swimmer out to sea. It’s critical to learn HOW to swim out of a rip current to stay safe in the ocean. Many vacation homes post rip current safety charts on a refrigerator or wall. Make sure you and your kids understand how to prevent rip current hazards. If you get stuck in a rip current, your greatest chance of making it out safely is to turn and swim LATERALLY along the shore! NEVER try to swim straight to shore, head-on as this will make matters worse!

Never try to swim away from shore, heading straight out to sea because the rip current will take you farther away! Keep kids safe by teaching them how to turn and swim parallel to shore to escape a rip current. Only after a person is clear of a rip current by swimming laterally, should he or she THEN turn toward the shore to make his or her way to the beach.

Tell your kids to stay away from the water unless they have your permission to enter

woman with blonde hair, white pullover, jeans, stooping down near ocean, toddler in hat and sweater, pointing at water
Teach kids to always ask permission to go near ocean water

This might seem like a no-brainer, especially with younger kids. However, it’s easy for everyone to start feeling downright at home when you’re on vacation at the beach. Your child might assume that, since you’re nearby relaxing in the sun, that it’s safe for him or her to run down to the water to fill a bucket, pick up a seashell or play in the water. No matter how many times you have to answer the same question, insist that your child get your permission EVERY time he or she wants to step foot in the water!

More ocean safety tips

brown-haired boy sipping water from a bottle through a straw, sitting on bench
Hydration is a priority safety tip

It’s easy to dehydrate when you spend a day at the beach. Make sure your kids drink plenty of water — not soda or other sugary drinks — water! Have a plan in place to teach your kids what to do if they get separated from you on the beach. Use landmarks to identify your beach house because they all start to look the same after a while! If you’re taking kids to the ocean, it’s always safest to choose a beach with lifeguards on duty. Instruct your children to seek assistance from a lifeguard if they get lost. To prevent that from happening, you can set up boundaries as soon as you hit the sand. For instance, tell your kids not to go past a certain lifeguard chair or house or sign, etc.

crab in wet sand
One pinch could really hurt a toe!

As for the water, remember that there are MANY living creatures in the ocean, including some that can cause harm to humans, such as jellyfish, sharks and crabs. Not only should you keep your eye on wave patterns, but always be on the lookout for fins, as well! Remember to check the weather and to closely monitor the sky, in case a sudden lightning storm hits and you need to seek shelter immediately. Strong winds can also be a safety hazard at the ocean. Making beach memories with your family is a wonderful thing to do in the summer. Just remember these ocean safety tips and always be on your guard so that everyone stays safe!


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