Summer is in full swing, and that means water parks are open all over the country. With splash pads for the little ones, slides for kids both big and small, lazy rivers for lounging, and exciting wave pools, they’re the perfect family fun park for those long, hot summer days.
That said, accidents do happen at water parks, and it’s important to know how to avoid them. A 2017 study found that 4200 people per year go to the emergency room with water-park-related injuries. The most common injuries include cuts, scrapes, bruises, broken bones, and concussions. However, drownings and near-drownings can happen. Before you take your kids for a day of fun, here are some tips you’ll want to keep in mind so you can maximize your fun!
1. Follow All Park Rules
Most water park accidents are caused by negligence on the part of the guests. People ignore the “no running” rule and end up slipping on slick surfaces. Loose-fitting swimwear that doesn’t meet regulations gets caught in slide mechanisms. Someone sneaks in a glass container and ends up with a cut to their foot. These are incidents that can be avoided by simply following the posted park rules.
Typically, water parks have their rules posted in many places across the grounds, and most of the rules you’ll encounter are common to all parks and public swimming pools. If your child cannot read, be sure you take some time to explain each of the rules to them. For older kids, make sure they read the rules and ask them plenty of questions to be sure they understand what is expected of them.
Keep in mind:
- You are responsible for knowing the park rules and telling your children what’s expected of them.
- All rules apply to all park guests and need to be followed to ensure everyone’s safety.
- Teens and adults think less about water safety than younger kids. Make sure you and your older kids are setting a good example!
- Water shoes are great for protecting yourself from slips, falls, and cuts, but that doesn’t mean your kids can run in them
2. Adhere to Ride Height Requirements
Water slides are great fun, but they are designed to accommodate people of a certain age, height, and weight like any amusement park ride. Unfortunately, the one rule that too many park-goers try to break is the height requirement for slides and other attractions. While you might think your child is old enough or a strong enough swimmer to handle a water slide, they’re in danger of getting hurt on the ride if they are under the minimum height requirement. Those requirements are less about ability and more about physics. Their bodies need to be big enough to handle the motion and impact of the ride.
Keep in mind:
- Slides can have upper and lower weight limits as well as minimum height requirements. If any of your family members do not fall within the slide’s limits, do not allow them to ride that slide.
- The park uses its own measuring tools for determining ride eligibility. Measurements taken at home are not considered valid by park staff.
- You can be removed from the park without a refund if you fail to adhere to the ride eligibility requirements.
3. Know Your Children’s Limitations
This one is a follow-up to the minimum height requirements for a reason; ride eligibility rules assume anyone on a water slide can swim confidently enough to remove themselves from the pool at the end. While the pools are shallow, they have strong currents that may surprise young children and uncertain swimmers, even if the rider is technically tall enough for the ride. Once a rider reaches the end of the slide, they’ll need to move quickly out of the way to ensure their own safety and that of the next rider. If you’re unsure about the dynamics of a certain slide’s pool, watch several riders before deciding it’s a good fit for your child.
Keep in mind:
- It’s almost impossible to keep your head above water at the end of a water slide. Anyone riding a water slide needs to be comfortable with going underwater.
- Rides that use tubes or mats do not ensure a safe landing. Those devices can flip, and riders need to be strong enough swimmers to remove themselves from the pool–and the flotation device–quickly.
4. Understand the Role of the Lifeguards
Water parks seem to have trained lifeguards stationed all over the place. And while this staff is both required by law and trained to handle emergencies, they’re not going to see everything that happens. Parks are big places with lots of people and constant commotion. The best way you can prevent an accident is by staying with your children at all times while in the park. Make sure your kids know that they need to follow all commands given to them by lifeguards. Also, let your small children know that lifeguards are safe people to ask for help and that they can assist in reuniting with you if you get separated.
Keep in mind:
- Lifeguards are not responsible for your child’s safety unless they are in an emergency situation and need immediate help.
- If a lifeguard is acting to rescue someone, stay out of their way and let them do their job–even if they’re helping your child.
5. Go in a Group and Use the Buddy System
If you’re by yourself and you have children of various ages and abilities, you’ll find that you will most likely be limited to the attractions that fit the least capable swimmer in your group. It pays to plan ahead and go in a group. Be sure you have one adult to chaperone each age/height range so that you can split up and everyone can enjoy everything the park has to offer. If you have teens who are capable of striking out on their own, have them bring a friend who swims at the same level. Make sure they know to stick together and set regular check-in times for all your groups.
Keep in mind:
- If adults switch off between kid groups, then everyone will have the chance to enjoy their favorite park attractions.
- If you have multiple toddlers, you’re going to want multiple adults to wrangle that particular group.
- Keep in mind tolerance levels, too. Older kids will have fun for many more hours than small kids. Maybe plan to have one group depart after a few hours, while the rest stay to enjoy the park until closing.
6. Stay Hydrated and Use Sunscreen
People frequently forget to drink water when they’re in the water. You might feel like your body is cool, but you can fall quickly to heatstroke even when your body is wet. Be sure to bring reusable water bottles and fill them frequently. When your teens or groups check in, be sure that they all get a healthy drink of cold water.
Also, be sure everyone in your group is using an SPF-50 or above sunscreen. Water-resistant sunscreens do stay on a little longer in the water, but they also rinse off over time, so be sure to re-apply sunscreen at each check-in. And don’t forget those often-overlooked places, like tops of feet, noses, and ears!
Keep in mind:
- Sugary and caffeinated drinks can cause dehydration. Water is your best hydrator when you’re spending time in the sun.
- It’s essential to know the signs of heat-related conditions. Some can be treated with shade, rest, and cool drinks. More serious conditions require immediate medical attention.
- Don’t forget to plan for food breaks, too! Most parks allow re-entry, and some even allow you to bring a picnic lunch. Know before you go, and make a plan to keep everyone fed. Running around all day in the sun burns more energy than you realize!
7. Swimming Lessons Lead to More Fun at Water Parks
If you have uncertain swimmers, they might not have as much fun at a water park as you think they will. Most parks deny the use of life vests or other flotation aids, requiring instead that all riders be strong and confident swimmers. Kids who can’t get themselves out of the pool quickly might be denied the opportunity to enter big pools or water slides. By signing your kids up for swimming lessons before your water park adventure, you can increase their enjoyment while offering them a valuable, life-saving skill that lasts a lifetime.
Keep in mind:
- Kids as young as six months can learn water survival and swimming skills.
- Swimming lessons teach survival first, but those lessons eventually lead to greater enjoyment of the water.
- Adults can benefit from swimming lessons, too!
Teach Your Kids the Survival Swim Way
Survival Swim prepares people young and old for water safety and enjoyment, giving them the confidence and skills they need to become strong, competent swimmers. You can find an instructor near you for all your learners, regardless of age or ability level. We start teaching kids swimming skills as young as six months old. Before you know it, your children will be ready to enjoy swimming recreationally. They’ll take on those big slides and wave pools at the water park, and they’ll have gained a vital skill that will improve their safety around water throughout their whole lives.
Survival Swim offers private and small group lessons around the greater Phoenix metropolitan area. Learn in your backyard pool, at a community pool, or our home pool in Avondale.