Prevent drowning by teaching children swimming safety

You can help prevent drowning incidents by teaching your children basic safety rules and swimming skills.

The following are suggestions to help you prepare your child for water-related activities.

  • Teach your children four key swimming rules:1
    1. Always swim with a buddy.
    2. Don't dive into unknown bodies of water. Jump feet first.
    3. Don't push or jump on others while in the water.
    4. Be prepared for an emergency. Instruct children on getting help from an adult or calling 911.
  • Don't let your child use inflatable swimming aids (such as "water wings") without constant supervision. They can deflate or a child can slip out of them. In addition, children can develop habits using these devices that can put them at risk for drowning. For example, a child who frequently uses water wings may learn to jump into a pool on impulse. He or she may do so while not wearing the devices, before having a chance to think about it.
  • As a parent, learn to swim if you do not already know how. Also, learn swimming survival and rescue techniques.
  • Enroll children older than age 4 in swimming classes. Younger children may benefit from some carefully designed instruction where they are with a parent in the water. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend lessons for children younger than age 4.2 Both parents and children may be less cautious around water from gaining a false sense of security. In addition, very young children have swallowed so much water during lessons that they develop water intoxication, which can cause convulsions, shock, and sometimes death.


  1. National Safety Council (accessed November 2008). Water safety. National Safety Council Fact Sheet. Available online:
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics (2004). Keeping your child safe. In SP Shevlov, RE Hannemann, eds., Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 4th ed., pp. 423–470. New York: Bantam.

Last Updated: December 3, 2008

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