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 she falls 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 him 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.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. For inclusivity, this guide uses "them" and "their."
Reviewed By: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2016