How to Keep Your Kids Safe in the Pool

A few weeks ago we made our first-of-the-season family trip to our community pool. As an injury researcher at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, I know all too well what can happen when young children are near water. Drowning is a leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1 to 4, and the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages. For toddlers (children ages 1 to 4 years), swimming pools pose the greatest risk of submersion injury.  Drowning typically occurs when there is a short lapse in adult supervision. Little children drown quickly and silently. As a mother of nearly 2-year old triplets, I get to put all that injury prevention and safety information into practice. Yes, I’m my own perfect test case.

So getting ready for our first pool trip started with the usual flurry of locating swim diapers, bathing suits and water shoes. It took us almost as long to prepare and pack for this outing than the actually outing itself. Major military maneuvers probably pack less gear than we did!

Sunscreen? check

Towels? check

Toys? check

Pool passes? check

Snacks? check

We put on the sunscreen, set up our “camp” and got right in. The kids had so much fun and we did too. It was fantastic to be a part of their fun and exploration. Getting wet and splashing around a swimming pool is a great way to have fun and beat the summer heat. It was reassuring to know we could go on an outing like this with the kids and be safe too. I introduced the kids to the lifeguards and explained the “rules of the pool.” They seemed to accept the no running rule fairly well but the concept of a rest period during the adult swim was a little harder for them to grasp!

Here are some important things to remember to keep your pool outings fun and safe:

  • Never leave a child unattended around a pool, or any body of water.
  • Closely watch swimmers in or around the water.
  • Teach children basic water safety skills.
  • Avoid distractions when supervising children around water. Adults watching kids in or near water should avoid distracting activities like reading books and talking on the phone.
  • Air-filled or foam toys are not safety devices. Don’t use air-filled or foam toys, such as “water wings,” “noodles,” or inner tubes, instead of life jackets. These toys are not life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  • Knowing CPR can also save the life of someone who drowns.
  • Learn how to swim and ensure your children know how to swim as well.
  • Avoid entrapment by keeping children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings.

For more tips and information on pool safety, visit For the lastest infographic on drownings click here. For information on other safety topics, check out The Center for Injury Research and Policy.


Lara McKenzie, PhD, MA
Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, is a Principal Investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine and the Division of Epidemiology, College of Public Health at The Ohio State University. She is the mother of triplets (two girls, Parker and Harper, and one boy, Holden). She often jokes that when she leaves Children's, it’s to go to her second, less glamorous job where she doesn't get paid and no one listens to her!

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