Water Safety

Water Safety

Keep your child safe near water. Never leave children, especially those under 5, unsupervised near any water, including baths, buckets and water troughs.

Lives can be destroyed when babies and toddlers are not actively supervised around water.

Constant active adult supervision is the only way to keep babies and toddlers safe around water.
A Water Safety New Zealand video.

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Key points about water safety 

  • drowning is a leading cause of death from injury in young people 
  • always keep within arm's reach of your child when they are in and around water 
  • never leave children, especially those under 5 years of age, unsupervised near water 
  • be aware of unfenced landscape water features, storm water catchment ponds and urban streams near homes 

Always watch young children near water 

It is important young children are always supervised near water. Never leave them unsupervised.  

There are some key things to remember:  

Keep them close 

Always keep within an arm's reach of your child when they are in and around water. 

Watch them - always  

Never leave children, especially those under 5 years of age, unsupervised near water, including baths, buckets, ponds, streams and water troughs. 

Never leave a young child alone in a bath 

All children under the age of 3 years should be constantly supervised in the bath by an adult. 

Bath aids, bath seats or young siblings are not a replacement for adult supervision. If you need to leave the room, take your child with you. 

Never leave an unwell child unsupervised in the bath

Be aware of unfenced water features 

Be aware of unfenced landscape water features, storm water catchment ponds and urban streams near homes. 

It is also important to always empty baths and paddling pools after use. 

Check out Water Safety NZ’s top tips to keep children and babies water safe.

Make sure pools are fenced  

Always use pool fencing (1.2m high) that completely surrounds your pool, including spa pools. Check pool fences and gates regularly. 

Other things to consider:  

  • check your pool gates open outward away from the pool, swing shut and automatically latch, every time 
  • check pool fences for gaps to crawl under, or for loose bars or planks 
  • never prop open a pool gate or have anything nearby that might block the gate latch (such as clothes or towels) 
  • make sure to remove any chairs or toys that children might use to climb over a pool fence 
  • if fences are modified or houses and gardens redesigned, always check the pool fence still functions to keep children safe 
  • be especially careful with children if you are visiting someone with a pool - if you are in a group, always make sure it is clear who has the job of watching the children; otherwise everyone may assume someone else is watching them 

Child swimming in pool, using floating pool stick

Water safety information for children - by age  

While babies and toddlers are particularly at risk near water, there is still a risk to all young children. Young tamariki are curious, fast and attracted to water but can also slip and drown very quickly. 

How children in Aotearoa New Zealand drown:  

  • babies mostly drown in buckets and baths 
  • pre-schoolers mostly drown in home swimming pools and unfenced water hazards nearby homes 
  • teens mostly drown in natural bodies of water, such as rivers and the sea 

Check out Safekids’ top safety tips for children, by age group (PDF, 131KB).

What to do in a rip 

It is important to teach children from a young age how to be safe around water. One of the things you can teach them is to follow Surf Lifesaving NZ’s 3 Rs rip survival plan if they are ever caught in a rip. 

3 Rs rip survival plan : relax, raise, ride.  

  • relax and float so you don’t run out of energy 
  • raise your hand to signal for help 
  • ride the rip until it stops and you can swim back to shore or until help arrives  

Check out Surf Lifesaving NZ’s beach basics

First aid  

Your first priority is to get a drowning child out of the water as quickly as possible. If they aren’t breathing, place them on their back on a firm surface and start CPR. 

Check KidsHealth information on how to perform CPR

References
  1. Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, Te Rōpū Arotake Auau Mate o te Hunga Tamariki, Taiohi. Wellington. 2021. Circumstances surrounding drowning in those under 25 in New Zealand (1980-2002).
  2. Water Safety New Zealand. 2018 drowning report
  3. Safekids Aotearoa water safety information
  4. Surf Life Saving New Zealand 

This page last reviewed 28 September 2022.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it