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How to supervise your child in or near water

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Proper supervision in the water—even if your child is learning how to swim―is one of the most important ways to help prevent drowning. Drowning is quick, silent, and much more common than most families realize. It happens every day to children with loving, attentive parents and caregivers.

To effectively supervise and keep your child safe during swim time, keep in mind:

  • Pay close, constant attention. Do not get distracted with other activities (such as reading, playing games, using the cellphone, or mowing the lawn), even if lifeguards are present.

  • Avoid using alcohol or drugs around the water, especially when supervising others.

  • For younger children and weak swimmers, get in the water with them. "Touch supervision" is essential! Even if you are not swimming but there is a pool or body of water nearby, always keep children within arm's reach. If you must leave, take the child with you.

  • Don't leave a baby or young child in or near any body of water under the care of another child.

  • Especially during parties or picnics at the pool or lake, when it's easy to get distracted, assign a "water watcher" whose job is to constantly keep eyes on the child in or near the water. Take turns, passing along a water watcher card to the next responsible adult after a set time (such as 15 minutes).

  • Remember that the primary drowning risk for toddlers age 1-4 is unanticipated, unsupervised access to water. Children are naturally curious and commonly slip away unnoticed during non-swim times.

  • Always use life jackets when in, on or near natural bodies of water, such as lakes or rivers. Make sure they fit properly. Children and weak swimmers should also wear life jackets when at a pool or water park.

  • Know how to recognize signs of distress and respond when there is trouble. Everyone, including parents, caregivers and older children, should learn CPR and safe rescue techniques to respond to a drowning incident. Water safety is a family affair!

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