3 Steps to a Safer Summer of Splashing

Photo courtesy of Anya Hall

Photo courtesy of Anya Hall

Water is such an amazing gift from Mother Nature. We drink it, bathe in it, grow gardens with it, and splash and play in it. Although water is something we can’t live without, it can also be a danger. Water can be life giving and life taking.

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 5 in the U.S. However, many people don’t consider drowning to be a real threat to our children despite this shocking statistic.

Supervision is the No. 1 preventative measure when it comes to drowning. However, distractions such as smartphones and siblings getting hurt are inevitable, so the Swim for Life Foundation has developed Safer 3, an initiative that promotes three layers of protection against drowning. These layers start first and foremost with adults, the “responsible parents.”

Follow these three steps to help safeguard your children:

1. Safer Water:

Assess the risks of different bodies of water that your child might be exposed to. Everything—whether it’s ocean currents or toilet bowls—needs to be considered. Then do what you can to reduce those risks to provide “safer water.” Installing barriers such as fencing or toilet locks are examples. This is relatively easy to do in and around your home, but when traveling, it’s extremely important to ask questions about the bodies of water around where you’re staying: Is there a pool on the property? Are there safety locks on exterior doors? Are the pools fenced?

2. Safer Kids:

This layer of protection involves YOU, the parent providing constant supervision. Wearing an official “water watcher” tag, bracelet or necklace serves as a physical reminder of who is in charge of watching the water. A faux Hawaiian lei or simple rubber band bracelet does the trick. When the water watcher needs a break, he or she must find a replacement and “pass the baton” to another responsible adult. This way there is no confusion over who is responsible for watching the water. In addition, year-round swim lessons will provide your child with the safety skills needed in case of a water emergency.

3. Safer Response:

Each responsible adult who will be supervising your children should be certified in CPR and first aid. This provides another layer of protection because seconds count when it comes to drowning. Having up-to-date CPR training can buy you valuable time until emergency responders arrive. Although water watching adults should have a phone nearby for emergencies, personal conversations should be reserved for after the children are safely out of the water.

Now that you know the layers of protection, it’s time to teach your child how to protect himself. Swim lessons are the best way to teach a child water safety skills. Finding the right environment for your child’s learning experience can be tricky. Here are some tips on finding the right program for your child:

  • Be wary of any swim program that claims to “drown proof” your child after X number of lessons. Being water smart means knowing that there is no such thing as being “drown proof” or “water safe.”
  • Swim teachers should teach students (and parents) that nobody should ever swim alone, not even grown-ups!
  • Swim lessons should include basic safety skills such as breath control, floating and grasping the edge of the pool. Children as young as 12 months can do all of these things when exposed to formal swim lessons as infants.
  • Although knowing your toddler can swim should give you some peace of mind, it NEVER replaces your responsibility as the parent to utilize all three layers of protection.


With the warm summer months ahead, it’s time to slather on the sunscreen and enjoy swimming with your kids. Happy splashing!

Anya M. Hall has more than 15 years of swim teaching experience and is the original water baby at La Petite Baleen Swim Schools, where she is now the curriculum director. She lives on the Peninsula with her husband and two children, Tatum (4) and Tanner (2). She is an NCAA Division 1 All-American, Academic All-American and National Champion swimmer and graduated from UC Berkeley in 2000. 

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