Keep your kids safe near water

Water Safety 2 Tragically young children have the highest drowning rate of all New Zealanders. The truth is as clear cut as it is brutal; water kills young children at an alarming rate.

Throughout the year – regardless of season – water hazards exist around the home, with the most common found in the form of the bath and home swimming pools. The underlying reason behind almost all drownings of small children is a lack of adequate or appropriate supervision from parents and caregivers. The window for tragedy is frighteningly small, and the time it takes for young children to get into trouble is remarkably short; a matter of seconds.

Proper supervision in and around water means a responsible adult keeping young children in their care both within sight and within reach.

Water hazards within the home and beyond need to be constantly managed by parents. Small children have neither the ability nor the knowledge required to make a decision about their own safety.

The most effective way to protect your child is to have a fully fenced area where they can play without the threat of water hazards. If this is not feasible, then all potential water hazards must be identified and eliminated from the home environment. Potential hazards that cannot be removed must be isolated to a degree that makes it impossible for a young child to gain unsupervised access.

Parents and caregivers can introduce their children to water in a positive, caring manner. Bath time can be fun for you and your baby, but never – even for a moment – leave your child alone or under sibling supervision in the bathtub. Being supported in warm water can be a wonderful experience for a baby, and a gentle way to introduce them to water. You can help your baby to investigate how water tastes and feels. Trickling water over baby’s face and floating (with the head well supported) is a great start to water play.

Sharing bath time and visiting your local pool are all positive steps to developing water confidence and safety skills in your child.

Important water safety rules need to be cued, promoted, reinforced and discussed where applicable to ensure additional preventive measures are taken on top of supervision. These may include:

1.    Only play with water when parent or caregiver is present.

2.    Only enter the water with a parent or caregiver.

One of the most positive experiences for a child is a simple visit to the local swimming pool with family. The comfort and reassurance that the family bond provides, along with trust placed in parent-child relationships, mean that a regular trip to the pool can be a valuable bonding tool as well as enhancing confidence and understanding in the water.

By providing a positive aquatic experience from a young age, children are more likely to develop water safety skills that will lead on to learning to swim and survive – the fundamental skill for enjoying any water environment safely.

By Water Safety NZ. Visit www.watersafety.org.nz.

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