With summer fun comes summertime danger. Whether swimming in the creek or backyard pool, wandering the carnival or the neighborhood park, outdoor fun can turn scary when parents and children are not properly prepared for safety obstacles with youngsters.
It doesn't take much for a child swimmer - beginner or advanced - to fall victim to the surrounding water or for a youngster to wander off at a busy, crowded event. One second, you're ordering food and the next, you're on a frantic search for your missing child.
There are ways to prevent such episodes with products like special swimming gear or backpacks designed to keep children close - my husband calls them leashes, but I call them lifesavers.
Cole Stryker-Mahonski enjoys a freezer pop with his Pop Pal.
I tried some of the latest products in the past few weeks that have made my summer a little less stressful and you should too.
Sea Squirts Swim Assist and Life Jacket vests
by Opa Cove
What it is: Sea Squirts Swim Assist vests can be used as a swim teaching aid, a warming layer and a dress-up toy all in one. They're designed to adjust from maximum to minimum buoyancy to suit each child's swimming ability.
The buoyancy is controlled with three removeable flotation panels that can be taken out through a Velcro opening in the back.
For advanced young swimmers, all panels can come out to make a favorite costume for the pool, beach or bathtub.
The Sea Squirts Life Jacket is made of a durable neoprene outer with tech fabric liner. They're comfortable against the skin and are easy to zip and clip.
The vest qualifies as a ski vest or wake-boarding vest and its sturdy, flexible fin can be gripped to aid in water rescue.
The heavy duty plastic zipper and buckles add to the vest's safety features, and the life jacket is pending U.S. Coast Guard certification as a United Type III Personal Flotation Device.
What I thought: Important note to parents: Make sure you are ordering the Life Jacket and not the Swim Assist if you plan to use it as a floatation device.
I was confused with this item at first. I tried it out on my 2 1/2-year-old son while recently swimming at the Loyalsock Creek.
I thought I had the Life Jacket and was confused about why he wasn't floating at all when I let go.
I ended up using a friend's extra life jacket to help keep him above water.
When I got home, I looked through the paperwork to find that I was using the Swim Assist, which does just that - assists children who already know how to swim. I tried the gear out on my 5-year-old daughter the next day and realized what the device really was capable of.
She could let go while swimming and said she felt secure having the jacket on while swimming away from me. The fin on the back serves as a grip for parents and the cool design makes for a great game of "Jaws."
FYI: Opa Cove offers various colors for boys and girls like the black and white Killa Whale, the orange and white Clownfish, the gray and white Grrreat White Shark, Pink Dolphin, Blue Dolphin and yellow and white Angelfish. Vests are available in small, medium or large.
Recommended age: Two to 7 years old.
Recommended price: Life jacket, $59.95; Swim Assist vest, $49.95.
Where to get it: www.opacove.com.
by Baby Sherpa
What it is: "It's the perfect way to keep kids within arm's reach and out of harm's way," said the product manufacturer. "This is really important in busy public places where children can slip out of sight in an instant."
Aimed at the fast-moving toddler crowd, the patent-pending Safe-2-Go series features a dozen designs like a puppy, a fresh flower, a monkey and a triceratops.
The packs neatly disguise the safety harness as a backpack.
Completing the designs are the patented 38-inch retractable nylon tethers - in matching items like dog bones, bumble bees, baby lady bugs and flies - that tuck back in when not in use.
The Safe-2-Go includes padded, adjustable shoulder straps and a zippered pocket for small snacks or tiny treasurers and can stand up to 50 pounds of pulling strength.
What I thought: I've tried many different kinds of "leashes" for both of my kids; some strap around the waist and others the wrist, but this backpack harness really supports the child when being tugged on.
After our swim in the creek, we headed to Hughesville to visit the county fair.
We went with some friends, including their two sons. There was no way, with all the kids having fun on the rides, that I would be able to keep my son strapped in a stroller.
We decided to let him walk and, unlike the system that includes a waist pouch, this backpack keeps his back in alignment.
I don't know how many times I have tugged on the waist pouch, causing my son to bend at the waist and fall.
This product is safer and what kid doesn't enjoy wearing their favorite animal?
Recommended age: Walking to 4 years old.
Recommended price: $27.
Where to get it: www.babysherpa.com.
Pop Pals Ice Pop Holders
by M3 and Co.
What it is: When a mom, frustrated by messy ice pops, found herself wrapping paper towels, napkins and tissues around the bottoms of ice pops to prevent sticky messes and to keep her children's hands warm, she decided to put on her thinking cap.
Stephanie Veve launched the Pop Pals Ice Pop Holders out of her home and the need to keep pushing up the pop became ancient history.
Pop Pals are a soft, insulated cover that slides over freezer pops to help keep little hands warm and clean. The Pop Pals' design and flexible material allow children of any age to use them with ease. Pop Pals are fun and easy-to-use.
Just briefly warm the ice pop by running it under water, insert the pop into the mouth of the Pop Pal until the wrapper comes through the bottom slot just a bit and then squeeze the belly of the Pop Pal and enjoy.
What I thought: There once was a time when I only allowed Freezer Pops outside in the grass, but when a friend tried out the Pop Pal with his 1 1/2-year-old son, he changed my mind.
"This product is great. I would recommend it to anyone. Not only did it keep my son's hands from freezing, it holds the popsicle in place and prevents it from sliding. It's ideal for younger children. The colors are fun and the molded design makes it perfect for tiny hands."
He said that his son loved the "pal" so much that he even wanted to take it to bed with him.
Recommended age: Any age.
Recommended price: A set of Pop Pals Ice Pop Holders are $4.99.
Where to get it: www.pop-pals.com.