Preventing Drowning: Essential Water Safety Tips for Parents of Young Children

Preventing Drowning: Essential Water Safety Tips for Parents of Young Children

Water safety is a critical topic for parents with young children, especially as warmer weather approaches. Drowning is the leading cause of death in children between the ages of 1 and 4, and most drownings in kids 4 and under happen in home swimming pools. Drowning is also the second leading cause for children between the ages of 5 and 14. Here are some essential water safety tips for parents to keep in mind.

For younger children:

  1. Close, attentive supervision is essential when children are in or around water. Never leave children alone near water, even for a moment.
  2. The most effective strategy to prevent drowning is 4-sided fencing. Install a permanent, 4-foot-high fence that completely surrounds the pool and isolates it from the house. The fence should be climb-proof, with no footholds, and have vertical slats with no more than 4-inch gaps.
  3. The pool fence should have child-proof doors to the home so that determined little hands cannot open any dates. If a child goes missing, check pools and hot tubs first.
  4. Remove pool toys when not in use to remove temptation.

For older children:

  1. Teach your children to never swim alone. Everyone should swim only in locations with a lifeguard on duty.
  2. Supervise your children in the water. Ensure that your children are within arm’s reach at all times.
  3. Discourage breath holding activities while swimming. Holding your breath for an extended period while swimming can cause drowning and has several other severe physical side effects.
  4. Make sure that inexperienced or non-swimmers wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  5. Teach children to check the water depth before jumping in the water. If unsure, ask an adult.
  6. Drain kiddie pools and remove toys when not in use.
  7. Teach children the “reach, throw, don’t go” concept, which means using a long object to reach out to a person struggling in deep water and pulling them to safety. Jumping in the water to save a friend who is struggling in deep water is dangerous and can result in two people drowning.
  8. Enroll your children in swim lessons to learn fundamental water safety skills including what to do if they find themselves in water unexpectedly.

Note that drownings can happen in any body of water including lakes, rivers, and even bathtubs. However, most drownings in children under the age of 4 occur in home swimming pools, which is the reason having proper pool fencing and close supervision are critical in preventing drowning accidents.

Understanding that drowning is a silent event is also important. Contrary to what many people believe, drowning does not involve loud splashing or shouting for help. When a person is drowning, their mouth sinks below and resurfaces above the waterline repeatedly, which makes taking in air and shouting for help difficult. Close supervision around water is essential, even when children are playing in shallow water or kiddie pools.

Another important fact to keep in mind is that children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water. Even small amounts of water — like a bucket, bathtub, or baby pool — can pose a significant drowning risk to young children. Always supervise children during bath time and keep buckets and other containers that can hold water out of reach. Never leave a child alone in a kiddie pool for even a moment. A child can lose consciousness in as little as 30 seconds.

In addition to proper supervision and fencing, formal swim lessons can also play a significant role in preventing drownings. Research has found that formal swim lessons can benefit children starting around age 1 and may lower drowning rates. Learning fundamental water safety skills such as swimming, floating, and treading water are a must that can help prevent drowning.

Finally, understanding that drowning is not always fatal is essential. Children who survive a drowning incident may suffer from long-term consequences such as brain damage or other disabilities. Prevention is key for water safety. By taking the necessary precautions, parents and other guardians can help keep children safe and prevent tragic accidents from occurring. Make water safety a priority for your family.


American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019). Water safety and drowning prevention.
American Red Cross. (n.d.). Water safety for parents and caregivers.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Unintentional drowning: Get the facts.
National Safety Council. (2022). Drowning prevention.
YMCA. (n.d.). Safety around water.

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