It might be heading toward the end of summer, but the weather is still warm around the country, and swimming to enjoy continued fun in the sun remains a warm-weather ritual that families love. Whether you’re at a lake, beach — or this season in particular, due to the COVID-19 restrictions — your own backyard pool, learning how to keep kids safer around water is an important responsibility for any parent or caregiver.
Because drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages one to four years old and the second leading cause of unintentional death for kids ages five to 14 years old, it is vital for anyone caring for children to know what they can do to help prevent drowning incidents. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Pool Safely campaign, an average of 379 children drown in pools and spas each year.
Unfortunately, child drowning rates are higher among minority populations, particularly African American and Hispanic children. Data from Pool Safely’s longtime collaborator the USA Swimming Foundation reveals that 64 percent of African American children have no or low swimming ability — and that 65 percent of these children would like to swim more than they currently do.
In addition, a recent documentary titled "A Film Called Blacks Can't Swim" challenges stereotypes about Black communities and swimming. Filmmaker Ed Accura explored his own experience around swimming to uncover the cultural, social and financial reasons why many Black adults never learn to swim.
"I have been hiding behind the stereotype and myth that 'Black people can’t swim' for most of my life, because it was easier to do so than to learn how to swim," said Accura. "The turning point for me came when I realized that I could not help my daughter if she was ever in trouble while in or around the water. This thought scared me, and because I knew I wasn't alone, I decided to learn to swim and share my experience with the world."
Accura stresses that the key for parents is to familiarize kids with swimming early, so they can get used to being in the water — and have fun learning.
To do this, the CPSC Pool Safely campaign recommends these critical safety tips for all parents and caregivers to follow all year long:
1. Teach children how to swim.
Everyone can learn to swim, even adults who never learned as children. Swimming is not only fun, it’s a crucial lifesaving skill. Enroll children in swimming lessons as early as possible so they can learn basics like how to float, tread water and reach the edge of the pool.
Check online or at community centers for information about free or reduced-cost options available at locations near you, such as the YMCA or your local parks and recreation department.
2. Never leave a child unattended in or near water, even for a moment.
Always watch children around water, including pools, spas, lakes, ponds, fountains, buckets and bathtubs.
Designate an official Water Watcher — an adult tasked with supervising the children.When groups or families play near water, adults may as