12 Essential Water Safety Tips for a Refreshing Swim

Little girl with her mother playing in swimming pool during summer

As the temperature rises, your kids will no doubt enjoy plenty of water activities — from splash pads to backyard swimming pools and lakes.

While fun in the water makes for great memories and photo opportunities, it’s important to keep safety top-of-mind. According to the Canadian government, between April 2011 and July 2021, there were 918 drowning-related cases reported in select emergency departments across Canada.

Unfortunately, children and infants aged 9 years or younger represented the largest percentage of drowning-related cases at 80%. So, before you head out on the water, here are some tips to help you and your family splash and be safe.

Water Safety Tips

  1. Lessons. Enroll your kids in swimming lessons — this goes for parents too (it’s never too late to learn to swim)! It’s also a good idea to take a combined course in CPR and first aid training. The Heart and Stroke Foundation offers courses across the country.
  2. Supervision. Never leave children alone or unattended while they’re in or near the water. Keep younger children within arm’s reach. A young child can drown in just a few centimetres of water in seconds. We discuss this in more detail, in our other water safety article.
  3. Life jackets and Personal flotation devices (PFDs). Use approved personal flotation devices for young and inexperienced swimmers. Make sure they are in good working order and fit correctly. Don’t rely solely on the weight listed on a PFD label.
  4. Safety equipment. Keep lifesaving equipment nearby including a safety ring with a rope, a reaching pole, a phone and a first aid kit.
  5. Fence it in. If you have a pool, enclose it with a fence that has a self-closing and self-latching gate. Refer to your municipal bylaws for public safety requirements like fence height. It’s not just for safety; it’s the law!
  6. Play with care. When supervising your kids around the water, be sure to reinforce pool safety rules – like no running on the deck, no pushing, no dunking, etc.
  7. Diving. Do not let your child dive into the water headfirst unless they are properly trained and the water is deep enough. Very few residential pools are safe for diving, so make it a rule to enter feet first.
  8. Drains. Tell your children to stay away from pool drains as they can trap hair, loose swim gear, fingers and toes. Tie your child’s hair back and remove jewelry, and we recommend you have your children wear swim caps too! Before you open your pool for the summer, make sure drain covers are regularly checked by professionals.
  9. When not in use. When not in use, it is important to store away any patio furniture or large objects that could be used to climb the fence, take away toys that could draw children to the pool, take ladders off of above-ground pools, lock any doors or gates that lead to the pool area, and empty wading pools.
  10. Swimming at a friend’s house. If your child is going swimming at a friend’s house, speak to the parents ahead of time to ensure you’re all on the same page in terms of pool rules. Also make sure that the kids will always be supervised and that they will have access to PFDs.
  11. Swimming in open bodies of water. There are additional considerations to keep in mind when swimming in open water. The Canadian Red Cross recommends checking weather conditions before going out into the water, obeying signs that indicate if it’s safe to swim, and being aware of currents, water temperature, waves and depth.
  12. General health safety. Apply sunscreen (and reapply every two to three hours). Also, keep well hydrated.

With these tips in mind, here’s to countless hours of enjoyment and family fun by the sparkling blue water!

Any tips you’d like to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!

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