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Inflatable toys aren’t a substitute for supervision: A day at the beach takes a terrifying turn

Stay safe while using inflatables in open waterAt first glance, laying on an inflatable toy in shallow water seems pretty safe, after all the water isn’t deep and there is a floating toy right there. Recently, a family’s trip to the beach in Nova Scotia proved to be a harrowing reminder of why this is not the case.

Earlier in August, two 5-year-olds were playing in shallow water – one in an inflatable ring, the other on an inflatable mattress. Because the girls were in shallow water, their caregiver assumed the inflatable toys were enough. It wasn’t until the girls began to drift away that the full danger of the situation became clear.

The water was not as shallow as it had appeared and the girls were quickly drifting away, “They were just drifting faster than I could swim and I swam as far as I could and then I realized I was not going to catch them.” said Stephanie Thompson, mother of one of the girls.

Stephanie told the girls to stay on their floating toys, and that she was getting help. They continued to drift out into the water for 50 minutes - 750 meters from shore – before they were rescued. The girls had held hands while they were out in the water so they stayed together.

This story had a happy ending, but it could have been heartbreaking. Even in shallow water, it is important for parents and caregivers to be in arms reach for children who are 7 or younger, or those who are non-swimmers – proximity is crucial to preventing a potential tragedy. In open water, conditions can change quickly, or water may be deeper than it appears due to uneven ground, so even water that appears shallow may not be.

Inflatable toys make for a great selfie, but caution is important. Here are some tips for helping kids stay safe:
  • Remember that water toys are not a substitute for adult supervision. Active supervision (your attention is focused on the children) is critical when kids are in or near the water.
  • Non-swimmers and young children should always wear a lifejacket while playing near, in or on water, this will help if a child falls unexpectedly into the water. Take a moment to practice in a controlled environment how kids can right themselves and move in water while wearing a lifejacket. Remember, a lifejacket is not a substitute for supervision.
  • Take all toys out of the pool area when you’re done using it. Children can be attracted to toys and can fall in reaching for something.
  • Adults in open water need to take caution as well, if you are using an inflatable toy make sure it is anchored and stay aware of your surroundings.
Another great way to keep kids safe in water is for them to learn how to swim. Swimming is fun, a great way to stay active, and can help provide skills that can keep kids safe in and around water.

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