Water Safety

While swimming pools and large bodies of water present fun-filled opportunities for summer recreation, they can be dangerous for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second-leading cause of accidental death in children between the ages of 1 and 14. Infants and toddlers are particularly at risk because they can drown in less than two inches of water.

Explore the information below to learn more about how to practice water safety.

Home Water Safety Tips

  • Keep young children out of the bathroom and keep the bathroom door locked using a hook-and-eye latch or doorknob cover on the outside of the door.
  • Never leave an infant or toddler alone in a bathtub.
  • Empty buckets and bathtubs after each use—never leave them unattended.
  • Use a rigid lockable cover on a hot tub, spa or whirlpool, or fence all sides as you would a swimming pool.
  • Throw away or tightly cover water-chemical mixtures after use.
  • Keep a life preserver and shepherd’s hook in the pool area.
  • Watch children closely when they are playing near wells or irrigation and drainage ditches. Install fences around these hazards.
  • Learn CPR and know how to get emergency help.

Common Water Hazards for Infants and Toddlers

  • Buckets and pails, especially five-gallon buckets and diaper pails
  • Ice chests with melted ice
  • Toilets
  • Bathtubs, even with baby support ring devices
  • Hot tubs, spas, whirlpools and saunas
  • Irrigation ditches and wells

Water Safety Rules to Teach Your Children

Teaching children to swim is an important water safety precaution (Four years of age is usually a good time to start.) However, children who know how to swim should still be supervised by an adult who knows CPR. Below are important water safety rules all kids should practice:

  • Never swim alone.
  • Never dive into water except when permitted by an adult.
  • Always use a life vest when boating, fishing or playing in water.
  • Don't use inflatable toys or mattresses in water that is too deep.

Life Jacket Safety

If your family enjoys spending time on the water, be sure your children wear the correct life jacket. Many children think life jackets are hot, bulky and ugly but there are newer models that look better, feel better and are still safe. Below are tips for correctly choosing and wearing life jackets:

  • Use only life jackets and life preservers that are tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
  • Choose one rated for your weight and activity. 
  • Choose a life jacket with a flotation collar and strap between the legs for small children.
  • Check life jacket for proper fit: Fasten all zippers, straps and ties. The jacket should fit snugly. Pull up on the shoulders of the life jacket—the ears and chin should not slip through.
  • Remember that life jackets are never a substitute for adult supervision.
  • Wear life jackets at all times on or near the water.
  • Make sure your child is comfortable with the life jacket and knows how to use it.
  • Ensure the life jacket is the right size for your child and is always worn as instructed.
  • Do not use blow-up water wings, toys, rafts, air mattresses, boat cushions or rescue rings in lieu of life jackets.

Washington Boating Laws

To keep your family safe when out on the water, it’s important to be aware of your state’s boating laws. Below are requirements for Washington state:

  • To operate a motorboat of 15 horsepower or greater, boaters must be at least 12 years old and carry a Washington State Boater Education Card.
  • To operate a personal watercraft, such as a Jet Ski, boaters must be at least 14 years old. 
  • Each person onboard a personal watercraft, or being towed behind a vessel, must wear a U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)-approved life jacket.
  • Children up to age 12 must wear a USCG-approved life jacket when on a vessel less than 19 feet in length.
  • All vessels (including canoes and kayaks) must have at least one USCG-approved life jacket for each person on board. 


Learn more about our free life jacket loan program or contact us for more information about water safety. Visit www.boat.wa.gov to learn more about boating regulations.