By Guest Blogger Kaitlin Gardner, author of the blog An Apple Per Day

I freely admit I have always loved being around the water. Spending time at the pool with my friends was one of my favorite summer activities growing up. I want my own children to have that same fun. But I also want them to be safe around the water. I have found some ways to connect those two concepts.

The safety factor. For me, it all starts with keeping the kids safe. It’s just a reality that one of the biggest causes of unintentional deaths among small children is from drowning. I’ve also read that formal swim lessons can reduce a child’s chance of drowning by as much as 88 percent. I started my children with Mommy and Me classes at around 6 months old, to begin their orientation to the water. Continuing with lessons as they have grown has built their confidence in the pool. I plan to continue with intermediate and advanced lessons. Here are some excellent resources with more information:

Establishing boundaries. My kids can be pretty rambunctious, so it was important for me to set clear boundaries. We had a family meeting – actually we have one each spring when it gets warm enough for swimming weather. My husband and I sit down in the living room with the kids, and remind them that we want them to have fun at the pool, but we also want them to be safe. When we go to the community pool, they are to follow what the lifeguard tells them, and let them know he is in charge. We remind them the lifeguards will pull them out of the pool if they do something unsafe. Within the rules of the pool, they will be free to have all the fun they want.

Pool rules. We are blessed to have a home pool, and we established the same rules there as the kids are used to seeing at the community pool. My husband had them printed on a big sign, and we posted that on the fence that surrounds our pool. But we didn’t just put it up and stop there. We explained to the kids why “no running at the pool,” is important. One of the kids could slip on a wet place next to the pool, and hurt themselves. We also had them think through the logic – if they got hurt, they might not be able to play with their friends in the water. Once they got that, there was a reason for them to obey the rules.

Enforce the rules. The boys have a lot of their friends come over during the summer, and as you might imagine, things can get pretty lively. When we ask one of the children to sit out for 30 minutes, it really gets their attention. One time we had to pull one of our boys out of the water and send him inside, because he just wouldn’t stop pushing the limits. I think the sounds of all his friends playing outside made him realize how much fun he was missing. But also, it let him know we were serious about the pool rules. We make it clear with their friends that those rules apply to them as well.

Protect the pool area. We have put a fence around our pool, with a locking gate that requires a code to open. We have a floating alarm in the water that sounds if someone were to accidentally fall in the water. My husband and I are both CPR certified, and we have a first aid kit right next to the pool.

I smile as I watch my children yell out “Marco” and hear the responses of “Polo” from around the pool. They have a lot of fun in the water, but do it safely.

Do you have any tips you can add to Kaitlin’s list? Leave a comment below!