Family Friendly Pool Design With Anya M. Hall


Anya M. Hall has more than 15 years of swim teaching experience and is the original water baby at La Petite Baleen Swim Schools, where she is now the curriculum director. She is an NCAA Division 1 All-American, Academic All-American and National Champion swimmer. Anya swam competitively from the age of 12, and while many of her friends at UC Berkeley jumped into the dot com frenzy after graduation, she realized that her heart was still in the pool. She has been with the family business since then and helps to run swim schools in Half Moon Bay, San Bruno, and San Francisco that teach 9,000 children in weekly year round lessons.


What is the primary objective with family friendly pool design?

Safety is always the primary objective when considering family friendly pool design. Barrier methods for children of all ages (and pets) must be incorporated into the plan from the start to include fencing, safety gates, safety nets, or safety covers. There is still a lot of fun to be had in the design process. Young children might prefer a more shallow pool, perhaps a slide, but teenagers might want a diving board which requires deep water. Be sure to keep your long term goals in mind, remembering that kids grow up fast. As kids grow up and become teens and young adults, they also become risk takers. Consider pool proximity to structures that may entice older kids to take risks (jumping off a nearby deck or roof for example).


Is there a minimum or maximum depth you’d recommend incorporating into the design? Single depth or sloped bottom?

It’s important to look at your long term plan not only with the pool, but with your home when considering pool depth. An all shallow pool requires less water and uses less energy to maintain. It’s also more toddler friendly. The benefits of deep water are that swimmers can dive in safely, and adults have more options for water exercise.

Photo courtesy of Poolmax


Would you recommend rounded corners or regular corners for the pool?

This is more a question of aesthetics, not so much for safety. More time and attention should be paid to the texture of pool decking and coping. A slippery surface can cause injury, but a rough surface can too. Finding the right materials for safety should be taken into consideration.


Is the location/number of steps into the pool important? Would you recommend a beach entry?

There should be at least one set of “steps” that lead all the way into the pool so that bathers can safely enter without a big drop off. The height and depth of the stairs depend on whether there is a hand rail or not, and whether the steps are built into the pool or into the deck. Beach entry is fine, but can take up a lot of pool space and if the slope suddenly drops off it can be a safety issue. If you plan to lounge in the shallow waters of a beach entry, by all means put one in. But if you’re more interested in actual swimming (being submersed in water) and are limited on space, leave it out. Either way, a safe entry is important for all pools.

 Image courtesy of HomeStratosphere


What flotation devices would you recommend for young children?

There are many floatation devices on the market today. Most are built more for fun than safety. In fact, some flotation devices can put children in compromising positions, causing them to ingest water without parents realizing. At La Petite Baleen we strongly believe that no floatation device should replace adult supervision around a pool. Until your child can swim across the pool entirely on their own, an adult should be in the water with them.


What safety devices are essential for children? Teens? Adults?

We believe in the Safer 3.

Safer Water: Proper safety barriers in place (fencing, gates, nets. etc.) and in practice at all times.

Safer Kids: Swim lessons help children learn safety skills such as breathing, floating, and climbing out of the pool to safety.

Safer Response: Making sure that adults in charge (“water watchers”) are trained in CPR and First Aid.


Do you recommend the use of pool covers (electronic or manual)?

Pool covers are a great way to save on heating, filtration and water bills. They help maintain water temperatures, reduce debris in the pool, and reduce evaporation. If at all possible, a safety cover should be used. This is easiest on a rectangular or square shaped pool. They can be electronic or manual, though we find that electronic covers are more likely to be used than manual covers. If you are using a safety cover, extra caution must be used when it comes to safety, as children and pets can slip under a pool cover unseen and unheard.  

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