Water safety

Water safety

Never leave your child alone near water. Even if your child knows how to float or dog paddle, this will not help if they fall into a swimming pool, river, lake, bathtub or large container of water.

Always have a trustworthy adult watching your child or other children when near water.

Never leave your child alone in or near any body of water. A child can drown in one inch of water.

Household water safety

  • Always watch a small child during bath time. Never leave a child alone in a bathtub, even for one second.
  • Have all of your bathing supplies handy before starting the bath.
  • Try to give your baby or small child a bath when there won't be too many disruptions.
  • Bring a cell phone into the bathroom if you must. Remember, a baby bath seat is not a safety aid.
  • Keep buckets - especially five-gallon buckets - out of your child's reach. If the bucket has water or a cleaning solution, a curious child could lean over the bucket for a look. A small child could fall into the bucket headfirst and not be able to get out.
  • Keep the toilet lid down to prevent a small child from falling headfirst into the toilet.

Lake or river safety

  • Enroll your child in swimming lessons, especially if you have a pool or if you live near a body of water. Remember, swimming lessons does not mean that your child is ready to be alone in water.
  • Teach your child general water safety.
  • Make sure your child is always supervised by a responsible adult when around water. A child can drown in the time it takes to answer the phone.
  • Make sure your child wears an age-appropriate and approved personal flotation device (life jacket) when around a lake or river or other waterway. This includes being in a boat, canoe or on a pontoon. Floaty toys or a raft will not help prevent your child from drowning. Your child should have a life jacket on when sitting on a dock, wading in shallow water or riding on a boat. Always sit with your child when on a boat.
  • If you spend a lot of time around water, have at least one adult in your home learn CPR.
  • Do not use flotation devices (inflatable swimming aids) in place of adult supervision.

Pool safety

  • If you have a pool:
    • Put a fence or other barrier (such as a wall) completely around the pool. Make sure the fence or barrier is at least four feet high.
    • Make sure the vertical slats in a fence are fewer than four inches apart to prevent a child from squeezing through.
    • If the fence is chain link, make sure that no part of the diamond-shaped opening is larger than 1 ¾ inches.
    • Make sure the fence or barrier does not have any foot- or hand-holds.
    • Install fence gates that are self-closing and self-latching. Make sure the gates are too high for children to reach.
    • If your house is one side of the barrier, consider putting an alarm in the doors that lead from the house to the pool. Or, you may install a power safety cover over the pool to keep children younger than age 5 out of the pool when no adults are around. Check with a pool dealer for more information.
    • If you have an above-ground pool, lock or remove steps and ladders when the pool is not in use.
    • Keep rescue equipment by the pool at all times. Make sure a phone is near the pool and emergency phone numbers are handy.
  • Tell sitters or guests about your pool, safety equipment and any potential hazards.
  • If you have other children over, carefully watch each one. Do not let older children provide supervision.
  • Always supervise children when around a pool.
  • Never let a small child go into the water alone or with another small child.
  • Do not leave your child alone in a pool with floaty toys or devices.

If you have a spa or hot tub, follow the safety rules for the swimming pool.

If you have a pond or other decorative water feature, teach your child not to go in or near it. Have appropriate fencing around your yard to keep other children from wandering in to look at or play in the pond.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022