Because children can drown in as little as an inch of water, caregivers should remain vigilant when allowing children to swim in pools, lakes or other bodies of water.

Swimming can be a fun and refreshing activity for families with children of any age during the long, hot summer.

A recent study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning. However, parents and caregivers should always supervise children playing in or around the water and use touch supervision (by keeping children within arms’ reach at all times near water) for children under age 5, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Teaching a child to swim does not keep him or her safe in water. Even the most proficient swimmers can drown, the NIH cautions.

Caregivers should consider formal swimming lessons for children who are developmentally ready (usually around age 4 or 5). For younger children, find a program that allows an adult to swim with the child and choose one that does not require the child to put his or her head under water.

Children with motor or cognitive disabilities may not be developmentally ready for swimming lessons until a later age, according to the AAP.

In addition, the following tips help keep children safe in or near the water:

  • Never leave a child alone in or near a pool, even for a moment. An adult who can swim and who knows CPR should supervise children at all times.

  • Do not use air-filled swimming aids, such as water wings, as a substitute for approved life vests. Never allow young children and those who cannot swim to use inflatable pool toys or mattresses as flotation devices in the water.

  • Allow children to dive into water only when permitted by an adult who knows the depth of the water and has checked for underwater objects. Do not allow diving through inner tubes and other pool toys and into above-ground pools.