We are lucky that our pool is within walking distance from our house. But that also means I can’t take along a bunch of stuff- only what we can carry. I used to take a wagon but it just got to be too much to drag a wagon and keep track of 3 kids while walking to the pool. We spend a lot of time at the pool during the summer- 4 to 5 afternoons and sometimes even twice a day when we go swimming again after dinner. I’ve discovered what works for me so I can make sure we all have a good time and stay safe while swimming.
1. Pack more than one pool bag. It’s too difficult to find stuff when you cram everything into one huge bag. I take 3 bags. The main pool bag holds all the towels, the extra swim diapers, the sunscreen, my cellphone, and the pool pass. The second bag holds all the pool toys. It’s nylon mesh so all the water just drips right out and lets the toys dry so they don’t get moldy. The third bag is actually an insulated cooler bag. I use it for all the drinks and snacks. It’s easy to find what I need quickly because I know exactly where it is and which bag it’s inside. On the way to the pool I carry the main bag and the cooler bag, Mase carries the pool toys, and Maia carries the floats. Everyone has a job.
2. Buy quality floats and vests. Especially if you have a couple of non-swimmers or not-so-strong swimmers. I don’t worry about Maia, she tends to stay where she can stand up even though she can swim. But Mase wears a life vest- a real, Coast Guard Approved Life Vest. He can move all over the pool and I don’t have to worry. He likes to jump in and do cannonballs and I never have to worry that he will get in trouble. Zoey is at the stage where she likes to sit on the stairs and splash around so I need to be able to sit with her. Mase wearing a life vest means I don’t have to split my attention the whole time. I’m going to get Zoey a Puddle Jumper this weekend and see if I can coax her into the pool.
3. Use the spray sunscreen. I used to spend what seemed like 10 minutes per child spreading on thick sunscreen. Have you ever tried to rub in that thick kids sunscreen on a squirming toddler? It’s like dressing a wet and slippery octopus. So I switched to the spray sunscreen. I also buy the one that is made for wet skin so I don’t have to wait for them to dry at the pool before reapplying it.
4. Time your breaks. Our pool has adult swim for the last 10 minutes of every hour. I take advantage of this 10 minute break. Everyone goes to the potty, everyone gets a drink and a snack, everyone gets sunscreen reapplied. Then we are good for another hour and I don’t have to worry about leaving a kid unsupervised in the pool when one has to potty. Our pool has lifeguards but there are a lot of kids and I like to have eyes on my kids while they swim.
5. Label your pool toys. Or else you’ll be buying new ones every few weeks. I learned this lesson years ago. Every pool toy and float has our initials on it. I also keep a count of how many/what type of pool toys we have in our bag. It makes it easier to keep track of what is ours.
6. Know the pool schedule. Our pool opens at 10am and closes at 9pm. You might think that the pool is less busy right at opening but not at our pool. There are a lot of moms with young kids that go to the pool right at opening, which means they are packed on to the stairs like sardines and the kiddie pool looks like a daycare center. But by noon, they have all gone home to have lunch and take naps. So we eat an early lunch and head to the pool around 12ish. It’s usually pretty empty- only 4 or 5 families are there. We spend 2-3 hours swimming and then head home before the afternoon rush shows up. Some nights we also go back to the pool with Matt around 6 after dinner. It’s typically pretty empty until around 7:30 when the teens show up.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re taking kids to the pool but it can be really fun for everyone if done right. It just takes planning and organization. Plus, kids who play in the pool for a few hours sleep really well! Consider that a perk.