Swimming safety for kids

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Drowning is the number one cause of unintentional injury deaths among children one to four years of age, and the second leading cause of preventable death for children under 10 years of age in Canada (Lifesaving Society). In most cases, this happens because nobody is watching the kids in the water. Backyard pools are the most common places for children under five years old to drown. To prevent this, follow these safety tips:

Establish swimming rules

Give your children some general rules to remember. Tell them to:

  • Keep at least two metres away from other kids/people who are not part of your household.
  • Wear a life jacket especially if they don’t know how to swim.
  • Never swim alone. Always pair up with a buddy.
  • Always check the depth of the water before going in or diving.
  • Don’t go in the deep area of the pool (or lake) especially if they are not good swimmers yet.
  • Stay away from above knee water if they are younger than five years old.
  • Avoid water level higher than their chest if they are older kids who are intermediate swimmers.

Watch and actively supervise

Always have someone close by to watch. This could be you or another adult who is a good swimmer. If your child is under five years old or is a weak swimmer, stay within an arm’s length. Even older kids need supervision. They can get in trouble especially in open water. Again, kids should always wear a life jacket when swimming.

Teach kids Swim to Survive

Swim to Survive is a three-step technique that teaches kids what do in case they fall into deep water. These skills help prevent drowning and water-related injuries. Learn about this technique from the video below (this video is also available in French, Cantonese, Hindi, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi and Tamil here: Swim to Survive YouTube):

Swim to Survive, Ontario Branch of the Lifesaving Society

Sign up for swimming lessons

Everyone should learn how to swim. There are many programs available in Manitoba for you and your children (check this page for courses or check the latest Leisure Guide). To better protect your family and others, learn basic First Aid and CPR. These skills could save lives.

Practice pool safety

If you have a pool at home, control access by installing a 1.2 m (4 ft) fence on all four sides. Include a locking, self-closing, self-latching gate to prevent your baby, toddler and even pets from accidentally falling in. Also make sure that diving boards and slides have a non-slip surface.

If you have small wading pools, drain them after use. Turn them over so that they cannot fill up with rainwater.

Life saving equipment should always be close by, such as a buoyant throwing aid with a rope, reaching pole, and a first-aid kit. Have a phone handy for any emergency.
Article updated March 9, 2023.
Adapted from: New in Canada Parenting Support Child Safety Series, Learn about swimming safety, CMAS Canada/CIC/Lifesaving Society

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Community Resources

The Canadian Red Cross website has a page on summer water safety for activities like swimming and boating. You can also check the site for CPR courses in your area.

Visit Lifesaving Society Manitoba to know more about the Water Smart program.

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Swimming safety for kids

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