Prevent toddler drowning

A woman looking out over a pool 

Kids can't help themselves around water. You need to. 

Our toddlers are curious and unpredictable as they explore the world around them. It's what we love about them, but it's also why we need to take steps to keep them safe. 

Children most commonly drown when they were not expected to be around water but found their way there while adults weren't watching. While there is no substitute for active adult supervision, it's important to have other strategies in place to protect children in those times you get distracted. 

The Keep Watch program has four key drowning prevention actions. Used together, these provide the best possible chance of preventing serious drownings in young children.


Always keep watch of your child around water



Active supervision means focusing all of your attention on your children not only when they are actively interacting with water but any time they have access to water.

Supervision isn't the occasional glance while you're busy with other activities but being in constant visual contact with your child around water. Toddler drowning happens quickly and silently so it's not enough to 'listen out' for kids.

Parents are busy and often try to do many things at once to save time, but multi-tasking means it's easy to get distracted and not give your full attention to the safety of your children.

Older children should not be left to supervise younger siblings around water. Children can become easily distracted and not notice something has gone wrong or they may think the toddler is ‘playing’ in the water and don’t call for help. Supervision around water should always be an adult's responsibility.

Children have drowned when they were multiple adults around. In a backyard full of people it's easy to assume that 'someone' is keeping an eye on the pool. In reality, this can mean that no one is adequately supervising young children. The best option is to have a designated supervisor and rotate the responsibility between adults.



Restrict your child's access to water at all times



Restricting access to water means either placing a barrier between your child and a body of water or removing water sources completely.

A barrier around water can slow children down and give you more time to respond if you lose sight of them. A pool fence can be a highly effective barrier but it must be used correctly! Children most often drown in fenced pools when they find their way in through an open gate. Never leave pool gates propped open and regularly check that the gate is self-closing and self-latching. You should also check for any holes or damage in the fence and remove any nearby items that a child could use to climb over the fence.

Many people are unaware that inflatable pools deeper than 300mm (30cm) also need to be fenced by law.

Where it's not possible to place a barrier around water, such as a dam on a farm, create a securely fenced child safe play area instead.

Think about ways to prevent access to other water locations. Cover water features and fishponds with strong mesh and empty paddle pools, baths and buckets immediately after use. Tempting objects such as toys can entice children to enter the water and should always be removed straight away.



Teach your child water safety skills



Children should be exposed to water from an early age. Participating in formal water familiarisation classes can be an enjoyable bonding time for parents and children. Water familiarisation classes build confidence and introduce children to basic water safety and survival skills.

Be aware that no water familiarisation class can ‘drown-proof’ a child. If children fall into water unexpectedly, they may panic and forget to apply their swimming skills. Always keep watch when children are in or around the water, regardless of their level of swimming ability.

Contact Royal Life Saving WA for more information about Infant Aquatics programs or find your local Endorsed Swim School.

Water familiarisation also includes establishing rules and boundaries. Set rules for children near water and ensure that all adults enforce the rules to set a good example. When you’re visiting new aquatic locations with your child ensure you discuss any new or different rules.



Learn CPR and call Triple Zero (000) in an emergency



In many emergency situations involving children, a parent will be the first person on the scene and can provide lifesaving assistance until emergency help arrives. Having the skills to respond in an emergency could mean the difference between life and death.

If a child child finds their way into water, every moment counts so if your child is missing around the home, check all water locations first before searching elsewhere. When someone has drowned, call Triple Zero (000) immediately, then commence CPR.

Every parent should learn first aid and CPR. Like any skill, resuscitation skills can be forgotten if not practised regularly so update your CPR skills by completing a refresher course every 12 months. In the case of a drowning, any CPR is better than no CPR. Even if you haven’t completed a course, try your best until further help arrives.

Royal Life Saving WA runs three hour Heart Beat Club resuscitation courses which are specifically designed for parents with young children. The course has a major focus on child and infant CPR and also covers common childhood injuries.

Contact Royal Life Saving WA for a list of upcoming courses or enrol online today.

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How to perform Infant CPR

Learn more about Infant CPR at the link below.

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