3 ways to keep children safe around water

We all know the importance of actively supervising children around water. Drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional death for Canadian children ages one to four, and statistics show that two-thirds of toddler and infant fatal drownings happened during an absence in supervision. So what does active supervision mean when children are in, on or around water?

Drowning is preventable. To assist you in feeling prepared, here are some ideas to help keep kids safe around water.

Stay near young children when in or around waterThe key to safety is vigilance. To be vigilant, know and discuss potential hazards which exist for your child in your water environment. Whenever possible, create safety barriers between the water hazards and your child to reduce the likelihood of your child accessing these hazards, and know where your child is at all times.

1. Create safety barriers between water hazards and your child

  • Insist upon four-sided fencing around backyard pools – do not rely on the house as one of the barriers as children will access the pool from the house.
  • Invest in a gate that is self-closing and self-latching, and inspect it regularly to ensure it is in good working order.
  • Ensure your fence is not one that is easily climbed and move objects that could be used as a makeshift ladder (lawn chairs, etc.) away from the fence.
  • Keep a clean pool deck to reduce the temptation to play near the pool.
  • Teach your child that you always enter the water first and then your child.
  • Safety around open water is different than safety around a pool; know the risks associated with each
  • Require children who are not able to demonstrate safety skills, such as returning to the surface of the water after jumping in and swimming to the pool edge as well as exiting the pool on their own, to wear  Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) or lifejackets when accessing the water.

2. Supervise children in and around water

  • Keep your promises. When you tell your toddler that you will go swimming, keep your word so the toddler does not feel the need to get water time that he/she missed out on.
  • When there’s a group of adults with kids, share the responsibility of actively supervising children. Effective lifeguards do not engage in conversations while supervising patrons in the pool. Their training has taught them that 100% of their attention needs to be on what is happening in the pool. They are your most effective role model for active supervision.
  • Learn how to use rescue equipment to respond to children in distress and ensure children are taught the same skills
  • Stay within arms’ reach of children under the age of 7 in the water as well as with non-swimmers.
  • At the pool, participate and lead games that promote developing swimming skills such as treading water, floating, and moving through the water. Evaluate toys that children will access in the water, inflatable toys are designed to be attractive to children but they add an element of risk as well as the toys are not designed to be stable in the water nor will they ensure a child remains with his/her/their mouth out of water. When permitting these toys in the water, be extra vigilant for unexpected submersions.

3. Be a kid again - join in on the fun:

  • Bring enough shovels, buckets and other beach toys for everyone to participate in making sandcastles
  • Bring toys to play with on the beach (frisbees, balls, kites)
  • Join the kids on a quest to see how many sea creatures you can find
  • Leave your electronics behind and focus on family fun

Families are invited to join Canadian Red Cross volunteers for virtual, interactive, game-based learning sessions, highlighting the importance of first aid and water safety knowledge. 

Register in Red Cross Swim Preschool to learn swimming, safety skills and water enjoyment together. Help your toddler be safe through participation in programs that are based upon injury prevention strategies. Help kids of all ages become confident in the water; find a swimming course near you here.

Read more about drown-proofing toddlers and tips on summer water safety.

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