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Father son and daughters entering in backyard pool from ladder during a summer sunny day.

Water Safety Tips for Parents

By Dr. Imani R. Eichelberger, Hampton Roads Pediatrics

Swimming is a fun, healthy summer activity, but teaching kids how to enjoy the water safely is a must. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drowning is a leading cause of accidental death in children between the ages of 1 and 4.

Make sure you, and your child, are prepared to safely splash around this summer with these tips.

  • Go over the rules before entering any water situation. Lay down strict rules and go over each one before entering any situation with a body of water.
  • Teach your child to ask permission. Your child should know to ask permission before getting into or even approaching the water.
  • Provide “touch supervision” for non-swimmers. For infants, toddlers, and any children who are not swimmers, an adult should be in the pool providing “touch supervision,” meaning they are within arm’s reach of the child.
  • Never leave a child unattended. Even if a lifeguard is present, it’s important that you, or a designated person, is always supervising your child. With older kids, you can establish a buddy system with another child so they are never alone, but you should still keep watch.
  • Teach your child to never pretend to drown. If your child pretends to be drowning, and the lifeguard or another adult takes them seriously, their display could prevent someone else’s life from being saved.
  • Teach your child how to swim. Swimming skills are as important as safety strategies in keeping children safe.
  • Enter the water feet first. The safest way to enter the water is feet first to avoid head injuries. If your experienced swimmer wants to dive, make sure they know the appropriate depth for diving, and never to dive into the shallow end or any body of water with an unknown depth.
  • Teach kids to get out of the water before they become tired. Swimming can drain your child’s energy, especially when you factor in the hot sun. Set a time limit for swimming and stick to it.
  • Wear a life vest. Life vests can help your inexperienced swimmer stay above water if they fall in or wander out on their own. Inflatable “floaties” are not a substitute for life jackets/vests.
  • No swimming during thunder and lightning.
  • Don’t allow horseplay. Dunking can seem playful until a child doesn’t realize their peer is struggling. Don’t allow horseplay, and never dunk your child, even playfully.
  • Teach your children about the dangers of the water. Your child doesn’t want to get hurt just as much as you. Make them aware of the dangers of playing in water so they will take care in any situation.
  • Keep a phone nearby in case of emergency. Be prepared to call for help if needed by keeping a phone nearby at all times. Make sure it is charged and easy to locate.
  • Know CPR. All parents should learn infant and child CPR. Proper training in this first-aid technique can make a lifesaving difference until emergency help arrives. Check with your pediatrician or the American Red Cross for information about an approved CPR course in your area.

While these tips can be useful in any water situation, it’s important to understand swimming in a pool is very different from the ocean or when on a boat. Read blogs from our water safety series for detailed tips on safely enjoying a day at the pool, on the beach, or on a boat.

Then, watch this PSA from Sean and Nancy Marable, who tragically lost their son to a backyard pool drowning.




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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.