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How to Practice Water Safety with Young Children

One popular way to beat the heat is to get in the water – pools, lakes, rivers, water parks, you name it! Toddlers are curious, active, and eager to explore and are attracted to water because it shines, ripples, splashes, and even makes things float!

Although water activities are super fun for the whole family, it is very important to practice water safety. In fact, did you know that drowning is the second most common cause of death for children under 5 years old in Canada, and children can drown in as little as 1 inch of water?

Drowning can happen silently, within seconds without even a splash.

Here are some tips for keeping your child(ren) safe:

  • If a baby can’t sit on their own, they are too small for a portable floatation device (PFD) or life jacket, and need to be held at all times (in fact PFDs are not made for children under 20lbs).

  • Toddlers should always be within arm’s reach

  • All children should be supervised at all times and should never be left alone, even for a minute! There should be 1 adult for every 2 children and 1 adult for every baby

  • Life jackets are safer for children! A lifejacket has the ability to turn a person from face down to face up, while a PFD will keep a person floating but not necessarily face up.

  • The lifejacket or PFD should be worn by all children over 20lbs and should be approved by either the Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, or Oceans Canada

  • Water wings, neck rings, bathing suits with floatation devices in them, and other swim toys are not safety devices

  • Use diapers designated for use in water – they don’t get as heavy and are less likely to cause the child to lose their balance

  • Empty all buckets and pails, coolers with melted ice, bath tubs, portable backyard pools as soon as you are done with them

  • If using a sprinkler, move the sprinkler head often to prevent pools of water from collecting – these are slippery. Also only ever use a sprinkler on grass.

  • Keep kids away from ponds and streams at all times

  • If using a backyard slide, set it up away from trees or shrubs. Children must be able to sit in a sitting position to go down the slide. Only use slides designated for use with a pool.

  • Sign your child up for unparented swimming lessons after the age of 3!

  • Teach your child the golden rules of swimming: no swimming without an adult, no running or pushing, and no food or drinks in the pool.

  • Keep your promises. When you say you are going to go swimming, keep your word so that they don’t try to get their own water time that they missed out on!

  • Surround your pool with a fence on all around the perimeter that is at least 4 feet high and that completely separates the pool from the house. Install a self-closing and self-latching gate, and ensure it cannot be easily climbed. Move objects away from the fence that could be used by a clever toddler as a ladder, such as lawn chairs.

  • Bird baths, fountains, and ponds, though beautiful, are dangerous – consider waiting until children are older before installing one of these!

  • Block unsupervised access to bathrooms – use safety latches or doorknob covers to keep them closed when not in use. Install latches or locks on toilet seat lids and remove bathtub drain plugs when not in use.

The biggest threat to drowning is unexpected, unsupervised access to water. In fact, 69% of drownings happen during non-swim times. Therefore, preventing unplanned, unsupervised access to water is proven to be the most effective way to reduce drowning deaths.

Finally, be ready to respond! Refresh yourself on CPR for infants and children and safe water rescue by booking our one-on-one Pediatric CPR & Choking session! Water safety is a family affair.


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