Kidsit Founder & Editor in Chief, Father of Three, Artist, Illustrator, and Web Designer.
Pools of all sizes pose a risk to unattended kids, whether they're small inflatable pools for toddlers or full-sized in-ground pools. Even at your local community pool where lifeguards are on duty, as a babysitter, you still need to be vigilant about watching the children that you've been put in charge of.
What do you need to know about babysitting at the pool? Before babysitting at the pool make sure your CPR and First Aid training is up-to-date, bring swimwear, towels, and sunscreen, and always provide constant supervision of the children you’re caring for. Make it a fun outing by preparing one or two games to play.
In this article, I'll share some basic water safety tips you should know, as well as what to bring to the pool and what types of games kids might want to play.
Heading to the local pool might seem like an easy way to keep the kids you're babysitting busy for an afternoon. Plus you can work on your tan at the same time!
You need to make sure that parents are okay with you taking their kids swimming first though. I know I'd probably freak out a bit if a babysitter took my kids to the pool or beach without asking first.
Parents know that large bodies of water can be dangerous for kids and will only allow people they fully trust to take their children into a pool. Be sure to respect the wishes of parents if they decide that swimming is off-limits during babysitting time.
That goes for any friends of the children that you're babysitting for too. Be sure you've checked with the parents of any children that will be in your care before letting them into the pool. If you think you'll be overwhelmed managing a large number of children, consider getting a friend or some extra help.
The number one rule for pool safety is to never leave kids alone or take your eyes off them.
It only takes a few seconds for a child to slip below the surface . Even walking across the deck for a towel leaves enough time for drowning to start so you need to always be on guard and paying attention.
Don't leave kids unattended in the pool area for even a second. If you need to get out of the pool to use the bathroom, bring the children with you and have them wait in the bathroom area.
Avoid letting down your guard even if the kids you're babysitting are good swimmers. Any child can accidentally inhale a mouthful of water and get into trouble, regardless of how confident they are around the pool.
If you aren't an experienced swimmer, take the children you're babysitting to a pool with a certified lifeguard on duty.
Don't let children swim in the pool at home if you aren't familiar with how to rescue them in case they start taking on water.
You should at least have CPR and First Aid training if you'll be babysitting around water. Ideally, you would also take a lifeguarding course if you're going to be around the pool a lot, as it will give you more specialized training for around water.
If a family you're babysitting for has a pool or hot tub, then you need to be aware that it exists as a potential hazard.
At the start of every babysitting shift, you should confirm that any gates and doors to the pool area are locked. Particularly if the kids were previously playing in the pool area that day and a parent may have just forgotten to lock it when they were done.
Whenever you're babysitting it's important to always know where the children are. When there are pools nearby, this rule is even more important though.
Be even more concerned if the family you're babysitting for has an indoor pool. These are even easier for kids to get to, so it's extra important to make sure that all doors leading into the pool area stay locked.
In most cases, parents will have already taught their kids proper pool behavior and how to stay safe around the pool. But even if that's the case, kids can get overly excited and forget things. So you'll need to enforce basic rules like no running around the pool to keep them safe.
Even if their parents are laxer about pool rules, don't be afraid to enforce your own set of pool rules while babysitting to make sure that everybody stays safe.
Here are some basic safety rules that you should enforce around pools as a babysitter:
It's good to also give kids reasons why each rule is in place. For example, you can tell them that it's important not to run around the pool because they could trip and hit their head, or fall into the pool.
If you have a cell phone, bring it with you to the poolside and keep it nearby in case of emergency. If you don't have your own phone, see if the family you're babysitting for has a cordless phone that will get reception out by the pool.
Don't allow your phone to become a distraction though. Avoid texting, playing games, or taking pictures on your phone around the pool when you should be supervising.
The US CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends using a sunscreen labeled at least SPF 15 with both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection . A waterproof sunscreen makes sense if children you're babysitting will be spending a lot of time in the water.
You should be aware that sunscreen ideally needs to be applied 30 minutes before heading outside.
Read the instructions on your particular sunscreen and be vigilant about re-applying as necessary.
Younger kids will need help applying sunscreen, especially to places they can't see like their backs, necks, and behind their ears. You may want to check with parents to be sure they're okay having you apply sunscreen to their child though.
Take advantage of clothing like hats, long-sleeved shirts, and sunglasses to get extra protection from the sun as well. Umbrellas or a shady tree can also help to prevent sunburn.
Kids and adults are most likely to get sunburned around noon, so try to plan pool activities either earlier in the morning or later during the afternoon when the sun is less intense.
Clouds don't filter UV rays very well so sun safety is important even on cooler cloudy days.
Pool noodles, inflatable rafts, and water wings shouldn't give you a false sense of security. Kids can slide off or end up with their faces in the water even if they have toys to help them float.
Only certified life preservers will help keep a child's head upright and out of the water. But even life preservers are no substitute for proper supervision.
Small inflatable play pools for toddlers can pose just as much risk to kids as a full-size in-ground pool.
It only takes an inch or two of water for a child to drown. Just enough to cover their nose and mouth. You need to be watchful around play pools and avoid getting lulled into thinking that they're too small to pose any real risk.
When kids are done playing in their kiddie pools, empty out all the water in case they try to come back to the pool later. For smaller pools this is easy and you can simply tip the pool up and dump the water out onto the grass.
When play pools aren't in use, they should be turned over. That way they won't be able to fill with water in case it rains. Even better, collapse them and put them away in the house to eliminate the risk entirely.
Most things that you'll need to pack for a trip to the local pool while babysitting are the same for any child, although you may need some specific items depending on age or gender.
You'll potentially want to bring lots of different things to the pool, so a reasonably-sized bag is a good choice. I highly recommend looking for something waterproof!
This is the most basic thing you'll need, even if you don't bring anything else.
If you forget a child's swimsuit, you'll need to turn around and go home to get one so it's a good idea to double-check before you leave!
If you're planning to enter the pool area yourself, you'll also need your own swimsuit, even if you don't have any intentions of going into the water yourself. Many pools won't allow parents or guardians to sit on deck wearing street clothes.
If you're taking a toddler to the pool who isn't potty trained yet, then swim diapers are a must. In that case, you'll want to bring regular diapers, wipes, and clean up bags as well.
It never hurts to pack a few towels, that way you'll have extras in case one gets splashed or falls in the pool.
Usually, parents are fine with you bringing their own towels from the linen closet to use at the pool. Try to pick a fun and colorful towel that the kids you're babysitting will love!
Most kids don't like getting water in their eyes. Especially chlorinated water which can really sting! If they have their own goggles and want to wear them, pack them in your bag. If you've got a spare pair of your own goggles at home, you may want to bring them along just in case.
If the kids you're babysitting have longer hair, then you'll want to brush their hair after swimming unless you plan on going straight home afterward.
Chlorinated swimming pools can leave your hair feeling gross. If the pool you're going to has showers in the change room, you might want to bring some shampoo and conditioner.
The sooner kids wash their hair after getting out of the pool, the less likely it is that they'll experience hair discoloration or skin irritation.
I've already discussed the importance of sunscreen. Pack enough to last for multiple re-applications.
Many people also don't know that sunscreen has an expiry date! Once sunscreen has expired, it becomes less effective since the ingredients start to break down over time. Not only does expired sunscreen offer less protection, but the chemicals can become irritating to your skin as they start to degrade.
Even as an adult, putting your socks and shoes back on right after you get out of the pool can be quite challenging. It's best to avoid shoe difficulty and simply put kids in a pair of flip flops or sandals if they have them, which will be much easier to put on and take off.
Younger kids don't need to start wearing deodorant until they start to approach puberty. But it's not uncommon for kids as young as 8 or 9 to need deodorant. If you're watching older kids who may need deodorant, it's a good idea to pack some in your bag, particularly if you won't be heading straight home after you've been to the pool.
Unless you're going to keep all of your belongings at the poolside, you will likely want to store some items in a locker.
Most lockers require you to bring your own lock. Wherever possible, I'd recommend putting all of your belongings and belongings of the children you're babysitting together in a single locker.
Combination locks with the dials on the front can be difficult for kids to use. I'd recommend the locks where you line up four digits instead.
At some pools, they may have coin lockers that don't allow you to bring your own lock. In that case, you'll need to bring proper coinage to be able to borrow a key for a locker.
It doesn't seem like you could get dehydrated while in a pool, but while swimming your body can generate just as much sweat as while running. You just don't notice it because you're submerged in water.
Try to make the kids you're babysitting take a break every 30 minutes or so to have a drink of water and use the bathroom if needed.
Most places won't let you bring food into the pool area, but I'd recommend packing some snacks anyway. You can leave the pool area to give kids a chance to eat something and refuel a bit, or they can have a snack on the way home after an afternoon of swimming.
Being at the pool burns lots of calories, even if the kids are just splashing around in the shallow end. So don't be surprised if they're hungry after a couple of hours in the pool!
Pools often have their own assortment of pool noodles and other toys that kids can access. If the kids you're babysitting have their own favorite pool toy, you can always bring it for them to play with. Just be aware of any restriction, as some public pools may not allow toys like water guns.
Just because it feels hot outside, that doesn't necessarily mean that pools are warm enough to swim in. Particularly for unheated pools or at the beach.
The American Red Cross recommends comfortable water temperatures between 83 and 86 F (28.3 to 30 C) for swimming. 
Swimming in cold water puts kids at a higher chance of experiencing muscle cramps. If their arm or leg muscles cramp up while swimming, they may be unable to keep their head above the water. Hypothermia is also a real concern.
If kids you're babysitting show signs of shivering or muscle cramps, it's time for them to get out of the pool.
Even after swim season has passed and pool covers have gone on for the winter, pools still pose a risk to kids. Perhaps even more so. If kids try to walk on top of a pool cover, they may become trapped underneath and unable to get back to the surface.
After the initial splash, it's hard to see any signs of a struggle underneath the pool cover. Be sure to keep pool areas locked even in the fall, winter, and early spring when the pool isn't in use.
There are so many great activities that kids can do in the pool that they should never be bored!
If the kids you're babysitting need something to do, try some of these pool games:
Get two large inflatable beach balls or any kind of balls that float. See who can push their ball from one side of the pool to the other the fastest.
The goal of this game is simple. Just keep an inflatable ball in the air and try not to let it touch the water! Kids can see how many passes they're able to keep the ball up for before it inevitably hits the water.
Marco Polo is a classic game for the pool. If you want to mix it up a bit, have kids make animal noises instead of playing the usual way. Have one kid yell "whale!" and the rest reply with their best whale impression.
For this game, one kid stands at one side of the pool and acts as the fox. Other kids stand at the other side and say "What time is it, Mr. Fox?" The fox replies with a time and the other kids need to walk that many steps forward. For example, 6 o'clock means they would need to take 6 steps.
At any time, Mr. Fox can decide it's dinner time and chase down one of the other players to tag, as they try to get back to the wall where they started.
If the kids you're babysitting are a bit older and more comfortable in the pool, you can get them to dive to the bottom and pick up objects.
You can toss some pennies into the pool and have the kids dive to the bottom and pick them up. You can use any other object that will sink as well.
This one is better for the backyard pool than at your local swimming pool. The lifeguards at a public pool may not appreciate objects being thrown in the pool, in case they don't all get picked up at the end.
For a more advanced diving game, take a clear plastic bottle, remove the wrapper, and fill it up with water from the pool. Get the kids to line up in the pool with their backs turned, and then throw the bottle into a random spot in the pool. Once they hear the splash, they can turn around and try to find the bottle.
It sounds easy, but finding the bottle can be surprisingly hard since the clear bottle turns almost invisible in the pool! Try using a bottle with a white cap or color that matches the bottom of the pool to make it even harder.
This one works better in smaller pools, and you need quite a few people to do it, but if your situation meets those requirements, it can create a really fun effect!
Get a bunch of kids to all run for a couple of minutes around the edge of the pool. This will create a water current in the direction that they're running. After a while, they can stop and float. If they've done it right, the current will carry them in a circle around the pool for 30 seconds or so until the momentum stops.
If they really want a challenge, try to switch directions and go against the current. It's nearly impossible!
Have two kids sit on inflatable rafts in the middle of the pool. Give each one a pool noodle and have them poke at each other and see who can knock each other off the raft!
This one is better for a home pool, as it might be considered roughhousing at a public pool.
Just be sure that kids are far enough from the edge of the pool that they can't hurt themselves when they fall off the raft.
For this game, two kids sink to the bottom of the pool and sit with their legs crossed, pretending to have a tea party. They can pour from imaginary teapots, offer each other imaginary sugar, and drink from their pretend teacups. Wearing goggles really comes in handy for this one.
Have kids jump into the pool and do cannonballs. See who can make the biggest splash!
Just be sure they exercise caution while jumping into the pool, and be sure not to do it in areas that are very shallow where they might hit the bottom.
If you're babysitting a couple of kids with hair that's shoulder-length or longer, have a crazy hair competition and see who can make the funniest looking hairstyle once their hair is wet.
Hold a hula hoop underwater and have kids swim through it! If you haven't got a hoop for them to swim through, one kid can stand on the bottom with their legs to shoulder-width while another kid tries to swim through them.
Swimming is tons of fun for kids, and it's a great way to make a babysitting shift go by quickly. But having kids around the pool comes with a lot of responsibility.
If you don't feel that you're comfortable watching kids around the pool, just let the parents know. Also, be sure to ask parents for permission before taking their kids to the local public pool or the beach.
Constant supervision is the #1 rule when it comes to babysitting kids around any body of water. According to the CDC, kids under 14 make up approximately 20% of all drowning deaths each year. Taking a water safety course along with First Aid and CPR can help you to keep the kids you're babysitting stay safe. Make sure you're comfortable with safety equipment like life hooks and life preserver rings and that the pool you're at has them readily available.
As long as you're supervising them though, pools give kids a great chance to get some exercise and play outside. Watching kids around the pool is a lot of work. But parents will be really grateful when they come home to content, tired kids that have had all their energy burned off!
Ready to head out to the pool or beach at your next babysitting job? Check out this article for even more water safety advice: 26 Kids Water Safety Tips for Babysitters
Kidsit Founder & Editor in Chief, Father of Three, Artist, Illustrator, and Web Designer.
Published: 29 April 2019