How Can I Keep My Child Safe in the Pool or at a Lake?

Let's talk about keeping your children safe this summer when they're playing around water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that drowning is the leading cause of death among children aged 1–4 (excluding birth defects), and most of these tragedies happen in home swimming pools.1 Your safety role as a parent is crucial.

Setting some ground rules for your child, ensuring that they never swim alone or unsupervised, and bringing the right gear to the beach are all great ways to enforce water safety for kids.

Here are some more ground rules for improving your kids’ pool safety.

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1. Sign your kids up for swimming lessons

Swimming is an important survival skill and a smart way to exercise. And your kids can start enjoying it early. Did you know that kids as young as one year can start swimming lessons?

Head over to your community pool or local branch of the YMCA to sign your kids up for affordable swim lessons. Not only will they learn how to stay safe in the water, but they'll have so much more fun.

Even if you'd like to be the one to teach your child how to swim, consider formal lessons instead. One study found that formal swim instruction reduced the risk of drowning among 1- to 4-year-olds by 88% but found no risk reduction associated with informal swim lessons.5 

2. Get personal flotation devices for your kids

Children can drown in as little as just a few inches of water, so when you’re by the pool or a lake, you should follow proper water safety protocol closely.

  • Floaties: Read labels carefully before buying arm floaties, water wings, or flotation devices for your kids. You want to bring home the safest option.
  • Life jackets: Talk to your kids about why it’s important for them to wear life jackets—even if they may seem silly. You never know when a water emergency may happen, so it’s smart to prepare for anything.

3. Walk—never run—at the pool

If a lifeguard's around, you better believe they'll blow their whistles at your kids if they’re scampering around the pool—it’s easy to slip and fall on wet surfaces.

While most slips result in minor bumps and bruises, your child could hit their head and lose consciousness in a serious fall. Save your kids the screech of the pool whistle or the pain of a fall by teaching them about pool safety.

Make sure they know to walk around the pool and save the horsing around for a safer environment.

4. Have goggles handy

If your child slips underwater at the lake, it could be murky. Always keep goggles on hand so you can find your child quickly and easily in the water.

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Be prepared for emergencies

Read our guide on what to do if your child slips underwater to prevent drowning.

5. Establish a buddy system

If your kids are old enough to want a little independence, set up a buddy system with friends. Make sure your kids know that they’re in charge of looking out for one another and alerting an adult immediately if something happens.

Consider giving them a waterproof kid's GPS tracker or smartwatch so you can find them in a hurry or call to check in.

6. When possible, keep kids near a lifeguard

Swimming near lifeguards means help won’t ever be too far away, and professional eyes are always watching out for your little ones. It isn't always easy to spot a drowning victim, but certified lifeguards have what it takes to rescue people in distress and enforce pool safety rules. 

7. Use other water safety devices

There’s no such thing as being too safe around water. Consider buying some of the following water safety supplies to keep your kids secure when playing in the ocean, pool, or lake.

  • Pool alarms: Pool safety alarms come in many different styles: some monitor motion on the water’s surface, while others detect if a pool gate has been opened. Whether an animal, neighbor, or your child ventures into the pool area unsupervised, you’ll know about it.
  • Pool gates, nets, and covers: Most states have laws about fencing off pools, but even if yours doesn’t, you should still install a fence or secure pool cover at your home. Verify that whatever option you choose can bear enough weight to keep your child safe.
  • Drain covers: Drains use suction to siphon water into the filter for cleaning. If your child swims near a drain, they could get stuck. Buy a drain cover that keeps hair, bathing suits, and body parts out.
  • Wearable alarm bracelets: You can buy a GPS tracker for your kids and set safe perimeter zones around the pool. That way, if they get too close to the water, you get an alert to save them from danger.
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Read our full water safety equipment guide

Compare different types of pool alarms, discover pool barrier options, and shop for rescue equipment with the help of our pool safety equipment guide

8. Recognize dangerous swimming conditions

When bringing your family to a lake or beach, beware of dangerous conditions like algal blooms, rip currents, and irresponsible boaters.

  • Blue-green algae is toxic and potentially fatal when swallowed or inhaled.2
  • Rip currents pose a threat along the Great Lakes and oceanfront beaches.3 Even a strong swimmer in shallow water can get pulled into deep open water by a rip current.
  • Cold water can kill.  Avoid water temperatures lower than 77 degrees Fahrenheit.4
  • Boats, jet skis, and personal watercraft can collide with swimmers or create overwhelming waves when operated irresponsibly. Be on the lookout.

Final word

Small children should always be under adult supervision when around water. Use our tips to supplement your own parental instincts when it comes to pool and lake safety for kids. Consider signing up for the American Red Cross's free online water safety course for an added dose of confidence and caution.


Sources

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Unintentional Drowning: Get the Facts,” March 2022. Accessed June 29, 2022.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Avoiding Harmful Algal Blooms," May 2022. Accessed June 29, 2022.
  3. National Ocean Service, "What Is a Rip Current?" February 2021. Accessed June 29, 2022.
  4. National Center for Cold Water Safety, "What Is Cold Water?" Accessed June 29, 2022.
  5. Ruth Brenner, MD, MPH, et al., Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine, "Association Between Swimming Lessons and Drowning in Childhood," March 2009. Accessed June 29, 2022. 

Compare the best child safety products

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Best booster seat For kids up to 120 lbs. 3 layers of side-impact protection
Best kids GPS tracker Encrypted location trackingGeofences
Best kids phoneUnlimited talk and textGPS tracking
Best kids smartwatch Two-way voice and messagingUp to 53 parent-approved contacts
Best parental control appRequires iOS 11 or Android 5 and upMonitors 24 social networks
Best kids bike helmet47–57 cm. head circumferenceEasy-to-adjust tri-glide strap sliders

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. SafeWise uses paid Amazon links.

John Carlsen
Written by
John Carlsen
John is a technology journalist specializing in smart home devices, security cameras, and home security systems. He has over nine years of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech—he was the Smart Home Editor for Top Ten Reviews and wrote for ASecureLife before joining SafeWise as a Staff Writer in 2020. John holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications, Journalism emphasis from Utah Valley University. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, photography, cooking, and starting countless DIY projects he has yet to complete.

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