Ways to Keep Kids Safe Around Water

By: Mollie Shauger | Thursday, June 20, 2019 | Aquatics

young children swimming

Swimming is one of the most popular warm weather pastimes for children, but it’s also the second leading cause of injury for children under the age of 14. Unfortunately, young children can drown in as little as 25 seconds, according to medical professionals at Boston Children’s Hospital. But parents can help their children enjoy the water and be safer around it by taking a few simple measures.

The Unfortunate Truths

Did you know that nearly 1,000 children pass away each year due to drowning? This makes it the second leading cause of accidental death for people between the ages of 5 and 24. Unfortunately, very young children face a higher risk of accidental drowning and can drown in as little as 2 inches of water. This means that young children need constant adult supervision when they’re around common bodies of water like pools, lakes, and ponds; but even less threatening sources of water like bathtubs, wading pools, sinks, buckets, and even the toilet can also be fatal for very young children. Luckily, there are a number of practical steps parents can take to ensure that their children are safe in—and around—most bodies of water.

Healthy Adult Supervision

If your family wants to go for a swim this year, be sure that you’re around to supervise, or that they’re swimming in an area supervised by trained lifeguards. If you decide to go out to a natural body of water like a lake or the ocean, always pay careful attention to your young swimmers while they’re in the water. Natural bodies of water are less controlled than a typical swimming pool or waterpark, so there are more variables that parents need to watch while their kids enjoy a swim. Never leave a young child unattended around a body of water, and remember not to trust a child’s life to another child. Finally, never let your children swim alone and ensure they always swim with a swim buddy.

Swim Lessons

Swim lessons are a great way to prepare your young swimmers to enjoy the water in a much safer way. Here at the YMCA, we offer a number of learn-to-swim classes for swimmers of all ages. We provide water safety classes for the whole family, that way, each member of your family is confident around bodies of water, and is ultimately safer. We also offer swim lessons for children with moderate-to-severe neurological, physical, or social challenges. Each of these classes is overseen by instructors offering assistance to the students in the water, and each student is accompanied by an adult supervisor.

Swimming Outside

Unfortunately, swim lessons alone won’t prepare a young swimmer for the trials of swimming outside in a lake, ocean or any other body of water. If you decide to take the family to swim outside, be extra vigilant in monitoring their swimming. Cold temperatures, currents and underwater hazards can make swimming in a natural body of water incredibly difficult, and sometimes life-threatening. When swimming outside, be sure to stick to the designated swimming areas, or areas that are supervised by a lifeguard. Furthermore, don’t let your children swim in deep areas, or far off of the coast; both areas are more dangerous to swimmers of all skill levels.

Invest in Water Safety Devices for Children

Each swimmer learns at their own pace, and has their own level of comfort when swimming. For younger, or less confident swimmers, it may be necessary to invest in water safety devices to help your young swimmer enjoy the water safely. If you take your young swimmer outside, be sure that they wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest around the water at all times. If your inexperienced swimmer is swimming in a more controlled environment, then be sure that they’re using the aid of a swim vest, or even an indoor life vest. For kids younger than 5 years old, choose a vest with a strap between the legs and head support—the collar will keep the child's head up and face out of the water. These devices can help your child have fun in the water and greatly minimize their potential risk.

CPR Lessons

Nobody wants to be caught in a situation that requires one to perform CPR, but you can’t always control everything, and it’s best for parents to be prepared for the worst. If your young family is just learning to swim, then consider taking CPR courses to prepare for the worst-case scenario. The Metro YMCA of the Oranges offers a number of safety classes (including CPR) that can help parents learn more about safe practices in a number of environments.

Common Home Water Hazards

Be aware of some common water hazards around your home to prevent your young child or toddler from accidentally injuring themselves. Pools, outdoor ponds, bathtubs, sinks, toilets, and even buckets of water can harm toddlers or curious young children. to prevent this, stay vigilant and make sure that your child doesn’t have unsupervised access to your bathroom, and that you don’t leave them around bodies of water unattended. If you have an outdoor pool or spa, install a proper water barrier that separates the pool from the rest of the yard and has a latching gate with a lock on it. Also, be sure that your child cannot exit your house and go into your backyard unattended.

Visit a YMCA location to learn more about water safety and help empower your family to enjoy the water safely.


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