Tips for Poolside Entertaining
I am a little biased, but still, I think it’s safe to say that everyone loves summertime: longer days, warm weather, laid-back weekends, and no homework! Great weather on Memorial Day weekend can make even the most bitter New Englanders forget the snow, ice, and darkness of the winter. In our family, summer is all about entertaining and creating memories with family and friends. When you own a swimming pool, everyone ends up at your house sooner or later, so it’s best to just plan on hosting the neighborhood on a daily basis! I always prefer to have the fun happening in my own backyard, but it does mean added responsibility to keep your guest safe and happy. Here are some tips for creating a safe entertaining environment for any type of summer pool party:
General Tips for Poolside Safety
1. No swimming allowed when you aren’t at home. Be upfront with your neighbors. Tell them they are welcome for a swim anytime you are home, but otherwise, your gates will be locked for everyone’s safety. Don’t worry about offending anyone, I guarantee they will be appreciative to know that you are concerned with safety.
2. Install an automatic lock on your fence. Make sure the latch is high and childproof. Kids sometimes run free from yard to yard in the summertime, and you can’t have them wandering near your pool accidentally.
3. Inspect the pool area. About a month before any party, take a walk around your pool area to make sure everything is in order. Check to make sure there aren’t any uneven deck stones, loose coping or tiles, and that skimmer covers fit properly. If you see anything that may trip up little (or big!) feet, call your pool service provider to have them fix it before the party. If you aren’t sure, many pool companies will provide their customers with an annual professional safety inspection at no charge.
4. Make the rules clear. Create a list of pool rules, post them, and communicate them to everyone before they jump in. If both kids and adults know what you expect, they can help enforce it, and you won’t feel like the designated bad guy. “No Running” and “No Diving” should be at the top of everyone’s list of pool rules.
5. Use outdoor glassware and dishes. With so many beautiful melamine and acrylic options available, there’s just no excuse for glass outdoors.
6. Provide sunscreen. Fill a basket of with several different types of sunscreens – sprays, lotions, sticks – and leave it poolside. Adults and kids will be more likely to re-apply if it is sitting right in front of them, and you don’t want anyone leaving your house with a horrible sunburn.
Impromptu Swimming Play Date
In my neighborhood, summer days turn into a giant play dates 15 kids deep. And when you have a swimming pool, your yard becomes a kid magnet. A little proactive planning will ensure that you are prepared to create a safe swimming environment at a moment’s notice.
1. Set swim hours. If a swim party pops up – bring it on! But set an end time. Kids get tired and parents do too. If everyone is tired, the chance of an accident is greater. Mandatory swimming breaks are also helpful – usually snacks and drinks will do the trick. It gives the kids and parents a few minutes to re-group and rest before going back for fun.
2. Keep the numbers fair. Make sure you have one parent/caregiver with you for every few kids. The younger the kids, the more adults you should have.
3. Ask about swimming ability. If you don’t know already ask parents how long their kids have been swimming and whether they are strong swimmers. This will give you a sense of abilities and what to look out for while everyone is in the water.
4. Floaties & life jackets. Have belt and arm floaties and life jackets available for young swimmers. Do not let any child in the pool without a flotation device unless his or her parent confirms that they are able to swim independently.
5. Stay close. Position chairs, tables, food & drinks near the pool so that adults are as close to the kids as possible. Better yet, encourage adults to sit on the edge of the pool!
6. Enlist others to help. If you have to run inside the house to grab something, let the other adults know and be clear about asking someone to watch the kids in pool while you are gone. People can easily be wrapped up in conversation and not notice what’s going on around them. If you specifically ask someone to help, it will be a good reminder for everyone to pay attention.
Kid’s Pool Party
Pool parties are the best. Kids love them and your house stays (relatively) clean! At a scheduled pool party, you may find that kids are dropped off at your house, so the adult to kid ratio will likely be slanted. As the homeowner, you must ensure that guests are safe no matter where you are or what you are doing as the party host. Here are some tips for creating a safe swimming environment for young partygoers:
1. Hire a certified lifeguard. If you don’t know one, call your local YMCA, town pool/beach or swim club and ask if any of their lifeguards work private parties. They will also be able to recommend how many lifeguards you should hire based on the number of kids that will be in attendance. It will be an extra expense, but having someone certified in CPR, first aid, and swim safety will bring you, and the other parents, enormous peace of mind.
2. Consider the floats. It’s a good idea to have kickboards, noodles, rings and other small pool floats available for the kids to play with or an adult to use if assistance is needed. But when you have a large group of kids swimming, avoid large and oversized floats that could prevent swimmers from surfacing quickly. Large floats can also obscure the view into the pool and make it more difficult to keep an eye on swimmers.
3. Schedule breaks. Swimming is lots of fun and lots of hard work, especially for little ones! Sometimes kids just don’t realize how tired they are. Consider scheduling a 10 min break with snacks or yard games after each hour of swimming to give kids time to rest and re-group.
4. When the pool is closed, the pool is closed. When swim time is over, or if you’ve asked everyone out for a break, don’t allow stragglers to stay behind. No one should ever be in the pool without proper supervision by an adult who knows how to swim.
If you have a family BBQ planned, the safety concerns are similar to a kids pool party, but in this case, adults tend to be more distracted chatting with each other and often alcohol is involved. Many of the same safety suggestions already listed still apply, but you may also want to consider the following:
1. Hire a certified lifeguard. I know I listed this above, but it’s important. You may not need as many lifeguards as you would during a kid’s pool party, but a casual BBQ will likely be more hectic and less structured. Kids and adults may be in an out of the pool at different times throughout the party, so the absolute best way to ensure safety is to have a trained professional watching the pool at all times.
2. Watch for “pool hopping”. If you have yard toys set up, such as a trampoline, swing set, or jump house, you may want to consider a “no wet bathing suits” rule. Kids often hop from one activity to another, but water can make toys and equipment like these very slippery and significantly more dangerous.
3. Have towels on-hand. Even if you ask people to bring their own towels, you should plan to have towels near the pool and next to the entrance to your home. Kids and adults will be running in to go to the bathroom, and you don’t want anyone slipping through the house on their way or causing an unsuspecting guest to fall.
4. Lights! If the party extends into evening hours, make sure that pool, deck, and staircases are well lit. Guests may be unfamiliar with the landscape and proper lighting will keep partygoers safe as they move around.
Hopefully, there are some ideas here that work for you and will help you to entertain poolside with confidence this summer. Happy swimming to you and your guests!