It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when you visit a water park. After all, park workers and lifeguards abound, and everyone is having fun.
But water parks can be a dangerous place if parents don’t know the guidelines of water park safety for kids.
Water Safety at Water Parks
Never Leave Children Unattended
Never leave a child unattended near or around water—even for a minute. Follow these water safety tips for toddlers.
Some general guidelines are:
- Keep toddlers and preschoolers within arm’s length whenever they’re in water
- Elementary school-aged children should always be in your sight and use the buddy system
- Middle-schoolers and older children should regularly check in with you, and never leave the area unless they tell you
A good rule of thumb is to have your group consist of one adult for each child.
Tell Your Child to Never Swim Alone
With water parks, there isn’t necessarily safety in numbers when there’s lots of people, excitement, and action in the water.
If your younger child is near older kids who are splashing a lot in the water, move with your child to a quieter, safer area.
Never swim in an unsupervised area. They restrict these areas for a reason, and there aren’t lifeguards immediately available.
Wear a Life Jacket
Coast Guard approved life jackets are for children under 48” and all weak swimmers—young and adult!
Water wings can’t adequately replace a life jacket. There’re a lot less effective, can easily malfunction, and may make kids and their parents feel safe when they’re not.
If it embarrasses your child to wear a life jacket, explain that it will help keep them safe while they’re having fun. Don’t give in to their protests or be embarrassed to wear one yourself if you aren’t a confident swimmer.
Many safety experts agree all children should wear life jackets at water parks.
Some water parks provide them free upon request.
Check for Lifeguards
Only enter the water where there are lifeguards present. And remember that lifeguards are the last line of defense against accidental drowning. They’re not there to babysit your child.
Read All Safety Signs
All water parks post their rules to keep you safe. Read these signs, talk about them with your child, and let them know the rules are there for their safety.
Signs designate restricted areas and give critical warnings about specific attractions.
For example, a flume ride may have a sudden drop, or it may move at a speed that is dangerous for people with heart, back, or neck problems.
Follow all age, height, weight, and health restrictions. Ignoring these rules will put you or your child in danger.
Dress Kids in Bright Swimsuits
Your child should wear a brightly colored swimsuit (such as neon pink or green) so you or a lifeguard can easily spot them.
Have a Designated Meeting Spot
Even with the most vigilance, a child can get lost. Select a designated meeting spot.
This spot should be easy to remember. Give your child a way to find the spot easily—such as walking toward the tall, stationary clock. Also, tell your child where they can find a lifeguard, and how to identify them, so they’ll know who to trust should they need help.
Health Tips for Water Parks
Pace Your Activities
A long day at the water park can be too much for your child—or you! The sun, excitement, and crowds are enough to tire anyone.
Plan your trip to include air-conditioned breaks, relaxation in the shade, and snack times—to keep everyone healthy and feeling good.
Teach your kids it’s smart to rest if they’re feeling tired or overheated.
When kids (and adults) are wet and running around, they might not feel thirsty. Everyone needs to drink plenty of water even if they’re not thirsty.
Watch for Signs of Heatstroke
Children are particularly prone to heatstroke:
- Flushed skin
- Acting sleepy
- Not sweating
Immediately bring the person inside and get medical attention.
Don’t Drink Pool Water
Sure, you want to stay hydrated—but not with pool water!
Kids need to be told never to drink pool water and to avoid getting it in their mouth. It can make them sick.
Bring Sunscreen and Dress Right
Make sure everyone applies sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin:
- 30 minutes before being in the sun
- At regular intervals afterward
- Upon coming out of the water
Read the label for exact instructions.
Many hats and shirts offer UPF protection from the sun in and around water.
Water shoes (not flip-flops) help kids safely navigate wet, slippery areas, and sunglasses keep eyes safe.
Don’t drink when you’re in or around water, and especially not when watching children.
Use Plastic Swim Diapers
Many water parks require these for infants and young toddlers—so come prepared. They help keep the water safe for everyone.
Children with diarrhea should stay out of the water.
Shower Before You Leave
All swimmers should shower before leaving the water park. Chemicals in the water are harsh and can irritate sensitive skin. Apply a soothing emollient afterward to soothe skin.
Learn to Swim
The best way to stay safe in the water is knowing how to swim.
The World Waterpark Association has recently stated on their website that, “Swimming is a life-saving skill for children and a vital tool to prevent drowning, the second leading cause of unintended, injury-related death for children ages 1-14.”
The New Jersey Swim Safety Alliance offers fun resources for kids to teach them about water safety.
You can support water safety education in NJ schools by linking here to support Assembly Water Safety Bill A618.