Everyday Etiquette: 14 Tips for Swimming Pool Parties

By Diane Gottsman

Summertime fun around my house revolves around the backyard swimming pool and having my children’s friends over for barbeque and lemonade. This past weekend, I decided to have an impromptu pool party, inviting more kids than my good sense would allow and hiring a few neighborhood teens who are lifeguards to help out with the fun.

Did I say fun? It started out with only my son’s friends, but when my daughter got wind of the festivities, she felt left out until I agreed to let her invite her friends over as well. (Note to self: 11-year-old boys are not impressed or amused by 8-year-old girls ... and vice versa.) To add to the entertainment, two of the children (siblings) brought their pet.

Do you sense some pool etiquette tips about to float to the surface?1. Leave your pet at home. Only invited guests should attend a party.

2. Don’t rely on your host to supply towels, bathing suits, goggles or sunscreen. Be sure your child brings her own supplies and puts them back in their bag after using them – before the uninvited pet uses them as chew toys.

3. Kids, don’t use the towel to whip your friends … or their mother. I was bringing out refreshments when I was attacked by what felt like a snake bite on the back of my ankle. In fact, it was a wet towel at the hands of one of the sweetest 11-year-old faces, innocently smiling up at me. How could I get mad at that? But I did almost drop cold lemonade on his head.

4. No “chicken fights” – two pairs of people, each with one person riding on the other’s back, trying to knock the other pair over. This was a favorite at my children’s party until the lifeguard explained that it is a surefire way to get a black eye.

5. Diving off of someone else’s shoulders is also off limits, unless it is the shoulders of one of your own parents.

6. If your child is wearing a bandage, consider removing it before he or she enters the swimming pool. If he has an open sore, it is best to stay out of the pool until the wound is healed.

7. Always send your child with some type of shoes when going to someone’s house or the neighborhood pool.

8. Remind your child to always jump into a pool feet first. The depth of a pool is not always obvious by only looking at it.

9. Don’t allow children to eat or chew gum in the pool. That is what the tables beside the pool are for.

10. Children should never jump on top of someone else or hold someone else underwater, just to be funny.

11. Make sure there are always “designated eyes” on the swimmers at all times. Hosts should be conscientious about the ratio of children to adults providing the supervision.

12. Have alternate activities, in case kids get tired of swimming, and a shaded area for those that want to get out of the sun.

13. Have water on hand (not in glass containers) for children to drink at will.

14. If your child is invited to a pool party, don’t be embarrassed to ask the host parent how many adults will be there, who will be supervising the swimmers, whether there are flotation devices on hand and anything else you want to know. When it comes to your child’s safety, no question is off limits.

Diane Gottsman is an etiquette and protocol expert who leads programs for children and adults. 

MORE: Everyday Etiquette Archive.