Summer in Northern Michigan can be defined by one word: water. And while we love the rivers, lakes, pools and beaches Up North, having a healthy respect for the inherent danger that comes with any such resource is key to keeping our families having fun and staying safe.
Cory Werner, director of Aquatics at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, says knowing a few key strategies can make all the difference when it comes to keeping children or non-swimming adults safe in the water. “Swimming is great exercise, but it also serves as a great way for families to be together, creating memories and having fun. Although every water environment is different, by keeping a handful of water safety tips in mind, parents and children can take full advantage of the many opportunities we have in this area without worry,” Werner says.
Tip # 1: Moms and dads, don’t park in chairs or on a beach blanket. “The first place to start is to definitely encouraging parents to get into the water with their kids and stay within arms reach. It can be a wonderful way to connect, and it also keeps children as safe as possible," Werner says.
Tip # 2: Children (and adults) who are not strong swimmers should wear Coast Guard approved life jackets at all times when near the water. “Water wings and other inflatable flotation devices will not prevent drowning," says Werner. "Also, I make the life jacket recommendation for any body of water, whether you are in a pool or tubing on a river or just playing at the beach. Even if lifeguards are on duty—and I do tell people to try to swim in pools or beaches with that benefit—it is important to remember they are trained to monitor and respond in emergencies. It still falls on parents to keep a close eye on their children, and it still is necessary to wear a life jacket if you or your child cannot swim well,” he adds.
Tip # 3: Know the depth of the water whenever possible. Before allowing a child to swim, Werner suggests checking to see if it will be over their head or where it gets deep. “All pools in the state of Michigan are required to have the depth noted and visible. For bigger bodies of water, try to go places that have roped off swimming areas with lifeguards. They should be training in those waters daily, and will know where the shallow gives way and how deep the water gets. Asking questions arms you with information, and information can keep you safe,” he says.
Tip #4: Maintain hydration: One thing people often don’t think of when it comes to playing in the water is ensuring they maintain proper hydration, Werner says. “It is so crucial to keep drinking and to stick to water or sports hydration drinks whenever possible. Whether you are at the beach or at an indoor water park, you can—and will—get dehydrated without doing so. It is also a good idea to eat regularly and take frequent breaks from swimming to prevent fatigue.
Great Wolf Lodge also offers swimming lessons and water exploration classes on a limited basis. For more information, call Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City: 231-941-3600.