Children and water can be a dangerous combination

While a body of water is inviting to a child, it only takes a moment for the child to get into trouble. So it is up to adults to put safety measures in place to protect children.

Back Yard Pools

With visions of recreational fun, many adults desire a backyard swimming pool with little thought to the dangers. Real estate agents will tell you that a swimming pool measures high on their clients’ wish list. While pools can be made safe, many times those additional features are overlooked. Sadly, there can be dangerous consequences to leaving pool gates unlocked or not having a four-sided barrier around a pool.

According to the International Life Saving Federation (ILSF):

“The best scientific evidence available has taught us that 1.2 million people around the world die by drowning every year, which is more than two persons per minute. From that more than 50 percent are children. There are perhaps eight to ten times that many who experience a drowning process but who reach safety alone or are rescued by their peers, by others or by lifesavers/lifeguards.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides the following facts:

  • Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.
  • There are an estimated 372,000 annual drowning deaths worldwide.
  • Global estimates may significantly underestimate the actual public health problem related to drowning.

Risk Factors

Drowning is one of the top five causes of death for people aged 1–14 years for 48 of 85 countries with data meeting inclusion criteria. Additionally, among preventable injuries, drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1–4 years old. (Safe Kids World Wide)

Child drowning statistics from a number of countries are particularly revealing:

  • Australia: drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1–3 years.
  • Bangladesh: drowning accounts for 43% of all deaths in children aged 1–4 years.
  • China: drowning is the leading cause of injury death in children aged 1–14 years.
  • United States: drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1–14 years.


The majority of drowning deaths result from a child falling or wandering into the water, particularly into a backyard pool. But don’t forget, a young child can drown in an inch of water. For many additional resources, go to

For additional resources, go to Pool Safety. Take a few minutes and read over the tips. If you have a platform such as a pastor, teacher, agency representative, or health provider, I hope that you will take a few minutes of your time and share with your community. The reminder may save a child’s life.

Compiled List for printing: Pool Safety for Young Children.

water safety paddling pool

Pool Safety Tips to Help Prevent Drowning


  • Don’t leave your child unattended around water. Young children can drown in as little as one inch of water. Supervision is not an occasional glance. It is not watching your kids playing outside while you’re inside. Supervision is keeping eye contact with your child within touching distance.
  • You should put away cell phones, books, laptops, magazines, and discontinue conversations with friends. Young children need 100% of your attention when they are near or around water.
  • Don’t depend on lifeguards at community pools.
  • Don’t depend on a teenager to keep their eyes on your child.

What You Can Do

  • Have fencing around all four sides of the pool—not counting the house as a side—with self-closing or self-latching doors that are too high for children to reach. Drowning accidents happen when parents assume, “I thought the gate was closed,” or, “I didn’t know she could open the door.”
  • Put alarms on your pool so that you will be alerted if a child falls in the water.
  • Follow all safety precautions after your young children are grown. Other young children may be visiting your home or neighborhood.
  • Have conversations with children about water safety.
  • You may want to read Barkley’s Great Escape or another book that will help you start a serious conversation about water safety.
    Children and Water Dangerous Combination
    Swimming Pool with Four-Sided Barrier

Other Things to Think About

  • If a child is missing in the house, check the pool first.
  • Select swimsuits that are brightly colored and can be seen easily under water.
  • Make sure all the kid water toys are age appropriate.
  • When visiting someone with a backyard swimming pool, keep eye contact on your child at all times during the visit. The child may be only a few steps away from danger.

Other Areas of Water

Young children have not grown into their bodies, their heads are heavy and it is easy for them to topple over. As such:

  • Be vigilant about emptying all containers of water, tubs, buckets, wading pools. Keep them upside down and out of children’s reach.
  • Close and secure bathroom doors due to the water from the toilets
  • Empty mop buckets.

Action Plan

  • Learn CPR and First Aid. Practice the skills often.
  • Teach children to always ask for permission to go near the water. Create a ritual that teaches your child the things that must happen before getting into the water. This may sound like a waste of time, but a child must be driven to follow the routine or ritual for their own safety.
    • Get a towel
    • Put on sunblock
    • Let mom or dad know when getting in the water
  • Develop family rules such as: No running, do not play near drains, etc.
  • Remove all pool toys out of sight of young children—a floating toy might be tempting for a younger child.

In An Emergency

  •  Have a portable phone nearby to call for emergency help.
  • Have a first aid kit, life jacket, and throwing equipment nearby Keep a safety ring with a rope beside the pool at all times.
  • Know how to respond to an emergency. For example, be able to give exact directions to emergency services and direct someone to go out on the road to alert them.

Pool Safety Partner

As a Pool Safety Partner, I am excited at the number of people that are becoming advocates and educators for pool safety. I would like to invite you and/or your organization to join me in educating your community or organization about the precautions to take around swimming pools to keep children safe. Go to

I sincerely hope these pool safety tips are beneficial to you and your organization.


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, cszar and chris jd.

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