Safe in the Pool: Water Safety Tips for Your Child

Now that the heat of the 2020 summer has landed in Missouri, families in St. Louis and beyond are looking for safe, socially distant ways to stay cool and have fun. Swimming pools, creeks, and rivers are a wonderful way to enjoy fresh air and to find relief as the heat index rises.

Each year, Missouri and Illinois children lose their lives to often-preventable drowning accidents. In fact, drowning is the No. 1 cause of death for toddlers between the ages of 1 and 4 years old, and the No. 2 cause for children up to 15 years old. Even kids who have taken swimming lessons and are “good” swimmers can become victims. Following a few simple steps for pool and water safety can keep you from having to accept the ultimate tragedy.


Never leave a child alone when water is present. It only takes a second for a seemingly safe situation to turn deadly, and drowning deaths often occur within two minutes of a child being submerged. Inflatable pools, buckets, and even the shallow end of a pool can be deceptive; it takes only two inches of water to drown a child. No matter their age, keeping a watchful eye on children of all ages can save a life.


Create a verbal cue. Teach small children to ask permission before jumping in a pool or waterway so that they are less likely to make that decision on their own.

Don’t rely on floaties.

Never count on water wings or flotation devices to keep your child safe in any body of water, but particularly not in rivers or lakes. Life jackets should always be worn when a child is around an open body of water like a lake or a river, but flotation devices such as inner tube toys and water wings give adults (and children) a false sense of security. Water wings and other attachable devices can slip off, and children can lose grasp or fall off of floating pool toys.

Prepare your child.

Teach children water safety skills. Learning to swim is important for anyone 4 years old or older, but sometimes it’s not the big skills that save lives. Teach young children to work their way toward the wall of a pool, then to work their way hand-over-hand toward pool ladders or stairs. Even young children can learn to float on their backs if they find themselves in trouble. Children can also learn to tread water, and they can learn to open their eyes under water to help find their way when needed. All of these skills can be taught in fun and encouraging ways.


Install fences and barriers. Though pool fences and barriers are required by law in some places, yet many homeowners fail to install these important safeguards — particularly when young children don’t live in the home full-time. Yet this time of year, many families visit homes of grandparents or other relatives or friends who have backyard pools or other water access. Better to be safe than sorry. Fences and barriers save lives and should be installed anytime there is access to water.


Take the time to learn CPR. When pool safety measures fail, knowing CPR can make a difference between life and death. Though access to classes by certified agencies may be limited due to COVID-19, you can still learn enough to save a life by watching video tutorials on YouTube or other platforms. The more you know, the better prepared you will be in the event of a potentially tragic situation.