Wild swimming with children
With midsummer sun thoughts turn to staying cool while having fun outdoors. And when temperatures rise, what could be more blissful than splashing around in the dappled sunlight of a wooded lakeshore or by a riverbank?
Wild swimming or paddling can be safe for all the family, and what’s more, it’s even recommended by the National Trust as a way to ward of nature deficit disorder.
With a bit of planning, enjoying a day by the water is the epitome of family fun in summer. But it helps to be prepared. Here are our tips for enjoying the water with little ones.
- Pick your spot
There are hundreds of wild swimming opportunities all over the UK. Www.wildswimming.co.uk is a fantastic resource for where to find places, the quality of the water, and the type of swimming experience available (e.g. paddling, diving in etc).
When considering a spot with children, go for places with gently sloping shores rather than sudden drops. Make sure you have a safe place to enter and exit, and be aware of who you’re sharing the water with – you’ll need to keep clear of any boats using the waterway. Don’t use private or fenced off land.
- Staying safe
There are a few water conditions you’ll want to avoid. If there are signs for blue-green algae, steer clear as contact can cause rashes, vomiting and other problems. You’ll also want to avoid canals, urban areas and flood water.
It’s worth having a high adult:child ratio so you know there are plenty of people to look after each other. Make sure everyone knows to stick together and stay close to the shore. It helps to have an adult on the bank to keep an eye on everyone and help people warm up once they’re out of the water.
At the most basic level, all you’ll need is a towel and swim suit. A wetsuit makes swimming more pleasant in cooler conditions and will mean you’re likely to stay in the water for longer. Shoes can make getting in and out more comfortable.
Midges like to hang around water, so insect repellent is a good idea, and it’s always a good idea to have sun cream to hand when you’re outdoors in warmer weather. On a very practical note, bring a plastic bag to put all the wet stuff in when you’re finished.
- Before and after
Get your bodies warmed up with some stretching and some running around to get the heart going. Cold water is a shock, even in summer, so stay close to the shore and go steady. A gentle splash and paddle is fine. After getting out, have warm dry clothes ready. Some snacks and a thermos of hot chocolate will help everyone feel warm and comfortable quickly.
After you’ve had a swim and warmed up, there’s time for picnics, climbing trees, making mermaid caves out of sticks and stones, a game of tag… anything that takes your fancy.
We hope you’re feeling cooler already and enjoy splashing about in the wild!