Most drowning victims among under 5-year-olds are 2 to
Two to 4-year-olds are increasingly mobile as they progress
through the toddler years. They are inquisitive and take
advantage of their ever-expanding range and speed of mobility. They
have no awareness of looming aquatic danger. It is up to parents
and caregivers to protect them. Toddlers and children under 5
are at risk when they are playing near water - far and away
the activity most involved in toddler drownings.
Private backyard pools present the greatest danger at this life
stage, accounting for one-third of water-related deaths for
young children under 5 years, although beaches and waterfronts on
lakes and rivers also contribute.
By far the biggest risk factor for young children is lack of
supervision from parents or caregivers. Almost all these young
victims were alone when they became immersed in water. The lapse in
attention may have been just a few moments, but it
Drowning prevention tips
If you're not within arms' reach, you've gone too
Drowning is a silent killer and can happen in as little as 10
seconds. Parents and caregivers must be near (within arms' reach)
their children whenever they are near water - in the backyard, at
the beach, and in the bathroom. Stay tub-side until the water is
drained and children are out of the tub. Most bathtub drownings
occur because children are left alone "just for a moment."
Restrict and control access to the water.
Many toddlers who drown do so because they unexpectedly gained
access to the water - the backyard pool, the lake or the bathtub.
Typically, human error leads to a gate or door being left open or a
Layers of protection will reduce the chance of human error. If
you can't eliminate the water hazard, restrict access to it by
fencing off natural or man-made bodies of water on your property
and ensure that gates are self-closing and self-latching. Drain
bathtubs when not in use, and empty unattended wading pools and
buckets of water and turn them over.
Designate a backyard pool lifeguard.
An adult must always supervise children using a pool -
in-ground, above-ground or wading pool. If one adult must be absent
for a moment, designate a replacement or close the pool until
someone can assume supervisory duties.
Wear a lifejacket.
As an extra layer of protection, put toddlers in a lifejacket
when they are near water. Lifejackets do not replace attentive
supervision, but will keep a toddler at the surface - which may
give parents the seconds they need to save a life.
Go to lifeguard supervised beaches and
For safer play near the water, take children to beaches and
pools supervised by certified lifeguards. Lifeguards do not replace
direct parental supervision but act as an extra layer of
Parent & tot aquatic programs.
A positive introduction to water can give your child a lifetime
of pleasure swimming. Toddlers are particularly suited to get used
to the water with their parents in an instructional setting.
Infant "self-rescue" swimming lessons are not recommended or
supported by the Lifesaving Society
Recent media buzz around these types of swimming courses,
intended to "safeguard" infants against drowning, have no
scientific research backing them. However, there is research
warning against it.
Drowning can happen regardless of how comfortable your child or
infant is in the water - no one can be truly "drown proofed." What
you can do is restrict your child's access to water and be there -
within arms' reach - and with your eyes on your child at all
An infant may learn in a controlled environment to roll onto
their back in the water; they may be able to kick their legs and
cry while floating at the surface. When parents see this they are
lulled into a false sense of security and become overconfident and
less diligent in their parental duty to restrict their child's
access to water.
Research from the Canadian Pediatric Society explains: "There is
no evidence that swimming lessons prevent drowning or near drowning
in this age group (two to four years of age). Although it may be
possible to teach young infants basic motor skills for water,
infants cannot be expected to learn the elements of water safety or
to react appropriately in emergencies. No young child, particularly
those who are preschool aged, can ever be considered water
The Lifesaving Society supports swimming lessons for pre-school
aged children that promote water safety aimed at parents, develop
basic motor skills for children and familiarize children with the
water. The Lifesaving Society does not support swimming lessons
that imply an infant or child will be "drown-proofed" - there is no
We encourage parents and caregivers to remember that drowning is
the second leading cause of accidental death for children under the
age of five. In most of these cases there was a momentary lack of
parental supervision. Drowning is preventable. Parents and
caregivers are responsible to safeguard their children from
drowning by taking the appropriate measures:
- Restrict and control access to water
- Backyard pools should have four-sided, self-latching fencing to
prevent children from gaining access
- Children should be within arms' reach of an adult, who has
their eyes on that child AT ALL TIMES when near the water
- Bathtubs should be drained, toilets seats closed and latched,
and any instances of standing water removed
- Children who cannot swim should always wear a lifejacket
- Parents should not expect infant "survival" swimming lessons to
protect their children, and should remain vigilant about water
- Remember, drowning is silent and can happen in mere
Research from the Canadian Pediatric Society.