HomeBrowse by agesBaby + Toddler + Preschooler
Water Safety

Water safety involves far more than making sure your child wears the proper flotation device at the pool. Find out how to keep your child safe around any body of water, starting from infancy through early childhood and beyond.

Infant in tub head being held by parent

Most children love water play – and living in California could mean plenty of future beach days, lake trips, and pool parties!

Proper water safety is extremely important for all parents to know and understand. Any time children are around any body of water – whether it’s a lake or a bathtub – they must be constantly supervised by a trusted adult, even if they are wearing or using flotation devices. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4.


Until babies can safely and securely sit up on their own, they must be held during a bath and/or placed in a secure, infant-sized bathtub. Once your baby can sit up alone, you can place him in a regular tub and remain next to him, carefully supervising bath time from start to finish. Babies don’t need a lot of water to bathe, so fill the tub up with only 2-3 inches of water.

As your child grows and becomes more mobile and independent, he still needs to be carefully supervised whenever he’s in (or even near) the bathtub. To prevent slips and falls, children should always sit – never stand – in the bathtub.

Pools, Hot Tubs, Lakes, and Ocean

Children should never be left alone or unsupervised even for a moment around water. Even if children are able to swim, it is recommended that they be within “touch supervision” distance from a trusted adult – meaning that a trusted adult is close enough to touch or hold the child at any time. Floaties and other pool toys or devices are not safe enough to trust your child in the water alone.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children begin swim lessons at one year of age. Swim lessons teach children water safety and empower them to learn the lifelong skill of swimming. Knowing the basics of swimming can save your child’s life.

Consult with your child’s pediatrician to find out when it’s appropriate for your baby to use a pool. Hot tubs and jacuzzis must be avoided.

Mother and baby in pool

At the beach, ocean currents and waves are often stronger than they appear. Never leave your child alone in the water. Before going near the water, locate the closest lifeguard station to know who can assist you if an emergency occurs. Not all beaches have lifeguards, so if you don’t see one, designate a trusted supervisor who is responsible for watching your children while they’re in the water, and calling out for help if needed. Tides can sweep them off their feet faster than your think.

QUICK TIP: When shopping for flotation devices (or “floaties”), look for U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets. They are the safest choice when used along with your close supervision.

First 5 California
Contributed by:
First 5 California
Find this useful?
Join our First 5 family – it’s free!
Enjoy personalized content based on your child’s age every time you visit our site.