Water Safety For Toddlers

Never leave your child unattended by a body of water. Here are some tips to help you take adequate precautions when near water.

Drowning is one of the most common forms of accidental death for children. Toddlers are especially susceptible because they are so active and parents want to give them increasing amounts of independence. But without secure boundaries, children can get into deep trouble while playing in or near water.

Provide your toddlers with the best possible protection if you plan to put in a home swimming pool or go on vacation near a sizable body of water.

1. Give them swimming lessons. Classes with organizations like the YMCA now start for children as young as six to nine months. Find out if such classes are available in your community, or ask about finding someone to start one. Many instructors insist that the parent be part of the swimming lessons in holding and guiding young children in their efforts to navigate water. All kids should know how to swim, dog paddle, or float well enough to keep from drowning.

2. Teach kids to float or dog paddle. If swimming lessons aren't available, train kids to float or dog paddle in the water. You might be able to do this in the bathtub, but be very careful that children do not slip or go under and swallow water. It may be a good idea to have a certified swim instructor provide private lessons to your little one if regular classes aren't held locally.

3. Provide safety gear to your children when they are around water. Water wings or a life vest (while boating) are the minimum steps to take that may help to protect your kids in case of an accident. They should not be allowed to play in the water while wearing these things, as the equipment may actually become a hindrance and lead to problems when used improperly.

4. Never try to watch several children around the pool at the same time. Whether at a commercial pool or one that sits in your back yard, kids and water can become a dangerous combination, especially when they start fooling around by splashing each other and diving when they shouldn't. Limit the number of kids under your supervision at the pool or enlist another adult's help. Be sure both of you can swim well enough to save a drowning child and know how to use the life-saving equipment.

5. Keep a fence around the at-home pool. Many state and local laws require it, so check community codes before you build or use a home pool. Make sure the gate is kept latched. The pool should be drained in fall and covered with an appropriate pool cover that fastens securely. Never leave children unsupervised near even a dry pool, as they may tumble in or get caught under the cover and become asphyxiated.

Water safety is a vital part of raising children. Don't take chances by dropping your kids off at a neighbor's pool or setting up a home pool without adequate protections. Tots can drown in a bucket of water since their heads are disproportionately heavier than their bodies. Take steps to instruct and protect your kids so that they learn to respect water safety.

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