photo of boy in swimming pool with life preserver

Children have a natural curiosity and attraction to water. However, drowning is a leading cause of death among young children, both nationally and in Massachusetts. Take steps to protect children when they’re in and around water.

Backyard pools, whether in-ground or above-ground, are the highest risk for children under the age of 5. To help prevent water-related injury and drowning:

  • Children should be supervised in and around water at all times.
  • Designate an adult “water watcher.” When it is your turn as “water watcher” you should not be involved in any other distracting activity, including talking on the phone, not even for a moment.
  • Whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, including the bathtub, an adult should be within an arm's length at all times providing "touch supervision."
  • Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.
  • Install a four-sided pool fence that completely separates the house and play area of the yard from the pool area.
  • After the children are done swimming, secure the pool so they cannot get back in.
  • Consider additional barriers such as automatic door locks or alarms to prevent access or notify you if someone enters the pool area.
  • Remove floats, balls and other toys from the pool after use so that children are not tempted to reach for them.
  • Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd's hook or life preserver) and a telephone by the pool.
  • For children who cannot swim, use Coast Guard approved life jackets. Do not use air-filled or foam toys, such as "water wings," "noodles" or inner-tubes, in place of life jackets. These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  • Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The Red Cross offers a wide selection of CPR/AED, first aid, lifeguarding, swimming and water safety, caregiving, disaster response and emergency preparedness training. For information on classes, visit

Additionally, when swimming in public swimming areas:

  • Select swimming sites that have lifeguards, whenever possible.
  • Swim only in designated swimming areas.
  • Do not use air-filled or foam toys, such as "water wings," "noodles" or inner-tubes, in place of life jackets (personal flotation devices). These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
  • Always swim with a buddy.

Teach your children to swim. Although swimming classes are not a primary means of drowning prevention, teaching children to swim can provide important protection as well as a fun way to exercise.

This information is provided by the Department of Public Health .