First time at the beach

Going to the beach for the first time is an exciting occasions for most of us. The sights, sounds and movement of the water is always fascinating however to a small child all of the above can cause some problems so please be aware of the following when taking your child/toddler to the beach for the first time especially if it is an open beach (where there is surf as opposed to a protected beach like the beaches on the inside of Bribie Island for example).

If there is a surf running then the noise of the waves crashing on the sand can cause some problems for some children. If your child seems scared even before they get their toes wet then it is likely the noise of the surf may be upsetting them and it will take some time for your child to relax. You also need to be aware of the water temperature and that you should take some time to allow your child to adjust to the water temperature by slowly allowing them to get wet. The movement of the water also can really scare a toddler. Most of you would have experienced the way the water undermines your feet as it rushes out or in across the sand so make sure you support your child (under the arms) while they experience this movement of the water and continue to support your child until they have developed a lot more of their Personal Aquatic Survival Skills and their confidence in and around the surf increases.

Please be aware of what the tide is doing. Many times have I seen a toddler playing happily on the beach close to the waters edge while the tide is coming in only to be bowled over backwards by a tidal surge. You really need to avoid this happening to your child as it can give them a bad experience and as a result your child may, for a long while, be uncomfortable playing in that same situation and not like the beach.

Of course protecting your child from the harmful rays of the sun along with unrelenting supervision are also essential when visiting the beach however it is the experience your toddler has with the water that will shape their demeanour and enjoyment for future excursions to the beach so please be aware that unlike a pool where the water environment is controlled the beach is an uncontrolled environment which you need to control for your toddler so that they have a fun and exciting time and come away from their first experience at the beach with happy memories not ones of having been dunked in cold water, flipped over backwards by the tidal surge and the roar of an angry ocean.

The final point I need to stress is NEVER TAKE YOUR EYES OFF YOUR CHILDREN when at the beach or around ANY body of water as drowning is a silent killer and near death by drowning is not only silent it can also impact on your life for the rest of the life of a severely brain damaged individual who may need 24/7/365 care.

read more: Water safety for kids

Chris Shapland.