Child drownings: Water Safety for Children

child drownings

This is my first post on something topical, but I have been so saddened and mortified by the recent increase in child drownings that I wanted to say something. Anything. A tribute to those beautiful, tiny lives lost. And to remind the rest of us to remain vigilant in keeping our bubs safe in and around the water.

In New South Wales (Australia), during the Christmas/New Year period alone there have been 18 drownings, approximately a quarter of them children under the age of 14. These incidents have occurred in a variety of settings, including beaches, pools and even a front yard pond. These statistics are as horrifying as they are tragic, and the various settings provide a shocking realisation that these dangers are ever present.

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Well, duh!

Now this post may seem completely obvious – even my husband initially kind of said “well, duh!”. But as a teacher, I am constantly reminding my students of the rules of the classroom, even if they are repeated dozens of times. How many times do you have a child do something you’ve told them not to do? Or how many times do we make a mistake, which we know is stupid or
plain wrong, but we make it anyway? These drowning events often occur as a tragic mistake – looking away for a brief second; assuming your child is being supervised by someone else; not realising there is a body of water nearby that could harm your child; you and/or your child being unaware of the appropriate water safety tips to keep them safe. These mistakes can turn into horrifying accidents, so as parents it is our responsibility to KEEP REMINDING ourselves of the obvious (or seemingly obvious) in the hopes of avoiding making the same mistakes.

As a new mum, the overwhelming feeling of responsibility hit the moment I first held our son in my arms. His tiny hands and little beady eyes looked at me (or more likely at the blank nothingness his little pupils could process at the time) and I knew I had to protect him to the best of my ability. We bought a monitor for his bassinet WHILE he was sleeping in our room (in case he stopped breathing and we didn’t notice!); we packed everything (including the kitchen sink?!) in case he needed extra jackets, blankets, onesies, play mats or toys; I was super anxious about moving him into his room by himself because we couldn’t keep an eye on him.

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And now we’ve started swimming lessons with him. We’ve had numerous comments such as “that’s a bit young isn’t it?” or “wow, so early!”. Many are skeptical of the benefits of introducing a baby to water that early, however I knew from early on that I wanted our son to be familiar, comfortable, and safe around water. You see, I don’t recall having many swimming lessons until I was in school. I’ve never been a confident swimmer. I don’t feel safe around large bodies of water. And I knew that wasn’t the life I wanted my son to have. Now add to that the recent spate of child drownings, and I’m more adamant than ever to get my son well-aquainted with the water.

What advice do swim coaches offer

I decided I wanted to chat to an ‘expert’ to see what their stance on baby/child water exposure was, so I chatted with swim coaches Chris and Angela from ACM Swimming. Here is what they had to say in relation to this topic:

Swimming is a life skill, something that we all should be confident with, especially with all the beautiful beaches around us. This summer we have seen the largest number of drowning deaths in NSW, with 18 incidents occurring during the Christmas and New Year period. It is absolutely vital for kids to be introduced to the water and taught basic water safety skills.

Some tips from ACM Swimming to help familiarise babies and toddlers to water:

– Babies as young as 3 months can be introduced to the water;

– Use floating toys and sing songs as much as possible to engage them;

– Pour small amounts of water into their head and face to get them used to getting wet;
– Always hold onto them while facing them, both arms stretched out and holding their underarms. Guide them through the water for movement. You can also face the same direction as your baby by stand at their waist holding onto their underarms to introduce movement while you walk;

– When they are 2-3 years old, enrol them into swimming lessons as soon as possible so that they can learn vital water safety and swimming skills.

Swimming is fun! It is a great exercise and can be enjoyed with friends. Swimming lessons, along with adult supervision can save lives. Remember, always be vigilant around water, it only takes a few seconds for any tragedy to occur.

Kids Alive – Do the Five!

If all else fails, you can remember the ‘Kids Alive – Do the Five’ song and teach it to your kids, which they practised at our son’s swim school at the end of last year:

  1. Fence the Pool;child drownings water safety 3
  2. Shut the gate;
  3. Teach your kids to swim, it’s great;
  4. Supervise – watch your mate;
  5. And learn how to resucitate!

I would love to hear other parents’ experiences of babies and children around water safety. Have you put your young baby/kids into swimming lessons? Have you had any experiences that others could learn from? Please share your stories
in the comments below!

If you’d like to book your child in for private or group swimming lessons, ACM offer a MOBILE service in order to meet your needs. For more information, visit their website HERE or their Facebook page HERE.

About Fi Morrison

Fi is a first-time mum to her beautiful, 7 month-old baby boy who she affectionately calls Starfish. She started Mumma Morrison as a way to document her life with her son, but also aims to create a supportive and encouraging community for new and prospective mums. She also started up a small business, Starfish Creations, selling women's silicone beach necklaces. Fi and her family live in Sydney.

Comments

  1. As a California native, we grew up in the water and water safety was a must… As I have traveled around the world, the attitude towards water safety is not as high on the priority list as I feel it should be. I am a huge advocate of teaching swimming early and often. And I encourage all my mama friends to take an Infant/Child CPR course. Not just for us teachers right?! SUCH an important skill for kids! Great tips in this article!!

    • So so true Bethany! I’m so glad in California water safety is so foundational! I didn’t think we were too bad in Australia, but with the recent surge of child drownings obviously we need more info and education on the subject. The CPR courses are so important too, they can be done online! Maybe I should add a link for that in the post. Thanks for the idea!

  2. We don’t have our own pool but we occasionally go to the public pool. Now that I have three I’m so nervous to take them especially since my husband will be away this summer and I won’t have anyone to help. But I hate to not take them. I think if I can find someone to go with me that is ideal because then I’d have an extra pair of eyes

    • That’s a great idea Brianna, I would totally be the same! I’m anxious with just my one son and I, so I couldn’t imagine 3! Better to be safe than sorry, that’s what I always say! You’re an awesome mum!

    • Me too, I couldn’t imagine anything worse! I’m glad you found the tips helpful 🙂
      We just got a kiddie pool for Christmas too and we’re the same, even though he isn’t moving yet, you really just don’t know do you?

  3. Thank you for this post. Sometimes it’s so easy to lapse in judgement and not fully risk assess a situation. Drownings can happen within seconds and everyone needs to know what to do if, god forbid, this happened to a child in their care. Thank you for bringing attention to this serious issue.

    • Thanks for your comment Rebecca. It is so true – we never think it’ll happen to us, but it seriously does just take a couple of seconds for something to go wrong. We’ve all been there – the lapse of judgement for something. We just need to keep remaining vigilant even if it does seem ‘pointless’ or obvious.
      Thanks for reading and sharing 😊

    • So so true Jessica! I think some people are so lax about it and just think ‘it won’t happen to me’. But if we give them those essential skills, it can certainly reduce (but never remove) the risk of an accident happening!
      Thanks for your reading and sharing your thoughts 😊

    • Thanks Brittany, I totally agree! Even if it seems ‘obvious’, you can never have too many reminders.
      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts 😊

  4. I agree that water safety is so important and accidents still happen just like children being hit by cars when parents don’t see them. Your point about constant reminding is so valid. I tell my kids the same things over and over and sometimes it makes no difference so that is such a great point. I had my kids at swimming lessons from 6 months old and I think in a country where we are at the beach a lot and always at the pool it is vital that kids all learn to swim from an early age. I agree that it is a life skill!

    • Thanks for your thoughts Suzy. It’s so true, here in Australia there is such a “beach” culture, that it is even more vital to constantly remind our kids (and ourselves) about being safe around water. As a teacher I know we don’t teach it nearly as much as we should (although the curriculum is already too busy, by that’s a topic for another day). It’s awesome that you got them into swimming lessons early, so hopefully they’ll have some ingrained understanding of water safety, as well as a better feel for the water too.

  5. Every time I hear about another drowning on the news or on social media my heart breaks. You really feel for the families but at the same time wonder how can it keep happening. Can not agree more that kids should be taught water safety from a young age! It’s definitely something we will be doing with our little one!

    • That’s exactly how I feel Alyssa. I try not to judge because we really don’t know the situation but I do keep wondering how it keeps happening. Hopefully us parents can keep reminding our kids, and ourselves, about how to be safe around water.
      That’s great to hear (good luck, not long to go!!). We started our boy at swimming lessons at 4 months old and it was the best, so much fun to play with him in the pool while he gets used to/familiar with it as well 😊

  6. Wow, what a great post. As a teacher, we used to take our 3rd and 4th graders to the Y for a week of swimming where we would teach any of them who didn’t know how to swim yet. I was always surprised by how many kiddos still didn’t know how to swim by this age since we live in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes! I couldn’t agree more that it is imperative for kids to be introduced to the water as young as possible and be comfortable and confident in it. Whether it’s for the sake of water safety or really any other type of emergency, everyone should take the time to get CPR and first aid certified – you never know when you may save a life! Sharing this on twitter and pinning it to remind me to re-share as summer nears.

    • Thanks for sharing Melanie. What a great initiative to be getting those students out and teaching them how to swim. I 100% agree that all parents should have CPR and infant first aid training – as if you wouldn’t want to be as prepared as possible to keep your kids safe?! Thanks for the sharing, hopefully other parents can read this and remind themselves and their kids to keep safe!

  7. Great tips! Her is the US it’s still winter, but these are great tips to keep in mind when summer rolls around(although drownings can, of course, occur any time of the year).

    • Thank you so much! I agree – while most drownings are most likely to happen in the summer months in pools and beaches, they can still happen any time!

    • I agree – it is something none of us could ever imagine or want to think about. Thank you so much lovely, I appreciate that – I hope it helps other parents to remain vigilant too! xx

    • I totally agree, it can happen literally in the blink of an eye, so we need to be constantly reminding ourselves of what to do. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  8. This is an important topic and post! I have friends whose daughter drowned at 4.5 years old. So very, very sad. 4 years old is a dangerous age – they are so strong-willed. Their daughter had sneaked out to the lake while all other kids were watching TV. She died in shallow waters. Teaching kids to swim and never leave them alone close to water is key!

    • Oh my goodness, that is so incredibly sad and such an awful, tragic, accident. It can literally take seconds, and as you said in shallow waters too! This is the reason I hope parents will keep reminding themselves, even if it seems ‘common sense’. Thank you for sharing this story to remind us of the reality and importance of water safety. I am think of your friends and their family!

  9. It’s so important to be safe, especially around any kind of water with children. Too often I’m reading about children being left unattended and drowning. It’s so sad that many of these cases can be prevented. These are really great tips.

    • I totally agree that it is around ANY kind of waters. I keep reading stories about drownings in bathtubs, shallow waters – it’s not just the “deep” water. Thank you for sharing Crystal!

    • It’s so true Sahar, we really shouldn’t have to be writing constantly about it, but with so many drownings happening recently we obviously need to be reminded.
      Thanks for your thoughts! 🙂

    • Such a good idea Tess! We started our boy at 4 months as well because it was a fun way for him to have dad time, as well as develop safe water skills!

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