Drown-Proofing Toddlers

Although we begin teaching our children at a young age to be safe, as responsible adults we do not rely on these lessons as our only strategy for keeping them safe. We teach our toddlers to stop before venturing onto the street, to look for cars, where and how to cross safely and not to play on the street. And yet, we do not leave our toddler unattended by the road-side to play.

There has been a video circulating on the Internet showing young children able to float on their backs, suggesting that  this method will protect them from drowning. The Canadian Red Cross completely disagrees with this method and states that the only way to keep children safe in and around water is through constant adult supervision. This learned sequence of floating skills as shown in the video will not protect children from drowning.

The Canadian Paediatric Society released a position statement for toddlers aged two to four, in February, 2007: “There is no evidence that swimming lessons prevent drowning or near drowning in this age group. Although it may be possible to teach young infants basic motor skills for water, infants cannot be expected to learn the elements of water safety or to react appropriately in emergencies. No young child, particularly those who are preschool aged, can ever be considered ‘water safe’.” http://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/swimming-lessons

Drowning statistics gathered by the Canadian Red Cross from coroner’s reports across Canada since 1991 show that two-thirds of toddler and infant fatal drownings (i.e. less than 5 years of age) happened while there was a lack of parental supervision. The key to safety is vigilance. Know where your child is at all times, know what potential hazards exist for your child and create safety barriers between the water hazards and your child to reduce the likelihood of your child accessing these hazards.

When you register your child in swimming lessons you want them to:

  • develop an enjoyment in water activity, and
  • acquire physical development skills as well as safety knowledge.

Tips for parents to create the right environment around water:

  • Insist upon four-sided fencing around backyard pools –do not rely on the house as one of the barriers.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.