Take a moment to think back to last summer. Did your pool bag seem to double in size over the course of the summer? As the mother of two young girls and admittedly a packaholic, I know mine did. I live by the motto be prepared, with a tendency to fall on the over-prepared side of the spectrum. My mission this summer? Battle the bulge and not allow my pool bag to get out of control. Care to join me?
1. Start with the perfect bag.
Does the design of your pool bag contribute to the problem? I have finally found what I consider the perfect pool bag. It’s a plastic soft mesh-like fabric in a wide tote shape. The size fits all of my stuff, plus two or three towels. Helpful hint: Bring one less towel than the number of swimmers. This has not failed me yet. I never actually need one towel per person. It cuts down on bulkiness as well as laundry, which is always a win-win. You can see through my bag slightly. It is not enough to totally expose what is inside, but enough for me to see what lands at the bottom and keep it from lingering all summer long. The plastic material dries instantly, which is great. It also works for the beach since sand falls out of the bottom on your walk home. It is pretty good for a cheap clearance bag I just happened to pick up as a spare one day a few years back.
2. Make room for safety.
Remember to always prioritize safety. If your children do not know how to swim, consider packing appropriate flotation devices if your pool does not supply them. All flotation devices should be United States Coast Guard approved, which will be printed somewhere on or inside the device. Leave the water wings at home. Many pools will not allow them. Grab a trusty life jacket instead – they are much safer! Also remember that children often regress in swimming ability over the course of the winter. Toss these aids into your bag at the start of the season and be patient as your children build up their swimming muscles. Chances are you’ll take them out of the bag by mid-summer.
3. Pack the protection.
Sun safety is also tops on the list, but there’s an easy solution in terms of packing. By the end of each pool season, I seem to have collected multiple bottles of sunscreen in my bag. There’s one for my kids, one for their faces, one for me, one for my face, and of course one for Daddy who only comes with us every so often. Remember the old rule of thumb – lather up thirty minutes before sun exposure. Not only is this the safest way to play in the sun, this will allow you to save money by buying the big and bulky bottles that will now stay at home. Purchase a smaller bottle for your bag that suits everyone’s touch-ups during the day. While you are at it, throw in one of those sunscreen sticks that make face application tear-free for kids. These are definitely worth the space!
4. Dress sensibly.
When dressing your kids (and yourself, for that matter) for a day at the pool, make smart choices. Make sure shoes are water-friendly and easy to get on and off. During hot summer afternoons, pool decks can easily reach temperatures that can burn the bottom of innocent feet. Keep shoes handy at all times. Only wear and pack clothes that your little ones will wear at home. Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge supporter of wearing hats and t-shirts to further limit sun exposure. However, this only works if they are worn. If your kids toss aside their cover-ups the minute you reach the gate, consider whether they really needed them in the first place.
5. Toys are all wet.
Fight the temptation to bring a second bag full of toys for your kids. Does your pool keep a lost and found toy basket near the baby pool? Purchase a few toys for a dollar each at the start of the season and contribute them to this collection when your kids are not looking. That way your kids can play with the toys and you won’t feel guilty. I allow one additional toy per day and make it their responsibility that these toys make it back into our bag.
6. The “bagwithin- a-bag” trick.
To limit miscellaneous stuff from accumulating, consider keeping a catch-all bag in your pool bag. Since most of these miscellaneous items need to stay dry, a standard gallon-size plastic storage bag works perfectly and is easier to find in your bag than the individual items. This includes diapers, wipes and an extra swim diaper if needed, a few concession stand dollars for those days when I splurge on ice cream and anything for myself, such as a comb, hair bands and Chapstick. Don’t forget to tuck away your cell phone for dry keeping.
7. And leave room for a good book.
As a mom of two toddlers, this is not my current reality, but I do dream about the day when I will sit poolside enjoying a good book while my kids play on their own. I have witnessed moms with older kids enjoying this luxury and know my day will come as well. Until then, I might just have to slip a magazine in my bag and sneak a quick glance or two while the kids are taking a snack break this summer. Regardless of your reading preference, definitely allow yourself this pleasure and make the most of every poolside moment this summer. N