Mighty Blog

Swimming safety tips

May is National Water Safety Month – a time to promote safety in and around water. Dr. Gigi Chawla, chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota, provides you with some water safety basics. 

Dr. Chawla on WCCO

Dr. Chawla promotes safety in and around water for all kids and families on WCCO.


Sadly, drowning deaths are disproportionately higher for children of color. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black/African American children are 1.5 times more likely to die from drowning than White children and Indigenous children are two times more likely.  

Decades of structural racism have put families of color and other marginalized communities at higher risk for these very preventable injuries, like drowning. 

How important are swimming lessons? 

Learning to swim can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% for 1- to 4-year-olds who take formal swimming lessons. Kids can start taking swimming lessons at age 1. Younger kids often begin with water survival skills training, like learning how to roll onto their back and float. 

However, we need to ensure equitable access to swimming pools and lessons for children of color.  Structural racism has meant many Black families have grown up with less access to swimming pools and swimming lessons compared to white families. 

If you are looking for swimming lessons near you, check your local recreation centers for classes taught by a qualified instructor – like at the YMCA. As a parent or caregiver, if you don’t know how to swim, consider taking lessons. 

Water safety rules 


The first and most important rule is supervision. Kids must be watched whenever they’re around water. This is true whether the water is in a bathtub, a wading pool, an ornamental fishpond, a swimming pool, a spa, an ocean, or a lake.  

It’s extremely important to always watch children closely when they’re in or near any water, no matter what their swimming skills are. 

Young children 

Young children are especially at risk of drowning. Young kids can drown in less than 2 inches (6 centimeters) of water. That means drowning can happen in a sink, toilet bowl, fountains, buckets, inflatable pools, or small bodies of standing water around your home, such as ditches filled with rainwater. 

Always watch kids in water, but especially be on high alert around young kids. 

What to do in a water emergency?  

If a child is missing, always check the pool or other body of water first. Drowning survival depends on a quick rescue and restarting breathing as soon as possible. 

Water emergency 

Here’s what to do if you find a child in the water: 

  • Get the child out while calling loudly for help. If someone else is nearby, have them call 9-1-1.  
  • Check to make sure the child’s air passages are clear. If the child is not breathing, start CPR if you are trained to do so. Follow the instructions the 9-1-1 emergency operator gives.
Alexandra Rothstein