Keeping your children safe around water is tricky but important. Water activities are a huge draw for families seeking summer-time fun or relief from the heat. Children need constant supervision around water—whether the water is in a bathtub, a wading pool, an ornamental fish pond, a swimming pool, a spa, or a lake.

Drowning can happen where you’d least expect it

Believe it or not, accidental drowning can occur in a sink, toilet bowl, fountains, buckets, inflatable pools, or in small bodies of standing water around your home such as ditches filled with rainwater. Always watch children closely when they’re in or near any water. Young children can drown in less than two inches of water.

Don’t assume that a child who knows how to swim isn’t at risk for drowning

All children need to be supervised in the water, no matter the depth of their swimming skills. Infants, toddlers, and weak swimmers should have an adult swimmer within arm’s reach to provide “touch supervision.” Children four years old and over should learn to be comfortable in the water. If you’re not a swimmer yourself, it’s a good idea to take lessons and learn how to swim.

Install a secure fence around the perimeter of your home pool

Having a fence that surrounds the pool and is situated between the water and your house is the best safety investment you can make to help prevent pool-related drownings. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), fences should meet these standards:

  • Fences should stand at least 4 feet (130 centimeters) high with no foot or handrails for children to climb on.
  • The slats should be less than 4 inches (110 millimeters) apart so a child can’t get through, or if chain link, should have no opening larger than 1¾ inches (50 millimeters).
  • Gates should be self-closing and self-latching, and the latch should be out of children’s reach.

Choose a proper-fitting life vest approved by the U.S. Coast Guard

For children younger than five years old, choose a vest with a strap between the legs and head support. The collar will keep the child’s head up and face out of the water. Check the weight and size recommendations on the label, then have your child try it on to make sure it fits snugly. Inflatable vests and arm devices such as water wings are not adequate protection against drowning.

Protect from the sun with waterproof sunscreen

Don’t forget the sunscreen and reapply often, especially if the children are getting wet. UV sunglasses, hats, and protective clothing also can help provide sun protection.