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Why Touch Supervision Is Essential for Toddler Water Play

For safe water play, stay within arm's reach

Published on: June 23, 2022

Child wearing a life jacket building in sand with dad

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1–4. Safety studies show that it’s very easy for caregivers to get distracted when they are supervising a toddler’s water play. This is true even when caregivers are just a few feet away. Since drowning can happen quickly and in very little water, safety experts recommend "touch supervision" in and near the water. This means staying within arm’s length during bath time and swim time. During swim time, get in the water with your toddler. If you need to get out, take them with you — even if it’s just for a moment and even if lifeguards are nearby.

This excerpted post was originally published on the Seattle Children’s website.
Seattle Children's

Whenever your child is in the water, give them your full attention. Don’t do anything that pulls your focus away, even for a moment. Don’t use your phone, tend the grill, or do yard work or other chores. Avoid drinking alcohol, which affects judgment and concentration.

Practice other layers of water safety, too. Supervision and a life jacket are two of the most important things you can provide to protect your child from drowning. It’s also essential to start swim lessons as soon as your child is ready. 

When a toddler drowns, it’s typical that the caregiver hadn’t planned for the child to be in the water at all — and didn’t see the child go in. Also, it’s a myth that if a child falls in the water there will be lots of splashing and noise. The reality is that in most cases, children slip under quickly and silently, without being seen. Constant vigilance is the surest way to prevent a tragedy.

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