The temperatures are rising, school is out for the summer and, for many families, the beach is calling. The idea of long days spent building sand castles, enjoying the sea and frolicking on the shore call up images of iconic family vacations. What you may not realize, however, is that there are more dangers lurking on the beach than initially meets the eye.

As a proactive and informed parent who’s vigilant about your kids’ safety, you’re almost certainly aware of the most obvious hazards on the beach. From regional worries like jellyfish and high levels of bacteria in the water to universal concerns like skin damage from the sun and the danger of riptides, there’s a lot for a parent to worry about on a trip to the beach. The sand that your kids love to bury one another in or build magnificent, imaginative structures from can also be a major safety hazard as well, though.

Throw Away Your Quicksand Worries

Movie buffs and fans of adventure novels may think of their heroes struggling against the inexorable pull of quicksand when confronted with the prospect of being swallowed by sand, but it’s not that simple. The problem of sand immersion presents itself when deep holes are dug into the sand and a child falls into them, causing the sides of the hole to collapse and essentially swallow the child. The fine matter flows so easily and becomes so dense that suffocation is a very serious concern for kids submerged in a hole filled with sand. Using a shovel to dig the child out is the quickest way to pull the tiny body out, but presents a risk of its own because it’s so easy to strike and injure a child, potentially inflicting a serious injury, with the shovel itself. When you arrive at the beach, you’re not necessarily thinking of quicksand, which is, for most people, the only danger that they can conceptualize when confronted with the idea of being immersed in sand. Realize that quicksand, at least the way you’ve seen it on television, is not the issue.

Put Ground Rules in Place Regarding Beachside Digging

Kids love to dig in the sand. From burying a pal from the neck down to imaginary excavations of ancient creatures or the construction of an epic moat, digging is part and parcel of a visit to the beach for kids. Keep your little ones safe by putting firm rules in place regarding the kind of digging they do. While there’s no need to outlaw all digging, make sure that any holes are no deeper than knee-height for the shortest person nearby. In areas where there are laws on the books governing the depth of beach holes, the guideline is waist-deep for the shortest person in the surrounding area. Why not play it safe by opting for knee or, at very least, mid-thigh.

Be a Responsible Beach Visitor

Do your part to keep other kids safe by refilling all of the holes your kids have been digging at the end of your trip, so that none of the little ones who come behind you are swallowed by a deep hole. Make a game of the matter if you can do so safely, encouraging older kids to play racing games to see who can fill the most holes in the shortest amount of time to cut down on protests, but make sure that they know why it’s so important not to leave deep holes in the sand.

Don’t Panic

When confronted with the idea that your child could be swallowed by sand and potentially suffocated by the very substance they’re playing with so happily, your first instinct may very well be to skip the beach or refuse digging altogether. While it’s important to practice basic safety rules and have guidelines in place, there’s no need to panic. Sand immersions resulting in death aren’t exactly rare, freak accidents, but they’re also not a particularly common occurrence. As long as you’re keeping an eye out for deep holes dug by other, bigger kids and you’re not allowing extreme excavations on the patch of beach that you’ve claimed, everyone should be fine. There’s no need to put a moratorium on playing in the sand or to avoid the beach on principle. As with so many things in the life of a parent, you should make a point of supervising your kids carefully and keep a close eye on what they’re doing to prevent tragic accidents.

By Supernanny