Water Safety for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Young children are incredibly active. Your toddler probably loves to run, dig, climb, and jump. As he or she learns more about their environment and becomes more coordinated, supervision and child-proofing your home becomes more complicated.
While most drownings in bathtubs tend to happen to infants, toddlers and preschoolers are not old enough to take a bath alone either. An adult should always be present in the room during bath time. Prevent a potential incident and pick up a Tubby Tag.
Toddlers make up the largest age group of drowning victims, and here in Arizona, they are most at risk for drowning in a swimming pool. Having layers of protection is critical. Follow these ABC’s of Water Safety: Adult supervision, Barriers between children and the water, and Classes in CPR for adults, and swimming lessons for children at the appropriate age.
Tips for your child around a pool or hot tubs
- Learn how to better supervise your toddler beside the pool. See these Water Watchers Pool Safety Tips.
- Your toddler is so active now - child-proofing your home and backyard is more important than ever.
- Portable or inflatable poolscan be found in many stores. While inexpensive, these can be potentially dangerous for your toddler.
- The drain in your hot tub and pool can be a hazard.
To address the highest-risk age group and give parents a quick pool safety plan for toddlers and preschoolers, Phoenix Children’s Hospital developed the “Playing it Safe” parent education program.
Tips for your child around spas or Jacuzzis
If you have a backyard hot tub, also known as a spa or Jacuzzi, your preschooler may want to take a dip with you. To make sure your toddler doesn't find her way into the hot tub without you, install a child-proof, locking cover, and lock it after every use or check of the water. Check the drains in the unit to make sure they are Virginia Graeme Baker compliant. To reduce the risk of entrapment in the drain, braid a child’s long hair. Finally, make sure that only a sober and capable adult brings your toddler or preschooler into the hot tub, with the water at a safe temperature.
Tips for safe pool parties at your home
Arizona families love the outdoors. In the winter , we ignore blizzard warnings elsewhere and enjoy tossing a ball with our kids. In the summer, we splash the triple digits away. family gatherings in our backyard are a way of life.
While you prep for gatherings by making your grocery list and sweeping the back porch, plan ahead to make sure your guests are safe. When hosting an outdoor gathering include these strategies:
- As guests arrive, ask if their child can swim or not, so that non-swimmers receive "touch-distance" supervision during swim time. Remind other adults of the need for close supervision.
- Designate "Water Watchers", "to provide constant, capable supervision when children have access to the pool, wether they are swimming or not.
- Set a limit in alcohol consumed by the "Water Watcher", just as for a designated driver.
- Offer a US Coast Guard approved life jacket for the non-swimming children, rather than relying on arm-float toys.
- Young children may get tired during swim time- offer safe activities away from the pool, such as movies or games.
- Give pets free-swim time with children in another area, so large dogs don't knock children into the water.
- Make an announcement when mealtime begins, that the pool area is "closed". Scan the area carefully before locking the gate, and do a head-count of the children.
The drain in your hot tub and pool can be a hazard. In 2002, seven-year old Virginia Graeme Baker drown as a result of a faulty drain at the bottom of a hot tub. Federal legislation was eventually enacted to improve safety in spas and pools. The act created guidelines for safer drain covers, suction systems, and drain system designs, preventing entrapment injuries and deaths.
- Drain cover(s) that comply with ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007 standards. Covers more than a few months old likely need to be replaced, and the cost of a new cover is approximately $50.
- Drain cover(s) that are labeled "VGB 2008" or "ASME/ANSI A112.19.8-2007".
- Drain cover(s) should be at least three feet apart, from edge to edge.
- If a pool or spa has a single main drain, or if the drain covers are to close together, families should install a "Suction Valve Release system". This system monitors the water flow, and if a vacuum occurs, such as when a child covers the drain with thief stomach or backside, the system automatically shuts off so the vacuum is released.
More information about entrapment hazards:
Tips for your child around other bodies of water
As your toddler grows bigger and stronger, you can enjoy more adventures away from home. Visiting rivers and lakes, running along the canal, and heading out on a boat are all challenges you may find yourself doing together. Just as when you are beside the backyard pool, constant, capable supervision is a must. Designate a “Water Watcher” when you are near the open water, even during chilly winter months. And when you head out on a boat together, always insist on a properly fitting, U.S. Coast Guard approved life vest for everyone on the boat. If your home is on a lake, install a child-proof fence to keep your toddler from reaching the water if there is a lapse in supervision.
Also, dry washes in Arizona can fill very quickly and become fast-running rivers. Avoid these areas with your toddler if there is rain in the area.
CPR and choosing a babysitter wisely
When you choose a babysitter for your toddler, make sure the caregiver is old enough to handle this important responsibility, CPR-trained, and able to make a rescue in your backyard pool if necessary. Explain all your safety rules, and encourage your babysitter to call you with questions.
Keep your CPR certification current. Knowing what to do in a water-related emergency can save a life. Take CPR regularly with a credible organization, and review the materials twice a year. If you don’t know how to swim, take lessons so that you can perform a rescue if necessary.