With summer in full swing, you’re probably getting ready to hit the beach. The Jersey Shore is a wonderful place with lots of possibilities for family fun and summer learning activities, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you let your children run full tilt to the water. Here are a few beach safety tips, as well as a couple educational opportunities:
Apply Sunscreen Early and Often
Fun in the sun is all well and good, until someone gets a sunburn. Apply sunscreen to all sun-exposed skin 25-30 minutes before going outside. This will ensure that your child won’t accidentally wash it off in the water before it’s had time to set. A good rule of thumb is to reapply every 1-2 hours, or more frequently depending on how many times your child goes in the water and then towels off.
Position Children Close to a Lifeguard
If possible, set up your things close to a lifeguard for maximum beach safety. Though they are always on the lookout when people are swimming in the water, a lifeguard has the best chance of spotting trouble in his or her direct line of sight. If there is no lifeguard on duty, then all swimming is considered “at your own risk.”
Pay Attention to Beach High and Low Tide Times
Make a habit of checking for high tide and low tide. It will give you an idea of the direction the water is moving (pushing in or pulling out). If you’re unsure, you can always ask a lifeguard.
If the water is pulling out, then there will be a stronger undertow that may pull children off their feet if they’re not ready for it. Even in shallow waters, undertows still have the potential to be strong. If the water is pushing in, there will be stronger waves breaking closer to shore. Young children standing unaccompanied in the water can be caught off guard by sudden waves.
Know How to Recognize a Rip Current
According to NOAA, rip currents account for 80% of beach rescues. Rip currents are strong currents pulling out to sea, perpendicular to the shore line. Though lifeguards are trained to spot rip currents, it’s beneficial for parents to be able to recognize them in order to keep children safe at the beach.
The instinct is to fight the current and swim in a straight line back to shore. The current is often too strong even for adult swimmers, and fighting it leads to fatigue and a risk of drowning. To free yourself from a rip current, try to swim parallel to the beach. Once you’re out of the current, you can then swim on an angle back to shore.
If you’re stuck in a rip current and have your child with you, swimming out of it may be too difficult. Rather, simply float and keep both your and your child’s head above water. Most importantly, stay calm. A rip current will not pull you under, it will simply pull you out. Try to signal and call for help.
Keep a Watchful Eye While on the Beach
Children who can swim on their own may not realize that the current is pulling them away from where they entered the water. When they get out, they head to where they think their family is, only to find that they don’t recognize where they are. Keeping an eye on them prevents the panic of a lost child.
If your child is in the water alone, be sure to watch their surroundings. Keep an eye out for jellyfish, or schools of fish, which can attract the attention of dolphins or, on rare occurrence, a shark. Watch out for other people as well. Sometimes it may be best to stay in a kid-friendly area where other children are playing.
Up on the sand, be sure your child keeps his/her food covered. Lunch is prime time for hungry seagulls to take advantage of unsuspecting toddlers with food in their hands. To avoid a startling encounter with nature, be sure your child eats under an umbrella.
Encourage Summer Learning
The beach is an excellent place for learning. You can easily turn your family outing into an enriching occasion for young children. There are many colors, smells, sounds, and textures unique to the beach that children can experience.
See how many different animals you child can identify. Split them into categories such as those that fly, swim, or crawl. Digging in wet sand can turn into a hunt for sand crabs.
You can also take your child on an adventure to find and collect sea glass, shells, or interesting rocks. Bring them home and plan some arts and crafts with what they find, for example:
- Drilling a tiny hole into a shell or piece of sea glass, and running some cord through it makes a beautiful necklace or bracelet.
- Some sea shells and glue can give an ordinary wooden frame the personalized touch of your child.
- You can also take a jar or glass, fill it a quarter or half of the way with sand, and add some shells or rocks from the beach. Put in a candle or tea light, and now you have decoration for your house that your child helped create.
By turning your beach outing into an active learning experience, you’re showing your child that education can be extremely rewarding, and incredibly fun. If you want to keep the learning going through summer, Home Away From Home Academy offers summer programs designed to enrich your child’s life. Contact us today to learn more.
Stay safe at the beach and enjoy summer!