Madison is only an hour from the waterpark capital of the world – the one and only Wisconsin Dells. Not only do they have the largest concentration of indoor and outdoor waterparks in the WORLD, they are widely considered the best! (Source: my kids!).
With a ridiculous number of twisty slides, tube slides and swimming holes, waterparks have a little something for all ages – and because many have indoor waterparks AND outdoor waterparks, they are a great vacation destination year-round.
While waterparks are a blast, they come with their own unique set of safety challenges. With drowning a leading cause of accidental death in children, it’s critical to be aware of those challenges and be ready to tackle them head-on so you can have a fun, safe trip with your family.
Here are a few things to consider when you visit the water park with your family
- Set Expectations Before you Go. When you get to the waterpark, everyone’s excitement levels will be SKY HIGH. Make sure you’ve gone over rules and expectations for the parks before you arrive so everyone is prepared. For example, what are the rules for your younger kids? For teenagers? Do you have a meeting place if someone gets lost? Do your kids know your phone number or how to get a hold of you in an emergency?
- Buddy System. If you’re bringing kids to the waterparks, make sure everyone is buddied up. Even if your kids are old enough to go on the slides or features without a parent, it’s important they have a friend or “buddy” to stay safe. In an emergency, the buddy can get a lifeguard or another adult for help, can alert you if something is wrong or even save a life. For younger kids, their “buddy” should be a trusted adult that is watching them at all times.
- Life Jackets. The waterparks in the Wisconsin Dells have life jackets available for kids and adults. While they aren’t a substitute for adult supervision, they are important safety features in a busy waterpark. Make sure you find a life jacket that fits snugly and is fastened correctly – and any floatation device should always be coast-guard approved.
- Alcohol. Waterparks often have swim up bars or other ways to consume alcohol. If this is something you or other adults are doing while on your trip, make sure there is always a sober, trusted adult supervising your swimmers. This is something to consider and plan out in advance to ensure someone is always available and watching the water.
- Blind Spots. Visibility at waterparks is not always perfect. There are slides inside and outside, there are stairs and huge water features. All of these things can cause a lack of visibility. At waterparks it is essential to have younger children supervised at all times, even in the “baby” sections. Again, make sure everyone knows the rules and has a plan in place for staying safe!
- Water Watcher. A water watcher should always have eyes on the swimmer/s. No cell phones, books or distractions. Take turns (if possible) with another adult to make sure someone has their focus completely on the kids in the water. Accidents happen quickly, and the best way to keep your child safe in the water is to make sure you (or another “water watcher”) are always paying attention.
We hope these tips help prepare you and your family for your next waterpark visit! Stay safe and have fun!