Water safety is a team activity. Teaching children to swim confidently and learn basic self-rescue is part of the equation. But even among strong swimmers, the critical role in water safety is on dry land: the Water Watcher.
The vast majority of drownings happen when no one was watching the victim while in the water, sometimes when a child reaches water unexpectedly and unsupervised, and sometimes in a group setting where adults are distracted — even for just a few moments.
One of the surest ways to improve water safety is to have a responsible adult who is focused on watching kids who are at play in or near a pool, lake or other water.
Rules for the Water Watcher
- Keep your eyes on the water and swimmers at all times
- Don’t be distracted by conversations, devices or activities elsewhere
- Stay on duty until another designated Water Watcher takes over
But because of the comings and goings of kids and adults, and the distractions common to a fun day at the waterside, sometimes people lose track of who is on duty to watch – an adult may tell another person they are leaving the area, but the message might not be received. Or two parents may each assume the other has the duty.
The Water Watcher Tag: Know Who’s Up
A simple solution is a Water Watcher token – some physical object that can be passed from person to person and clearly designates who is on task to watch the swimmers. Because it is an object, it requires contact and understanding between the giver and recipient. If a person has the token, they must remain present and alert until they pass it off to another person.
The Water Watcher identifier should be clearly marked and highly visible, large enough that it won’t disappear into a pocket, and easy to hold or wear so kids and adults can see it. That way the Watcher is less likely to forget their duties, and other adults appreciate that the Watcher shouldn’t be distracted or brought into other activities.
Consider downloading, printing and cutting out the attached tag, and put it in a standard clear plastic card holder on a lanyard (available at any office supply store.) Or make your own – ideas include:
- A painted wooden dowel on a string with a clip
- A stretchy rubber bracelet with a tag attached
- A plastic card on a carabiner that can be clipped to a belt loop
If you don’t have an “official” Water Watcher object, you can still put it into practice – find a hat, rock, or really anything you can hand off as a physical reminder of who’s up.
Whatever you decide on, the most important thing is that you use it. Introduce all the adults at your next water gathering to the idea, agree to follow the rules, and enjoy a fun, safer day out!