Water Safety for Children: How to Keep Kids Safe

Reading Time: 3 minutesWith temperatures at an all-time high and families understandably flocking towards water as a form of respite, infant water survival specialist Ada Yip shares her water safety tips for children near water.

Children are naturally drawn to pools, hot tubs, ditches, ponds and lakes and, despite a parent’s best effort, it only takes a turn of the head for an accident to occur. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in America (CDC) drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children age one to four years in USA, and while the statistics in China are not available, I suspect drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death there, too. 

Flotation devices such as water wings, floaties, swim trainers and the like are useful, but can foster a false sense of security with children thinking they can swim better than they actually can. For infants and toddlers, aquatic survival skills provide extra protection at a time when they are most vulnerable to drowning. So if you haven’t already, consider enrolling your child in one of Hong Kong’s many aquatic survival classes, designed specifically to teach water safety to children.

Lessons can be started from six months and will initially teach children to swim and roll onto their back, the skills needed to survive in the water. Children can learn water survival skills within 4-6 weeks time.

swimming teacher teaching water safety for kids

Survival Swim programmes focus on survival swimming. Babies and young children are taught to float and breathe, regardless of the water’s depth, for an indefinite period of time until help arrives. 

Below is one rather chilling story about survival skills. 

“While on a sailing vacation with her family, two-year-old Camille walked alongside her mother and five-year-old brother atop a concrete pier five feet above the ocean marina. She turned to say something to her mother, fell into the 12-foot deep, oily, jellyfish infested water and disappeared into the blackness below. Her mother, paralyzed with fear, was unable to move. After what seemed like an eternity, Camille reappeared on the water’s surface, floating on her back and breathing normally. She remained floating for several minutes until she could be rescued. Camille’s mother had enrolled her in survival swimming lessons as an infant. She credits these lessons with saving her daughter’s life.” 

Picking the right swim programme for your child

Evaluating different swim programmes can be challenging – here are a few pointers.

  • Check out the facility and observe some lessons
  • Talk to other parents whose children have participated in the programme you are considering.
  • Notice the progress the students are making during lessons. Is the instructor working with one child or a group of children? Are the children responding to the instructor or sitting on the steps?
  • Are the students learning how to handle real life situations? For example, can they get back to the steps if they fall off? Can they float independently, or only with assistance? Do they know how to roll over and maintain the essential survival back float?
  • The person you place in charge of your child’s aquatic education should be an experienced professional, capable of teaching the most reluctant student. The choice of your child’s swimming instructor may be as important as his preschool or pediatrician

children practicing water safety for kids in swimming pool

9 water safety tips for kids

  • DO provide constant supervision when your child is in, or around, water. Or use “shared supervision” with another adult who can swim 
  • DO be careful when your child jumps in the pool to you. Always give a few feet distance between you and your child. It is better for you to move closer to your child after they jump into the water rather than have them smash you in the face when they jump.
  • DO check the pool drain before allowing children to swim near it. Underwater drain covers should be raised with a grate and not flat as the bottom of the pool. Flat drain covers could pull children in and entrap them beneath the surface.
  • DO check for dehydration. Children playing under the sun should rehydrate every 20mins.
  • DO share all of this information with ANYONE who is in the water with your child.
  • DON’T wear floaties or water wings in open water.  Use a proper life vest. According to the CDC, 88 per cent of victims of boating accidents were killed while not wearing a life jacket.
  • DON’T allow your child to play in a jacuzzi. Suction drains can be powerful and can pull a child underwater if their swimming costume or hair gets caught.
  • DON’T Horseplay. Pushing others into the water or holding someone beneath the surface could be very dangerous and have serious consequences. Talk with your children about proper behaviour while they are swimming.
  • DON’T allow your child to swim with anyone who will not follow these guidelines.

The best thing anyone can do to ensure a safe time in the water is by learning how to swim. This includes both adults and children. 

Ada Yip is founder of Infant Aquatics Hong Kong; the only US Certified Infant Aquatics swim school in Hong Kong and China. Ada and her instructors are dedicated to solely teaching infants and young children lifesaving survival skills.

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