Child Water Safety in 5 Easy Steps

Child water safety is an important consideration for all parents and guardians.

Sadly enough, childhood drowning happens more than we’d like to admit.  In fact, statistics show that drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death in children under 14 years old in the United States.

If that statistic wasn’t alarming enough, also consider this:

  • 20% of children suffer permanent neurological disability.
  • Of all preschoolers who drown, 70% of them are in the care of both parents.

In order to lower the number of drownings and these other sad statistics, we all need to be more aware of keeping kids safe in the water.

What is child water safety?

According to the CDC, childhood drowning has several risk factors:

  1. Lack of barriers
  2. Lack of supervision
  3. Location – young children drown most often at home while older children have a higher risk of drowning near natural water sources such as rivers and oceans.
  4. Alcohol use

From the list above, it’s clear to see that by simply being proactive, we can drastically reduce the risk of drowning among children.

Child water safety is important because many times drowning is silent. Many children don’t thrash and kick around like you see on television. Children typically fall in head first and sink to the bottom. It only takes four minutes underwater for a child to suffer irreversible brain damage. Here are some things parents can do to avoid their child from becoming another statistic.

1. Learn how to swim

Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) has been around for 45 years. ISR provides one-on-one instruction that has been researched and developed to offer a safety system so babies and children can comfortably enjoy time in the water. The American Red Cross is another valuable resource when it comes to teaching babies and children how to swim. Contact your local chapter to find out more about classes offered in your area.

2. Barriers

If you have a pool in the backyard, make sure to take everything out of the pool after you’re finished.

Children are usually not done when you are. Many times you can leave something in the pool only to find that your child went behind your back to get it, or they simply weren’t quite finished swimming yet. For some parents, this is what lead to their child drowning. Below, Sheryl shares her heart-wrenching story:

“We try to remember what a happy, bouncy child she was, but there are moments when we just sit there and sob,” says Sheryl, who is still tortured by the thought that she and her husband were doing something unimportant when their daughter drowned. “It happened so fast. She was out of our sight for less than five minutes.” Sheryl thinks that Anya fell in because she was trying to reach a blue exercise ball that had been floating in the water. The couple have since had the in-ground pool filled with dirt and turned into a putting green because Anya loved to putt. “We couldn’t bear to look at it,” Sheryl says.

Stories like these are all too common. That’s why babyproofing is an essential child water safety step if you live near water or have a pool. If you have a source of water close to your house, get down on your hands and knees and look for a way through from your house to the water body. Can your child get to a latch? Do they know how to disarm the alarm if any? If so, it’s time to do some safety upgrades. Sadly enough even when you do, children still fall into pools. Teaching them to swim will help keep them safe.

3. Supervision

Accidents happen. It’s not anyone’s fault. Even when every precautionary measure has been taken the worst can happen. Being vigilant about supervision is key.

Supervision means keeping your eyes on the child and being within arms reach at all times. Supervision is not an occasional glance while napping or checking your email. It’s also not watching your kids while you’re inside. Stay beside your child and pay attention. Watch them. Keep your eyes on them. No email or phone conversation is more important.

4. Location

Be familiar with your water risks. If you are on vacation ask about lakes, beaches, swimming holes, and any bodies of water in the area. Ensure that your children are wearing life jackets whenever they are around a body of water. If your child isn’t used to wearing one, trust that they will protest. Let them get used to wearing it and help them learn how to use it. Explain to them how important it is and insist that they won’t be able to go in unless they wear one.

Children do not always listen or understand the rules, even when it comes to water safety. Always stay with your child near lakes, oceans, and rivers. Take them to patrolled beaches only and show them where the lifeguards and lifesavers are.

5. Alcohol

This is a no-brainer. It isn’t safe under any circumstances to consume alcohol if you’re with your child near water. You need to be alert and on your game at all times. Keep your eyes sharp so you can watch your child.

Finally, it’s important for all caregivers to learn basic CPR. Knowing how to respond in an emergency can save a life.

What do I do if my child slips under the water?

It’s important not to leave children unattended for even one minute.  If your child has been under water for a while:

  • Lift them out of the water
  • Gently shake or tap them to see if they respond
  • If the child does not respond, start child CPR
  • Shout for help and tell whoever is around you to call 911. If you’re all alone, perform CPR for 2 minutes then pause to call 911
  • Keep performing CPR

If your child came close to drowning take them to the emergency room for a medical checkup. They may have inhaled water and damaged their lungs.

Parents of children who know how to swim may have a false sense of security. Your child needs to be physically and mentally capable of handling a drowning situation.

Does your 4-year-old have the strength and coordination necessary to get in and out of the pool? If your child panics, they may not be able to get out of the pool. The most important part of child water safety is to always keep your eyes on your children. Always.


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