With this heatwave, what better way to cool down than in a wonderfully cool lake or river?
Children love splashing about in paddling pools, and tend to be the first to head to the water rather than laze on the beach at the seaside. So they’re likely to love the allure of outdoor swimming. It’s a great way to be active, as well as deepen a love and respect of nature.
If you follow a few simple guidelines, sharing the joy of outdoor swimming and splashing with them can be safe and fun for all of you. Here are some top tips, following the guidance of the Outdoor Swimming Society and wildswimming.co.uk
- Stay accessible
With little legs, it makes sense to pick a spot that’s easy to get to – both from your parking spot, and not too far away from home, so you can get to a warm bath if you need to. Try and find a spot with shallows – this will give people the chance to splash and play as a gentle entry to the water.
- Stick with top water quality
Young children can be extra-sensitive to bugs from poor water quality, so choose a good spot. The Environment Agency lists the quality of some bathing spots and wildswimming.co.uk has a community map with swimmers sharing their experiences of local sites.
Make sure you clean any cuts then cover with waterproof plasters. And carry antibacterial hand gel, so everyone can clean up before eating.
- Warm up first
It’s important to get the body ready for the colder water. Playing games of tag, or simply chasing each other around at the shore can get everyone warmed up quickly.
- Play waterside games
For younger ones, simply splashing by the lakeshore or riverside is a big adventure, and will build their appetite for more as they grow. Skim stones, play pooh sticks or create sculptures and pictures out of pebbles.
- Have 1:1 ratios
With young children and weak swimmers, it’s a good idea to have 1:1 ratios with confident adults in and around the water. Even if your children are strong swimmers in a lovely heated pool, the colder temperatures and potential currents mean it makes sense to err on the side of caution.
- Go in together…
…or at least, don’t let the children in first! Adults can do a quick scan for sharp rocks or rubbish under water, as well as any unexpected steep drop-offs. Then for babies and toddlers, actually carrying them in while you splash and wade means they will benefit from the comfort and your body heat.
- Watch out for cold
Finally, make sure to respect the colder temperatures, even if the sun is blazing! Keep bathing sessions short, and be prepared with kit for afterwards. Wetsuits can help retain warmth, and having plenty of towels, blankets and hot drinks and snacks around will help swimmers warm up quicker after their splashing and swimming fun.