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June 20, 2019

Swim & Water Safety for Little Learners


Water safety saves lives.

swim and water safety for children
Water play is a great way to cool off and spark learning and fun for your little fish. But it also comes with some serious safety risks. Most recently, The German Lifeguard Association — the world’s largest lifeguard organization — issued a warning to adults on phone distraction.

In the U.S., drowning rates are highest among children ages 1 to 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And most of drownings occur in home pools.

To make sure Indiana families know best practices for swim and water safety, we compiled some lessons and tips from our friends at Indy Parks.

Swim & Water Safety Tips

1. Be cool, follow the rules.

Before your child cannonballs into the pool, be sure to talk to them. Take time to discuss pool rules and why they’re important. Here are a few basic, but important, rules to remind them of:

  • Use walking feet.
  • No diving in shallow water.
  • Don’t get in the pool or body of water unless there is a lifeguard on duty or an adult watching.
  • Never go to a pool alone.

Also, point out any lifeguard stands and first aid stations. Talk to your child about the role of lifeguards. Make sure they know who to go to if help is needed.

2. Always swim with supervision and a buddy.

No matter how much experience they’ve had in the water, young children aren’t strong enough swimmers to be on their own. Remind your child under the age of 9 to stay within arms reach of an adult at all times while in the pool. Older children should swim with a buddy in a supervised area.

3. Practice floating positions.

Wrangling your child into the back float may not be easy, but it’s an important skill for them to learn. Before attempting it, explain why it’s so important.

Activities to try:

  • Floating in different positions – front float, survival float and back float
  • Breathing control – blowing bubbles while floating
  • Rolling over from front to back

4. Look before you leap.

Teach your child about water hazards. Share that they need to make sure the coast is clear before jumping in. Discuss what children should look for before they jump in the water. Make it fun: have them look and then jump into the pool while yelling “Look Before You Leap!”

5. Think so you don’t sink.

Help your child identify safe ways to help themselves if they have trouble in the water. 

  • If they get too tired:
    • What to do: Float and rest on their back before trying to get out and call for help.
    • How to prevent it: Rest frequently out of the water.
  • If they choke on water:
    • What to do: Relax. Tread water or float on their back while coughing.
    • How to prevent it: Learn good breath control. Never eat or chew gum in the water.

6. Wear a life jacket.

Sinking and floating is an early science concept that child care programs often discuss in the classroom. You can use your child’s knowledge of sinking and floating to discuss the importance of a life jacket.

Look for signs of learning at your child’s care.

If your child care program is making a day trip to the pool or any other body of water, ask:

  • Do you have extra staff with you for this trip?
  • What type of first aid training does the staff have? Are they trained to perform CPR?
  • Is the body of water free of pests or other hazards like sewage overflows, animal feces, blue-green algal bloom or Naegleria fowleri (an amoeba commonly found in soil and warm freshwater)?

7. Reach or throw, don’t go.

Teach your child skills on what to do if someone else is in trouble. Emphasize why children should not go into the water to rescue someone in trouble. Instead, they can help in other ways such as:

  • Throwing something that floats to the person in distress
  • Using something to extend their reach to someone and pull them in
  • Making sure to get down low, on their stomach, so they won’t be pulled in
  • Calling for help

If you have a pool and believe they are ready, have older child practice saving someone with equipment.

8. Call 911.

Explain when and how to call 911. Be clear that 911 is for emergencies only. Use a fake phone and have your child practice calling 911. Role play with your child and pretend to answer the call and ask questions. They should be able to say where they are and describe the situation.


According to the CDC, an average of 10 people a day die from unintentional drowning. Software engineer Francisco Saldaña created the simple educational game to help people recognize the deadly situation. A person who is drowning is physiologically incapable of calling out or waving for help – meaning often there is little noise or splash. Things to look for instead:

  • The individual’s mouth bobs above and below the surface while the body remains upright without evidence of kicking.
  • The individual’s arms spread to the side and push down against the water to try and push their mouths out of the water.

Discussing water safety with your little one can save their life. For more information on swimming information and safety for Indiana families, visit