They may be small, but toddlers have an outsized sense of determination. To them, a barrier is just a challenge they haven't climbed over yet. If you've ever left a box of cookies on the kitchen counter thinking your toddler couldn't reach it, you've seen this first hand.
A toddler's fearlessness is enviable, but while they're brimming with confidence, they lack the mental maturity to realize when they're in danger and the physical strength to get themselves out of it. That's why pool safety is so important during the summer, and it's why one dad is going viral after realizing locking pool ladders are no match for a 2-year-old who's set on swimming.
Kids are faster than we might realize
Massachusetts dad Keith Wyman recently uploaded a video to Facebook that shows just how fast his 2-year-old, Cody, can scale the locking ladder system Wyman installed along with an above ground backyard pool.
Ladders that include gates which can be closed and locked over the rungs are popular with parents as they seem like they'd prevent a child from accessing the pool, but as Wyman points out in his video (which has some 20 million views) they don't always work as intended. "So I bought this ladder with the pool and I'm watching my son—with it locked and shut—pull himself up this ladder," Wyman says in the recording.
Cody is fearless, but Wyman is scared. He says the design of the gate is flawed, as Cody's tiny feet were able to slide into open slats on the gate, and from the there the toddler was able to use his upper body strength to reach the top of the ladder.
Wyman says such ladders should be manufactured with a solid, slatless gate so children cannot get a foothold on the ladder. (Motherly reached out to the manufacturer but the company has not yet responded to our inquiries or confirmed if the product pictured is theirs.)"When we put the padlock on it, I felt secure. I had the warm fuzzy feeling inside," Wyman told WCBV News. "This came with the package that we purchased so it was perfect. I thought we were good."
Ladder gates are just one layer of protectionWhile self-closing gates, like the one on Wyman's ladder, are recommended by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, they're just one piece of the physical and non-physical strategies the NDPA recommends. And while self-closing, locking gates are recommended by the Lifesaving Society, the lifeguarding organization notes that additionally, "For above ground pools, ladders should be removable and secured so that access to the swimming pool is restricted."
What else can parents like Wyman do to keep their kids from entering an above ground pool?
Fencing should be installed around any backyard pool, (in or above ground) to prevent children from accessing the area. The gates on the fence should be self-closing and self-latching, but as little Cody proves, kids are great climbers. That's why additional safety equipment, including alarms and pool safety covers are recommended by the Red Cross.
Of course, adult supervision is always required any time children are playing in or around a pool, because as Wyman says "You can't take your eyes off your kids for two seconds."
Parents do need breaks though, so the Mayo Clinic recommends that when there's more than one adult available, we take turns doing supervision duty and don't do anything else when it's our turn to be the "designated watcher."
When it comes to pool safety, we have to be just as determined as our toddlers because we can't be as fearless.
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