Pool Safety and the Benefits of Swimming for Children

During the summer months, the pool is a wonderful place for children to have fun, cool off, spend time with their friends, and get some exercise. Swimming offers tremendous health benefits and can be a great activity for children with orthopedic or neurologic diagnoses. For example, swimming helps regulate the sensory system in children who have sensory processing disorder. Children that are recovering from an orthopedic injury, such as a fractured arm or leg, increase their range of motion and strength when swimming. Children with increased muscle tone from a neurological disorder will benefit from swimming as the properties of the water help to elongate tight muscles. Swimming also helps children with motor planning and sequencing difficulties to coordinate the movements of their arms and legs to be in sync with their breathing.

As an occupational therapist, I know how beneficial swimming can be for children. However, as a water safety instructor (WSI) and lifeguard, I have also seen firsthand the importance of pool safety. If your child has an orthopedic or neurologic diagnosis, always ask his or her physical or occupational therapist for any additional recommendations. Below are some safety tips for all children:

  • Apply sunscreen before entering the pool to prevent sunburn, and reapply after each swim
  • Always swim with a lifeguard present
  • Always swim with a buddy and adult present
  • Wear a wet suit to help increase buoyancy as well as keep the skin protected from the sun. A wet suit also provides children with tactile and proprioceptive input to their bodies (an awareness of where your body is in space)
  • Wear a bathing cap and goggles to keep hair out of the child’s face and protect his or her eyes
  • Sign up for some lessons with a certified swim instructor, who can teach your child: How to safely enter and exit the pool, techniques to correctly tread in the water, proper breathing techniques to help the child if he or she is in a situation where the water is over his or her head
  • If your child is healing from a broken bone, ask his or her physician about waterproof casts for use in the pool

Lorene Janowski is an pediatric occupational therapist at the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center within Hospital for Special Surgery’s Lerner Children’s Pavilion.

Topics: Pediatrics
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.