Getting your child comfortable with the water is one of the best things you can do for your child. Not only does providing a basic level of water literacy give you a head start in teaching your child to swim, it’s also a ton of fun!

But the water is dangerous.

According to the CDC, drowning is one of the leading preventable causes of death among children in the United States. Twenty percent of drowning deaths each year are children under the age of 14.

Toddlers in particular, children aged 1-3 years, are at the highest risk of
drowning. Drowning is the second most common cause of death for toddlers following birth defects.

Yikes.

Here are some pool safety tips for toddlers and parents so that everyone can enjoy the pool safely.

Understand your role as a parent at the pool.

Over the years I have watched a great deal of parents lose sight of their children at the pool because of the belief that the lifeguards are there to babysit and care for their toddler.

But although they wear the fancy red shirt and walk around with a swim buoy, it’s not the lifeguard’s job to babysit. A lifeguard is there to enforce safety and in the case of emergency.

They aren’t babysitters.

It’s not their job to follow your child around the pool and make sure that they are following the pool rules or behaving in a safe manner. It’s the parents responsibility to ensure their child’s safety at the pool. Full stop.

This means wearing the best swim vest for your toddler, keeping your child within arm’s reach at all times (even in the shallowest of water), and making yourself aware of the pool rules before you jump into the water to splash and play.

Refresh on your basic CPR.

Along the same lines of not depending on your pool lifeguard to solve every safety issue, make sure that you brush up on your basic toddler CPR and water safety training.

This kind of education is extremely handy, as many pools, particularly when you go abroad, and open bodies of water do not have lifeguards on standby in the case of emergency.

The Red Cross and many local lifesaving organizations provide basic first aid and water safety training.

Fence in your home pool.

For those of you lucky enough to have a pool in the confines of your home, make sure that the pool is fenced in and inaccessible to children.

Backyard drownings are common and one of the simplest ways to cut down on this type of accident is to have an enclosure around the pool that can be locked.

Use the right type of flotation device.

Flotation devices, whether they are life jackets, a pool noodle, or water wings, can provide a false sense of security. Inflatable flotation devices like water wings solicit a particular sense of comfort, but they can be taken off, ruptured, or simply deflate.

Opt for something like a toddler’s swim vest, which helps a child float, won’t rupture, and is difficult to take off. For your basic backyard swimming, a swim vest is more appropriate than a thick life jacket, which are difficult to maneuver in and are more appropriate for colder, open water situations.

Keep in mind that swim vests, which are much lighter and doesn’t tend to provide as much flotation as a lifejacket, are not always certified or approved as a personal flotation device.

If you are confused about the difference, you can read this post where we break down the difference.

Having fun in the pool

Water safety is a critical life skill that children should learn early. While formal lessons should be avoided for the first year, getting your child comfortable with the water is a big first step on their journey towards being water literate.
Introduce your child slowly, make it enjoyable, and don’t push them if they aren’t comfortable with the water right away.

Have fun, be safe, and don’t forget to not run on the pool deck!