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Water Safety Tips For Kids And Parents

From bathtubs to bays, water attracts kids. With its multiple possibilities for fun, why wouldn’t it? They can float their toys, splash, and enjoy the weightlessness of displaced gravity. 


Swimming, boating, diving, playing vigorously in a pool, lake or ocean (where safe)  can be singularly wonderful. Yet, the source of all can also kill even an experienced swimmer. The CDC reports:


  • Close to 4,000 drowning deaths occur yearly, including boat-related drownings, an average of 11 drowning deaths every day. 
  • Drowning is the second highest cause of death for children 1-4 after birth defects. 
  • For children ages 1-14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes


Know What Drowning Really Looks Like: Identifying the Instinctive Drowning Response


Splashing,waving,calling out for help–Television shows and movies often depict drowning people in a dangerously inaccurate and misleading way to the general public.  Real drowning is often quiet and  overlooked and professionals are trained to spot the true signs. About half of the 750 children who drown each year die within 75 feet of an adult/parent. Ten percent are observing their children directly when it happens, not realizing they’re dying in front of them. 


“The drowning movements of a young child can look like they’re actually doing the dog paddle in the water, when they’re actually drowning,” says Dr. Frederick Pia, PHD. Dr. Pia originated the term “Instinctive drowning response,’ describing the behaviors of someone fighting to avoid suffocating. Close to 90 percent of drownings occur with at least one adult present.


People who are drowning struggle to breathe as their mouths bob above and below the water. and they can rarely call out for help. The body’s need for oxygen exponentially takes precedence over speech orto survive. They also stay in an upright position. Their arms push down on the surface as they attempt to stay afloat. Their heads tilt back and their mouths open. 


A drowning person generally only struggles 20-60 seconds before sinking if a trained lifeguard doesn’t rescue them. What are some ways parents can protect children and themselves from drowning?


Guarding Against Household Drowning Hazards 

  • An inch of water is enough to drown a child. Put a childproof door latch on your bathroom door, 
  • Drain water from bathtub
  • Store empty buckets and don’t leave them outside where they can fill with water. 
  • Secure the shower curtain out of your child’s reach. 
  • Supervise your child at bathtime and never entrust your child to another child’s care or simple presence as a safety measure. Secure shower curtains out of your child’s reach so they can’t climb or become entangled in them.

Continuous Supervision is a non-negotiable and can mean the difference between life and death. Watch older children closely when they’re in or near a pool, hot tub, or any natural body of water, like an ocean or lake. An adult in a group should have a designated, undistracted watcher to keep an eye on kids. Babies and toddlers require even more vigilance. Children under 4, able to swim or not, need an adult observing at arm’s length. Floating toys like water noodles are no substitute for an alert human being seeing to a swimming child’s safety.

    • The younger they are, the closer you need to be. Children under 4, able to swim or not, need an adult within arm’s reach observing. 
    • Parents and childcare providers should learn CPR. Period. Studies indicate children nine years old and up can learn CPR. Body strength determines the ability to perform CPR more than age. 
    • Start them young According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, all children 1 year and older should learn to swim. Keep in mind that all children develop at different rates physically and emotionally and still need to be carefully watched. Falsely believing knowing how to swim is ironclad protection against drowning can be deadly. 
    • What Kids Need to Know How to enter the water, come to the surface, around, propel themselves for at least 25 yards, and exit the water. 
    • Sensible Proximity Stay close to the lifeguard’s station when swimming.
    • Very young children should wear water shoes to protect their feet from hot sand, rocks, shells, seaweed, debris, and other sharp objects on the ocean floor.
    • Never swim alone.
    • Statistics and Safety Children 1-4 years old and 15-19 have a higher risk of drowning, as do African-American children. Drowning is the cause of death for nearly ¾ of children with autism because of their inclination to wander. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a family supervision plan to reinforce water safety precautions.
    • Abstinence from spirits is good child and self care . Don’t drink alcohol when swimming, boating, supervising, much less swimming kids. Impaired judgment is plain dangerous for everyone. 
    • Prescription and other medication can increase drowning risk  Psychotropic medications that treat anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and other conditions have side effects similar to alcohol. They can impact your motor skills and cause confusion.
  • Don’t forget to shield your child’s skin. A water safety strategy also needs to protect against indirect hazards. Swimmers get hit by direct UV rays AND rays reflecting off the water’s surface. At the beach, Reapply sunscreen to your child fifteen minutes before going outside and then every two hours. If they’ve toweled off it’s time to slather or spray it on again. Even waterproof sunscreen has to be reapplied. 

Minimizing Risk, Maximize Pleasure in Natural Bodies of Water

Unpredictable swimming conditions including currents, water temperature, rapid changes in depth and weather typify natural bodies of water. Murky water can conceal potential hazards. 

Some Basic Guidelines

    • Toes Before Nose  When entering the water for the first time, make it feet first.
    • Wear A Life Jacket Boating or fishing? Strap it up.
  • Swim only in Designated Areas  Don’t let kids swim anywhere that isn’t, like abandoned drainage ditches. Be on the alert for and heed posted warnings about unsafe swimming conditions. 
  • Watch out for thin ice.  Don’t walk, skate or ride on thin or thawing ice. Check for posted ice safety warnings. Ice is safest to walk on when it’s 4 inches thick but this is also dependent on the ratio of certain types of ice. Blue, and black ice are the strongest, white and gray the weakest. Ice thickness alone isn’t a guarantee, the ratio and types of ice are vital. Three inches of blue ice with three inches of white is considered unsafe. 
  • Learn Rescue Techniques If someone falls through the ice,  one technique is getting off it and using a branch, rope, or other long object to extend to the person who’s fallen trouble to grab.
  • Cover Up from the ankle down Very young children should wear water shoes to protect their feet from hot sand, rocks and shells

Make Home pools and Spas Safer For Kids (and adults)

  • Install a fence at least four feet high with self-closing and self-latching gates a child can’t reach.
  • Have emergency equipment on site and in good working order. A life ring with rope, a reaching pole, shepherd’s crook are some solid options. 
  • Keep a phone in your pool/spa area. 
  • Get a pool alarm. 
  • Remove toys from the pool so children don’t try to retrieve them. 
  • Don’t let kids sit on or play near drains. Suction can entrap hair or body parts. against Use specially designed rain covers, safety vacuum release systems and multiple drains
  • Cover your pool and hot tub when not in use with secure covers. Don’t let water collect in covers. Remember: a child can drown in an inch of water

Minimizing danger to the fullest extent possible is vital for children and parents in the water. 

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be a complete list of water safety recommendations. For more information, please see:

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