What Color Is Your Child's Swimsuit? Experts Say Choose Safety Over Fashion
A child’s swimsuit color is one of the many layers of protection parents and caregivers can use to help prevent drowning.
Story by Ashley Antle. Video by Tom Riehm.
Kids everywhere are counting down the days until they can take their first leap into the water for summer swim season, which has parents on the hunt for the perfect swimsuit. But before you purchase those cute swim trunks or that adorable suit for your little swimmer, it’s important to look beyond the latest fashion trends and consider safety, too.
Yes, a swimsuit’s color can be a safety hazard or help, according to water safety experts.
“The color of a swimsuit helps with visually keeping an eye on the child and being able to watch and make sure that they're obviously still moving and swimming in the water. Typically, we recommend bright colors,” said Kathryn Lammers, a professional swim instructor, owner of The Swim Lesson People and chair of Safe Kids North Texas - Fort Worth.
A video demonstrating the visibility of swimsuit colors in the water recently made a viral splash on social media and sparked a number of media stories. For good reason, experts say. A child’s swimsuit color is one of the many layers of protection parents and caregivers can use to help prevent drowning.
Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most drownings in children 1 to 4 happen in swimming pools, so it's important to be able to spot your child quickly. Cook Children’s has treated 10 drownings so far this year, one of which was fatal.
Adult Water Watcher
Other layers of protection include teaching your child to swim, wearing Coast Guard-approved life jackets when in and around water, installing physical barriers and alarms to pools, ensuring your pool drain is fitted with a safety cover, learning CPR and, most importantly, closely watching your child when they are in and near water.
“It really goes back to that active supervision, no matter how many layers we put in place,” Lammers said. “We can teach swim lessons all day long, do CPR and have protective barriers. But those layers are there to help us if we have a lapse in supervision because, being a mom, we know that we're tasked with so many different things, and as much as we try to be vigilant and hypervigilant little things happen, but that active supervision is the most important.”
Water Watchers are adults designated to watch children who are in or around water at all times. They should have no distractions, this means no phone, magazines, books, eating, or conversing with friends.
Choosing a Swimsuit Color
Choose swimsuit colors that do not blend into the body of water in which your child will be swimming, be it a pool, lake or ocean. Consider the color of the bottom of the body of water. Is it light or dark? Think about how the swimsuit may appear or disappear both floating on top of the water or under the water when there is agitation, like splashing. Light colors, like white or light blue, tend to blend into the swimming pool, making the child harder to see.
Bottom line? Bright, contrasting, neon colors are the most visible in most bodies of water, according to tests performed by aquatic safety experts from Alive Solutions. Neon yellow, green and orange are the winners in pools with dark bottoms and in lakes. Neon pink, yellow and orange win out in light-bottomed pools.
“They just stand out better,” said Jillian Mitchell, child safety program coordinator for the Center for Community Health, led by Cook Children’s. “If they're wearing blue or green or even like a muted purple, those kinds of colors, they kind of blend in and are harder to see. So it might make a difference as far as noticing a child at the bottom of the pool for too long, or they're not playing anymore and may be in trouble.”
The same goes for life jackets, especially in the lake. It’s much easier for a boater to spot a swimmer or fallen skier who is wearing a neon orange or yellow life jacket than it is for them to see a black life jacket in murky water.
Mitchell says parents should consider a few other swim season fashion factors, too. For young children whose swim skills are still developing, choose suits without frilly and dangly design features that could become entangled in a pool toy or an old pool drain that does not meet current safety standards. Pull long hair back with a hair tie or braid to keep their faces clear while in the water.
“Think about your environment and what that entails,” Mitchell said. “If you're going to the beach, especially later in the season, the sand is hot so you want to protect your child's feet with well-fitted water shoes that are safe for that age. I'm not going to say no one should wear flip flops, but understand where your child is developmentally and what's going to prevent them from tripping and falling.”
Other tips for splashing safely:
- Before you let your child loose in the water, have them practice wearing anything they plan to wear while swimming, like water shoes and life jackets, so they get used to the fit, feel and function of the item in the water.
- If your little one wears a long-sleeve swimsuit or cover up, don’t forget to put sunscreen on their hands.
- Be cautious about allowing kids to swim in attire other than swimwear because of the drag regular clothing can cause in the water. For example, denim shorts and a cotton t-shirt are heavier than a swimsuit and will weigh a child down, making it more difficult for them to swim.
- Don’t choose one layer of safety over another. They are meant to all work together.
“Do not depend on one piece or one layer of protection,” Lammers said. “Know that these are all best practices. So even though we're promoting multiple layers, the layers work together and it's not just relying on one piece over another. If you go to the pool or the lake, don’t just rely on the life jacket or on swim lessons or on having a water watcher, but use everything in combination with each other. That is the overall best practice.”
Lifeguard Your Child began in 2016 and continues its regional collaboration, led by Cook Children’s, to prevent drownings in North Texas. The campaign aligns consistent messages and educational goals across our region. Together with community partners across 11 counties, we work year-round to provide education, Water Watcher tags, swim lessons, life jackets and other prevention tools to families.
The Lifeguard Your Child campaign is spread through the Safe Kids North Texas Coalition, which is based in Fort Worth and led by Cook Children’s.
The campaign’s strategies include Cook Children’s Loaner Life Jacket Stations at many lake entry points across the region. Families can go to the stations to find U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets in a variety of sizes with easy tips for a proper fit.
Safety tips for home swimming pools:
- Assign a water watcher, aka an adult who will commit to 100% supervision of children in and around water.
- Restrict access by installing door locks high out of children’s reach. Door and window alarms can signal if someone leaves the house.
- Install four-sided fencing around pools with a self-latching gate that only opens out. The fence should be at least 4 feet (preferably 5 feet) high.
- Remove all toys and floats from the pool area so children are not tempted to get close to the water.
- For above-ground pools, make sure the ladder is removed and not accessible when it’s not swimming time.
- Consider a pool surface alarm to alert if anyone/anything falls into the water.
Safety tips for the bathtub:
- An adult must stay at the side of the tub in reach of the child.
- Pay attention. This is not the time for multitasking.
- Ignore distractions like the doorbell or phone calls.
- Drain the tub after each use.