Years ago my family visited a lake in New York’s Catskill Mountains. I was playing with my three-year-old daughter in the shallow water when I saw older children throwing rocks at a mother duck and her babies. Horrified, I marched over to make them stop. A few minutes later, ducks safely in the middle of the lake, I turned back to my daughter. She was lying motionless and facedown in the water! I raced over and scooped her up. Thank goodness she was fine, and had only been facedown for seconds.
I will never forget how still she lay with her face in the water. There was no splashing or thrashing. This, I learned, is typical. While parents expect a child might alert them to distress in the water, this is often not the case. Children drown quickly and quietly. This is one of the many reasons for parents to be ever vigilant when it comes to water safety.
Drowning tragically remains a leading cause of death in children. For children ages 1-4, drowning kills more children than any cause other than birth defects. Most infant and toddler drownings occur in bathtubs and buckets, toddlers most commonly drown in pools, and older children in rivers and lakes.
While playing in the water is one of the great joys of summer for kids, it is no time for parents to relax! Rather, active engagement and “touch supervision” at all times is needed to ensure safe water play. Here are some guidelines to create the safest experience for your child when enjoying the pool, lake or beach:
All Eyes and Hands On Deck!
Always be within arms reach of your young child near any body of water. This is called “touch supervision”. Avoid distractions, such as talking on your cellphone, reading, chatting with neighbors or saving baby ducks. And never assume someone else is watching your child.
Life Jackets Always
Use a US Coast Guard approved life vest whenever your child is near a natural body of water or, if they are a weak swimmer, a pool. Toys, water wings, and other flotation devices are not life-saving.
Learn to Swim!
Start swim lessons when your child is developmentally ready, with a program appropriate for their age. Water safety classes are not recommended for children less than one year. For those ages 1-4 it is important that the class adheres to national YMCA guidelines. Traditionally, children over 4 are considered most ready to learn to swim. Even older children, however, need to have continued supervision at all times near the water.
Home Pool Safety
Ensure that all home pools are surrounded by a four-sided fence that is at least 4 feet high with a self-locking gate.
Never let your child play on a pool cover. They are unsafe and should be fully retracted prior to pool use.
Remove toys from the pool after use, as they can tempt a child to jump in. Inflatable pools should ideally be emptied when not in use.
Never dive into a pool’s shallow end or into an above ground pool.
In the event of an emergency, providing CPR until an ambulance arrives can be life-saving.
Follow these measures and enjoy the safest summer fun with your child!