A Parent's Guide to Packing Your Pool Bag

Use This Pool Checklist to Remember All the Essentials for a Family Swim.

Pool checklist - remember the goggles
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Swimming is a wonderful family activity. It combines exercise and fun—and builds a skill your kids can enjoy and use for a lifetime. But swimming also requires forethought on parents' part, especially if your kids are small enough to need swim diapers and hungry enough to need snacks. Before heading out the door, be sure your pool bag is fully stocked with everything you'll need for fun and safety.

Don't-Forget Pool Checklist for Families

  • Swimsuits
  • Swim diapers
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses and/or hats
  • Towels, if not provided at pool
  • Swimsuit cover-ups
  • Goggles
  • Pool toys, if allowed at your pool
  • Flip-flops or water shoes
  • Clean underwear and/or diapers
  • Plastic bags for wet items
  • Shampoo
  • Combs
  • Padlock or quarters for locker
  • Water for everyone
  • Change/cash for vending machines/snack bar (or better yet—pack your own healthy snacks)

Pool Safety Musts

If your pool allows flotation aids or life jackets for young children, add those to your pool checklist. But remember that they are not a substitute for close, careful supervision. Nor are they the same as a good series of swim lessons with a capable instructor. Many communities have Y's where trained instructors work with groups of kids (and adults) to teach swimming. Kids will not only learn strokes but will also learn how to tread water, how to use safety devices, and how to manage their own safety in a variety of situations.

Most importantly make sure you and your children know and follow swimming pool rules. Help your kids to understand that pool rules aren't there to stop kids from having fun, but rather to help them stay safe. If your kids are good swimmers, you may need to remind them that some rules are really for those kids and adults who are not yet able to safely swim underwater, tread water, or swim a long distance.

Make Swimming More Fun

It's no surprise that kids who grow up to love swimming spend lots of time in the pool, starting when they're very young. Even if swimming is far from your favorite sport, just splashing around in the water together is a good way to help your child enjoy swimming.

At around age 4, most kids are developmentally ready to learn swimming strokes. But plenty of playtime in the water is what they'll enjoy most. Stock up on goggles and scope out swimming spots with warm water and fun features, like fountains or sprayers. All of these can help kids relax and enjoy their splash time. It's also important to avoid pushing kids into skills they aren't ready for. This can zap their motivation and can even be dangerous.

That's true as kids get older, too. If they're interested in competitive swimming, try a low-key league first. (You can often find these at community pools or swim clubs.) Frame it as a social activity—a way to have fun with friends in the pool on hot days. If your child enjoys the team camaraderie, or simply has a strong competitive drive, then you can move on to a more competitive or challenging team.

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