Splashing about in a pool may be some of the most fun toddlers can have in Yuma in the summer, but the Yuma Parks and Recreation Department had a class to ensure they do it safely.
Tots Water Play and Safety class, for kids 3-to-5-years-old was held this week at the Clymer Recreation Center, where children had wild and wacky fun while learning the rules of the pool and other aquatic recreation sites, Alena Castaneda, Yuma Parks and Recreation instructor, said.
"We do the class every summer and it's the final one scheduled because on the last day, we have a pool party since it's a sort of fun way to go outside and cool off. I love the program. When I come in the morning, the kids are happy and want to learn."
On the lawns outside the Clymer Center, Parks and Recreation set up several "kiddie pools" along with splashing buckets, a "Little Elmo" sprinkler, and a "slip 'n slide."
But in preparation for their wet and wild day of fun, the youngsters were coached on how to keep safe while playing outside in the summer, Castaneda said. Children are reminded to always wear sunscreen while outside and it is a good idea to wear a hat too, she tells them. They also need to wear their shoes outdoors but, "the number one rule is drink lots of water," she cautioned.
The day before the party, Kayla Holiman, Yuma Fire Department inspector, visited the Clymer Center to tell the children what they need to know to stay safe while playing in or about water. It was all in conjunction of the month of August that has been declared, "Drowning Impact Awareness Month" by both Mayor Larry Nelson and Gov. Jan Brewer, Holiman noted.
"At this age there's only so much they'll absorb but the most important thing to learn is, never wade into any water without a responsible adult present."
Matthew Davis, 5, will be a kindergarten student at Alice Byrne School this fall. Matthew not only learned the cardinal rule of never swimming alone, he said, but he tells his friends they should never chase after a pet or toy in the water unless there is an adult near by.
"My neighbor has a pool and I know how to swim," Matthew said. "I want to go but I don't have the time because my mom has to work."
On the day of the pool party, Martha Vazquez, a Parks and Recreation instructor, prepared the children by coating their arms and legs with sunscreen. Vazquez said she knew the children remembered what they learned because she heard them repeating safety rules among themselves.
Holiman also said that "Drowning Impact Awareness Month" is a good way to raise awareness about risks of aquatic recreation. Every year an average of 100 people in Arizona drown, she said and if families take simple steps to protect their children they can prevent the unnecessary loss of life.
"Don't rely on a floaties, rings, or any pool toy because these are not safety devices," she said. "It's very easy for a child to slip out of one of these toys and they will never replace relentless, responsible, adult supervision."