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Children love playing in water, especially on hot summer days. Swimming and wading provide such healthy exercise and fun that many places offer lessons for your baby or toddler to learn how to swim. However, it is important to encourage safe water play for your children.

Smiling Child in Baby Pool

The number one cause of death in children less than five years of age is drowning. The bodies of babies and toddlers are top heavy; if they fall into the water, they cannot lift themselves out. It is important to have a grown-up always watching your children when they are around, in, or on water. This is important even if your child knows how to swim.

Some steps for parents to take to keep their children safe around water are:

  • Your child should always be within arm’s length.
  • Avoid giving the responsibility of watching your child to an older sibling as they may panic or not be able to pull the distressed child to safety.
  • Water toys are fun, but can be dangerous. Blow up floaty toys are just that – toys. They are not designed to keep your child safe in water. Make sure you test a floaty designed as a ring that fits over your child’s body as some actually flip over and thrust a child’s head into the water.
  • Children who cannot swim should not be allowed to float unsupervised on inflatable water mattresses as they can easily flip over and dump your unsuspecting child into the water.
  • Young children must be supervised when in a hot tub or spa as they can become overheated quickly. Additionally, do not allow your child to put his or her head under water.

In addition to assuming responsibility for and supervising your child’s safe water play, teach your child how to float and swim as soon as you can. Also, teach them the following rules for water safety:

  • Never go in, on, or near water without an adult present.
  • If you need help when you are in the water, stay calm, float, and raise an arm so someone can see you need help.
  • Play safely with no pushing or shoving.
  • Do not jump on other swimmers or hold them under the water.
  • No running around pools or other bodies of water as you may trip, fall, and hurt yourself.
  • Always wear a safety vest on or in the water unless you can swim and an adult gives you permission to go without one.
  • Do not dive in water less than nine feet deep.
  • Stay away from any frozen body of water as they can drown by falling through thin ice

Supervising your children means continual visual contact with your children, keeping them within arm’s reach all the time. You need to be able to respond quickly anytime you are around water. This includes at the beach or swimming pool; near dams, rivers, and lakes; and at home around the bathtub or spa. Additionally, hold your child’s hand when you are near waves or in a boat. When fishing, make sure your child does not get too close to rushing water. Remember, it only takes a few minutes for a fun time to turn tragic. Encouraging safe water play for children helps everyone have a fun and relaxing time.

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