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For many kids, there’s no better way to spend a warm day than having fun in the sun at the pool, especially when they get to splash around with their favorite babysitter. Of course, as childcare providers, sitters are responsible for the health and well-being of the children they watch. Homes with pools add a few considerable risks babysitters need to be aware of to prevent drowning and injuries — even when they’re not poolside with the kids. This article discusses the important information all babysitters need to know when watching children in homes with backyard oases.

Discuss the pool’s rules with the parents. Before diving in, you need to know if you have permission to access the pool when you’re on babysitting duty. Many parents won’t feel comfortable letting their kids in or near the water when they aren’t home, so it’s important to know if they’ll allow you to take the children swimming. Also, be sure to ask the parents for the green light, not the kids — a resourceful child may bend the truth about whether they can take a dip when their parents aren’t around!

Once you know you have the go-ahead, discuss the rules for pool time regarding safety and special privileges so you can follow suit. Maybe younger kids are required to wear water wings or other flotation devices, while teens aren’t allowed to go for a swim until their homework is done for the night. 

Only use the pool during daylight. Even if you and the children you’re watching are all experienced swimmers, keep safety in mind by only visiting when the sun is out. There are too many hazards that can present themselves come nightfall, especially in pool areas that aren’t well lit where tripping hazards and other dangerous elements may hide. Similarly, don’t swim in inclement weather, especially if there is any chance of lightning.

Learn how to swim. Even if you don’t plan on using the pool, you need to know how to swim in case you need to come to the aid of a child in your care. If you haven’t taken lessons or simply feel uncomfortable in the water, it’s best to leave pool time out of your babysitting adventures.

Get certified in CPR. If you’ve ever taken a babysitting safety course, you’ve likely been trained in how to perform CPR. If you haven’t, it’s vital you learn how to do it before spending time around a pool with children in your care. As a bonus, knowing CPR will be a huge selling point to parents looking to hire a caregiver for their kids, even families without a pool.

Bring along as few accessories as possible. Toys, games, and other elements can enhance your pool-day fun, but keep them to a minimum. Try not to overdo it with hauling activities, towels, and furniture into the pool area in order to reduce tripping hazards. Also remember that electronics that risk shocking you and the children if exposed to water need to be kept out of the pool area at all times.

Keep pets indoors. Even if the family in your care allows their dog, cat, or other critter in the pool area, it’s best for babysitters to leave pets inside during pool time. You’re responsible for the household when you’re on duty, including the well-being of pets. Including them in your pool activities not only puts them in danger of falling in the water and potentially drowning, they also risk overheating and ingesting chemicals used to keep the pool clean, which can poison them. 

Supervise the children at all times. When you’re caring for a family that has a pool in their yard, it’s important to keep your eyes on the kids at all times, even when you’re not poolside. It’s critical to make sure they don’t have access to the water when you’re not with them, and leaving them alone in the home for more than a few minutes offers an opportunity to wander off to the pool area.

Of course, you’ll need to leave the kids alone in certain scenarios, so be sure to prioritize safety by following these guidelines:

  • If you’ll be preparing meals for the kids, opt for dishes you can throw in the microwave or oven or that can be pulled out of the fridge and eaten. This way, you won’t have to leave the kids alone to spend 20 minutes in front of the stove. If your meal prep requires more time in the kitchen, bring the kids along to work on an art project or watch a video on a mobile device at the table while you cook. That way, you won’t have to continuously check on them in another room.
  • If you’re watching more than one child and not everyone wants to play together, prioritize your focus on the youngest members of the family. Set older children up with an activity so you know what they’re up to while you’re in another room, but be sure to pop in and check on them occasionally as their age deems necessary.
  • When putting the kids to bed for nap time or for the evening, do a quick check to make sure that any doors in their room leading outside are securely locked. If there is a home alarm system, you also may want to discuss with parents the option of setting it after children go down for the night — this will alert you if anyone tries to go for a field trip after the lights are out. Be sure to utilize any baby monitors as well.

Make sure everyone is wearing sunscreen. Unfortunately, this is a point kids might fight you on, but it’s a non-negotiable: if you’re going to be playing outside in the pool or even just the yard, everyone — including you! — must wear sunscreen. Even on cloudy days, skin is at risk of being irritated or burned by powerful UVA and UVB rays, which can cause short-term irritants like sunburns and long-term dangers like cancer. Be sure to put it on about 15 minutes before heading out and reapply it every two hours.

Keep the pool area secure when you’re not using it. It’s important to talk to the parents of the children you’re looking after about all of the safety and security measures that will help prevent children and pets from making their way to the water unsupervised. Whatever barriers are used to keep the pool off limits — whether a gate leading to the pool deck or a home door going into the backyard — make sure you keep the space locked when you’re not using it.

Also be aware of where the pool’s chemicals are kept. If they’re not secured in the same space as the pool itself, make sure they’re locked up and out of reach of kids when you’re on watch.

Don’t hesitate to call for help. Even if you are an experienced babysitter, have handled countless kid crises during your career, and know CPR, accidents still happen, so never hesitate to call 911 in the event of an emergency. The dispatcher will send help right away and walk you through potentially life-saving steps. Even if a serious situation occurred that you were able to address without paramedics’ help (for example, if you give a child CPR and they recover), you should call 911. You should also call a child’s parents immediately after calling for emergency help.

As much as you want to have fun with the children you babysit, your primary responsibility is to ensure they stay healthy and safe while their parents are away. Homes with swimming pools take a little more awareness in preventing emergency situations, but by following these guidelines, you’ll be able to confidently hang out poolside with your favorite kids all summer long.