Your family, consisting of adults and children, has either chosen Bali as your home or come to the island for a vacation. There are so many entertainments here, and the ocean is particularly enticing, not to mention the pleasure of having a pool at the hotel or villa. These joys are anticipated by both adults and children. However, water is always a natural element, even in a pool that is 1.5 meters deep.
"What do you need to know about local pools, ocean safety, and the specifics of open water in Bali? How can you teach a young child not to fear the water, and how can you help an older child become a proficient swimmer?"
"Never forget that children should be supervised, even if they know how to swim, even if they decide to splash around in shallow water or small waves. This is especially important when it comes to young children and those who are not yet confident in the water. Stay close, within arm's reach.
It is not recommended to take a child into the ocean under the age of four months, and it is advised to swim with a baby up to 1.5 years old only in calm water. Otherwise, they might get scared of the sound of the waves, splashes, or even flip over in their flotation device, making it difficult to overcome their fear later on.
By the way, parents should understand that neither a flotation ring nor arm floaties will teach a child to swim or stay afloat (as they help maintain a vertical position). However, when a child is just getting acquainted with the water, they can be used for the peace of mind of the parents.
Children of any age should swim in the ocean with a 30-minute break - swim for half an hour, then spend half an hour on the shore. Due to the physical demands of swimming, it is not recommended to put a child under the age of 2 in the water less than 1.5 hours after eating. If the child is very hungry, it's easy to have a small snack, like a cookie or half a banana, about 15 minutes before going into the water.
It's worth reminding that the supervising adult should be a strong swimmer, and it's not advisable to entrust a child in the water to an older sibling.
To reiterate: if a young child doesn't yet know how to swim, only enter the water with floaties or a flotation ring, and stay no deeper than the child's waist. If a teenager can swim but isn't a strong swimmer, it's prohibited to swim beyond the buoys or outside the area marked with yellow-red flags, indicating strong rip currents with speeds of up to 1-2 m/s. Even an excellent adult swimmer may struggle in these conditions. Before swimming at the beach, check with lifeguards or locals about the presence of rip currents."
And, of course, neither an inflatable mattress nor a flotation ring is possible without an adult since Bali can be windy, and the ocean can easily carry a child away without supervision.
When swimming with children, choose calm and shallow areas with a clean bottom and weak water currents. In this regard, beaches like Nusa Dua and Sanur, as well as Melasti Beach in Ungasan during low tide, are good options.
Do not allow your child to dive if the bottom is unexplored, the depth is unclear, and refrain from jumping into the water, even from small cliffs. In general, if a child has no experience in diving, it's not advisable to introduce them to this activity in the ocean for the first time. All children may swallow water, and especially during the rainy season, the water may not be very clean, increasing the risk of bacterial infection.
Children love playing in the sand, and Bali has beautiful beaches for that purpose. However, it's important to keep in mind some specific considerations. Local beaches, excluding hotel-managed ones that are cleaned regularly, may not always be safe, especially during the rainy season when a lot of debris washes ashore from the ocean. Balinese locals may not prioritize cleanliness on the shoreline, and it's also common to see dogs being walked on the beaches without cleaning up after them. So, in addition to household waste, you might encounter some unpleasant surprises in the white sand. Homeless animals often sleep and live on the beaches as well. Therefore, it's highly recommended to ensure that children do not put sand in their mouths and to take a shower before leaving the beach (most beaches have shower facilities, although they may not always be in the best condition).
Bali is a tropical island, and beaches are often adjacent to shrub-covered cliffs. Be attentive and watch over your child playing in the sand, as snakes are sometimes found in these areas (for example, they are often spotted at Melasti Beach). Monkeys from the cliffs can also come down, and they are not always harmless. Do not leave your belongings unattended in such areas.
This doesn't mean that the beach is an extremely dangerous place. In the vast majority of cases, it's peaceful, enjoyable, and incredibly beautiful. The vibrant and rich colors, soft sand, shells of various shapes and sizes, and the soothing sound of the ocean are all designed to maximize pleasure and enjoyment for both adults and children.
The key is to be prepared with guidelines that will help you handle any unforeseen circumstances in the tropics, and then you and your family can certainly make the most of your time in Bali.
"A hat should always be worn by children at the beach, and their skin should be covered with high SPF sunscreen. The sun in Bali is quite intense, especially from 11:30 AM to 4:00 PM. During this time, it's better for children not to be on the beach, but unfortunately, they do spend time there, especially if the family is on a 2-3 week vacation and wants to make the most of it. At the very least, they may get sunburned, and at worst, they could suffer from heatstroke. At a minimum, make sure to put a t-shirt on the little ones and use waterproof sunscreen that blocks the sun's rays. Don't forget to apply sunscreen to their necks, the area behind their knees, and the area above their shorts or swimsuits.
For children aged 2 and above who can walk independently, specialists recommend wearing beach footwear in the form of socks with rubber or leather soles (you can find such footwear, for example, at Sidewalk in Jimbaran, Beachwalk Shopping Center in Kuta, or SPORTS STATION NGURAH RAI BALI in Kuta). This will protect their feet from various unpleasant surprises, such as cuts from sharp stones or dangerous debris in the water (which can sometimes include glass), as well as injuries from sea urchin spines or slipping on moss-covered rocks near the shore (for example, the Balangan beach area is abundant with such rocks)."
What to do if a child is drowning
Calling for help from lifeguards and people nearby is crucial. When attempting a rescue, make sure to create a barrier if possible, which could be a flotation ring or buoy, as a drowning person might instinctively cling to it. In the water, try to get into a horizontal position as quickly as possible with the child. If you know how to perform CPR, start it while still in the water and continue on the shore until the arrival of professional rescue services.
Every parent should have the skills to perform artificial respiration and chest compressions. Do everything you can to remain calm; this is the most important thing in a critical situation.
If a child has gone underwater with their head, swallowed water, but coughed and expelled it, observe them for several days after the incident. Signs that water may have entered the lungs and become trapped there include breathing problems, coughing, weakness, nausea/vomiting, and unusual scatterbrained behavior for the child. In this case, seek immediate medical attention, as the consequences can be fatal.
What to do if you find a snake on the beach or it bites a child
Warn your children that if they encounter a snake, they should try not to move, but they can call for help. Snakes can sense vibrations, but they are almost deaf. If someone is bitten by a snake, they should try to immediately squeeze out the venom from the wound, lay the person down, immobilize the affected body part to slow down the spread of the venom through the bloodstream, provide plenty of fluids, and seek medical attention as soon as possible by calling the insurance company. Antidotes are available at large clinics like Sanglah in Denpasar. If you manage to take a photo of the snake, show it to the doctor.
Save the phone number for the Bali Reptile Rescue service in your mobile phone: +62 821 4638 0270.
What to do if a child steps on a sea urchin or is stung by a jellyfish
If you step on a sea urchin, try to remove all the spines from your foot. Afterward, it's advisable to treat the wounds with diluted vinegar, and in the case of shallow wounds, repeat the procedure for several days. If the spines are deeply embedded, don't waste time and go to the hospital as they can be toxic.
Jellyfish stings are rare in Bali. But if it happens, treat the sting with cold water followed by vinegar. It's a good idea to have wound healing products with you.
If your child is under four years old and your villa has a pool, it's best to have a fence around it. If there's no fence, ALWAYS stay with the child in the open pool area, especially if the child can't swim. Statistics show that more children drown in pools than in open water. This applies not only to Bali but such incidents can occur on the island, even in the presence of parents at the villa, or with a nanny around. Often, when there are people around, everyone assumes that someone else is watching the child, and a tragedy can occur.
Do not allow children playing in the water to dunk each other or push each other around.
While a pool is the perfect place to relax with a cocktail, postpone this enjoyable moment until your child is nearby.
Unobvious rules for the behavior of an adult with a child in the pool
It's better to explain rather than scare. Some mothers tend to say things like, "Don't go there, you'll drown," in an attempt to keep their children safe. However, it's best not to instill fear of the water in your child, whether it's in the ocean or a pool. Instead, calmly explain that it's not time to venture into deeper waters yet, and they need to learn to swim and dive first. Using words that provoke a fear of water should be avoided.
Teach your child to swim gradually, using floatation aids if necessary, such as swim noodles. It's crucial to emphasize that you should never throw a child into the water to teach them how to swim, as this can be life-threatening.
Always be nearby, whether it's by the pool or on the steps, to react quickly in case of an emergency. Children can drown rapidly and silently when they're in distress. You can recognize drowning by their posture: head tilted back, a glassy look in their eyes, and arms pushing down as if trying to rise above the water.
Teach them to dive with an instructor first before attempting it with you or another adult. If a child experiences a near-drowning incident where they ingest water, they may develop a fear of water and refuse to enter it again.
Regardless of the pool, whether it's in your villa or a hotel, don't hesitate to inquire about the chlorine and pH levels, as they can affect your child's skin. Unfortunately, during the rainy season in Bali, pools can quickly become dirty and algae-ridden, and they might not be cleaned frequently enough. If you're staying in a villa, it's a good idea to check the condition of the water tank. Surprisingly, frogs can comfortably make their home there, and the chances of contracting amoebas or ear infections are genuinely high.
Infant swimming in Bali
Victoria Shatalova, the founder and head swimming coach of Baby Shark Bali school, says:
"Early swimming brings enormous benefits to a child, from enriching the body with oxygen (clearing the airways and ventilating the lungs through the specifics of diving) to brain development (children who start swimming at a few months old tend to learn to sit, reach, and walk faster). It's like aqua massage, a comprehensive impact on the entire body, improving blood circulation in the limbs, developing muscle activity, and correctly forming the muscle corset. If a child is hyperactive, water calms the nervous system — they will fall asleep easier and sleep better, which is good for both the child and the parent. Water 'works' in both directions — the child becomes more vital, active, and their appetite improves (which is very relevant for picky eaters).
We start working with babies from two months, but it's individual, so it's best to focus on the child — whether they can hold their head confidently. We recommend starting lessons with 15-20 minutes and gradually increasing to 30. Thirty minutes is the most effective period for teaching children from 2 months to 7 years old. It's challenging for very young children to stay in the water for a longer time, and older children will get bored quickly as their attention span isn't that long. It's best to start swimming lessons in specially equipped places with a warm pool and safety rules in place. In Bali, during the rainy season, pool water can be significantly colder than the ocean, so if you decide to teach your child at a villa rather than at a school where the water is heated, the lesson may end prematurely — the baby may ask to go to the shore after 10-15 minutes, even if they are wearing a swimsuit. We do not recommend swimming with children under one year old in a public pool or, even more so, in the ocean.
Pay attention to your baby's behavior in the water: if they start crying, there are reasons for that — they might be feeling cold, tired, or hungry. It's better to stop the training immediately so as not to associate it with negativity for the child. Proper positioning of an infant in the water is very important — at a 45-degree angle, with the lower part of the body almost vertical, so as not to create tension in the cervical spine. Feed your baby about 40 minutes before the training, but not later. Do not use a neck float — it is harmful to the development of the muscle corset, can lead to neck deformities, and create incorrect motor activity. Classes with an infant up to two months should be conducted by a specialist who will monitor their correct position in the water. Arm floaties can be used for safety — especially at the initial stage of teaching a child who has just learned to put their face in the water, doesn't know how to inhale correctly, and cannot swim long distances. It's essential to be in a horizontal position and keep an eye on this."
Oleg Sadriddinov, the founder of the Bali Swimming Academy, adds:
"Swimming education is a significant investment in your child. Early swimming brings undeniable benefits to infants when following a natural, physiologically correct, and ethical approach to training. In addition to professionally taught techniques, it is essential to consider the child's developmental characteristics, their age capabilities, and align parental goals with the coach's vision. Early swimming means early development.
Thanks to improved muscle tone, strengthened ligaments, and the formation of posture, children confidently sit and crawl, stand up on their legs earlier. The features of deep breathing provide effective prevention of respiratory diseases. And, of course, swimming strengthens the immune system and positively affects the functioning of all body systems, toughening the child, so they get sick less. Any parent values their child's strength, coordination, endurance, and other essential physical qualities — they are also developed during training. We welcome both adults and children with zero skills, fear of water (for some babies, even taking a shower is torture), or fear of depth, as well as those with incorrect technique or decent swimming skills but wanting to learn new styles and improve their level.
Infant swimming helps develop this beneficial skill and instill a love for water through play, interest, and joyful emotions. For children from three years old, we have developed our own 'Water Safety' methodology: basic exercises that, when mastered, enable the child to swim across the pool without equipment. And most importantly, after the course, children are prepared for emergency situations and trained to handle them — for example, if someone bumped into them in the pool, they accidentally fell in, or a wave covered them in the ocean. From the age of five, our students move on to specialized training in sports swimming, with all possible styles. We prepare them for ocean swimming and competitions."
Grigory Burkov, a swimming coach and a sergeant in the water rescue service, says:
"Swimming is one of the key skills that is essential for a person, as important as walking and speaking. During my lessons, I teach children not only to swim but also to love the water, feel comfortable and safe in it, and handle emergency situations in open water. In Bali, the importance of knowing how to swim is magnified - there are pools and water parks everywhere, not to mention the ocean, which requires special knowledge.
There is a specific approach to teaching swimming to young children. For example, some parents expect their child to be able to stay on the water's surface with their head above it by the age of 7. There may be exceptions, but generally, children of this age do not have the necessary "fins" (arms and legs) surface area to statically support themselves in the water.
An essential aspect of swimming is breathing, and not all adults, let alone children, know one fundamental truth: inhale through the mouth, exhale through the nose."