Child Pool Safety Tips for Parents

Warmer weather means more water time for many families in the United States. Pool safety should be your top priority when venturing out to bodies of water. We’ve got some pool facts as well as some tips on pool safety for kids to ensure your family is safe this Summer.

Popularity of Swimming in The United States

Going for a dive in a home swimming pool or public swimming pool is the fourth most popular activity in the United States. There are over 10 million residential pools and over 309,000 public swimming pools across the country. This means there is a body of water ready for you almost everywhere you look. 36 percent of children from the ages of 7 to 17 and 15 percent of adults hit the water each year. This doesn’t even count for the over 90 million people that swim in other bodies of water like lakes, rivers and oceans every year. With this many people around water every year, it’s important to know all of the measures you need to take to ensure your family is safe.

Facts and Figures

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drowning is the leading cause of death by unintentional injury in children ages 1 through 4, and the second leading cause in kids ages 5 through 9. Each year more than 300 children this age drown in a residential pool. Many of these pools are owned by the child’s family. At the time of many of the incidents, many of the victims were being watched by one or both parents. They may escape out of the house, roam from the front yard to the backyard or fall while walking near the pool. Many of these incidents happen in familiar surroundings. One of the scariest statistics to many is that 77 percent of drowning victims were only missing five minutes or less.

About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
-Source: CDC

Pool Safety Checklist For Parents

Parents can use some basic swimming safety for kids tips to ensure their entire family is safe at the pool. Take note, these tips could save you or your loved one’s life.

pool safety checklist

Teach Children to Swim

Make sure children learn how to swim before getting in the pool. They should know basic techniques of swimming. Swim lessons will not ensure a child will not drown. They can only give children the techniques to swim. The goal of swim lessons is to help children feel comfortable in the water first, then learn skills to swim that could save their life. If they cannot swim, they should wear a life jacket in the pool. Children should never swim without adult supervision.

Not sure where to find lessons? The USA Swimming Foundation has a tool to help you find swimming lessons near you.

find swimming lessons

Teach Kids to Avoid Drains

Many people don’t realize that they can get sucked down and trapped in a drain.
Few parents realize that children can die in a pool or hot tub by getting sucked down and trapped in a drain. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act went into effect in 2008 stating all public pools must have anti-entrapment drain covers. The problem is that not all pools were made after 2008, and not all residential pools are in compliance. Always make sure your drain covers are not broken or missing. All pools should have at least two drains for each pump. Single drain bodies of water should have vacuum-release systems to release suction from a blocked drain.

NEVER Leave Children Unattended

You may think it’s crazy to ponder the thought of leaving your child unattended. You also might think turning away for a few seconds is harmless. Drowning can happen in seconds. A child can fall in the water the millisecond you turn your back. Many people take it for granted when there are a lot of people at the pool that someone is watching their child. If there is no official “water watcher,” there could be no one with eyes on your child. Never leave your child without someone watching them. It only takes a minute to go under.

Put Away Your Phone

Parents often tell children to stay in the shallow end. They pick up their phone to play or talk thinking the child is playing in the shallow end. That child can easily slip beneath the surface where they cannot touch. Lifeguards are not babysitters, so put down unnecessary distractions like your phone to make sure you stay focused on your children.

Install and Check Barriers and Covers

You may need to hire a professional to open your pool for the season. It’s important to check that the pool’s safety cover is working, the electrical components are safely working, the alarms and drain covers are in good condition, and the gate is in working condition. If there is a ladder, remove it. Repair any loose screws or rough edges.

Keep Rescue Equipment Near the Pool

Rescue equipment should always be near the pool. Make sure you have a flotation device near the swimming area. You should also have a float and a shepherd’s crook reaching pole near the pool.

Remove Toys When Not in Use

Always clean up toys around the pool area. Young children will run after a ball or go for a toy near the water. They could easily trip falling into the pool. Children even ride bicycles into the water on accident. It only takes a few seconds to pick up toys around the pool. These seconds could save your child’s life.

Have a Plan

If your child goes missing, it’s important to have a plan in place. Act immediately if you cannot find your child. Search the water first. Remember they can go under within seconds. They can drown within minutes. Every moment counts.

Know CPR

Even if you just know the basics of CPR, you are ahead of the curve. Knowing CPR could mean life or death. Sign up for CPR classes. Even if a child does not need CPR after a near drowning incident, they could still have water in their lungs. Watch out for coughing, rapid breathing and/or lethargy. Never hesitate to call 911 or a doctor if you have concerns.

Child in Distress

You should know what a child in distress looks like in water. Children don’t flop around and splash when drowning. It happens silently and quickly. Always look for children to make sure their head is above water. If their head is tipped back, this is a bad sign.

Pool Fences

Installing a fence around your pool could save a life. A four-sided fence may not be aesthetically pleasing, but if it prevents drowning then it’s worth it. The fence should be at least 4 feet high. Be sure to choose self-closing and self-latching gates. Latches should be above a child’s reach.

Pool Covers

If possible, it’s best to cover the pool when it is not in use. You should use a safety cover, a motorized one is possible. This helps the temperature stay warm in the water and also keeps anyone from falling into the water. The cover needs to go over the entire pool surface with a snug fit.

Pool vs. Open Water Swimming

Children need to know different safety measures when going from the pool to open water. Open water swimming includes swimming in large bodies of water like rivers, oceans or lakes. Things like strong currents, low visibility and dangerous areas that suddenly drop off are a scary thing for any swimmer. Over 80 percent of open water drownings in children ages 0 to 19 happen to males. It’s important to teach children open water safety tips such as:

  • Watch Your Surroundings – Look for areas that may have low visibility, uneven surfaces, high waves or currents.
  • Make sure kids can do these five survival techniques: return to the surface quickly when they jump in water over their head, turn around to get to safety, tread water, combine breathing and movement, and exit the water easily.
  • Never swim without an adult watching.
  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

Additional Drowning Hazards for Children

There are many additional drowning hazards for children. It’s important for children and parents to be aware of the hazards surrounding water. Many times, people just think drowning is about falling in and going under the water. However, there are other things to think about with pools.

It’s Not Just Deep Water

Swimming safety for kids isn’t just about big pools and large bodies of water. Children should be watched when they’re around even the smallest bits of water. A child can drown in less than two inches of water. This means even a tiny plastic swimming pool for toddlers isn’t safe when no one is watching the swimmer. Even a wading pool should be drained when there is no adult supervision. Large inflatable pools that can be filled with hundreds of gallons of water are tough to drain and these cause a threat when they sit in the yard with water. It’s important to drain them and cover when not in use.

Talk About It

It’s a scary topic, but it’s important to talk to your children about drowning. Talk to them about pool safety and never swimming without supervision. You don’t want to scare them, but you want them to be vigilant around water. It’s important to talk about this with community friends as well so you can all be on the same page regarding swimming safety procedures to keep everyone’s kids safe.

Don’t Rely on Flotation Devices

Don’t think things like floaties and inner tubes keep your child safe. If it isn’t labeled Coast Guard approved, then don’t use it as a safety flotation device. Pool noodles and water wings aren’t designed to save your life.


What’s the main thing overlooked when teaching kids to swim?

It’s important to teach kids to kick. Many times, people just pump their arms. It’s actually more about the kicking. This helps to aid in floating, balance, and propulsion.

What do I teach kids about not grabbing others when they can’t touch?

Tell children if they cannot touch, it’s not time to panic. Don’t grab on to other people. In doing so, the other person is at risk of going under, too. Remain calm and swim to the side of the pool.

What is dry drowning?

Though it is rare, dry drowning occurs when a child gulps in a large amount of water. The muscles in the windpipe protect the lungs by becoming constrained. Watch out for difficulty breathing, chest pain, coughing, and lethargy.

Overall, pool safety for kids starts with respecting the water. It’s important to teach children to swim at an early age, but don’t depend on those skills at all times. With proper supervision by parents and a community of prepared adults, children should be safe in the water. When the temperatures rise and people spend more and more time near the water it’s important to put safety first so everyone has a great, safe time.


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