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Keeping safe around water with children

Kids love water - from swimming to bodyboarding - it is a great way for them to get outside and enjoy different water activities. But it is essential that you know how to keep your children or young people you know safe around water at ALL times. Here are some helpful tips for you.

Swimming Pools

Firstly, make sure your little ones know how to swim, from a young age if possible. Especially if you don't. Swimming lessons are a good idea.

The Sea

A day at the coast is an amazing way to spend the day for families. As overseas travel is looking a bit less likely for a lot of people, many families are considering a 'staycation' at a beach in the UK this summer. But there are lots of dangers, even if there are lifeguards present. In Britain, the greatest threat won't be sharks or jellyfish, but from rip currents, tides and offshore winds. Be aware, the conditions can change quickly.

Make sure you know tide times and look for posted signs and flags. Ask a lifeguard or beach patrol if you aren’t sure what the flag means before entering the water. In the UK these are the flag meanings (taken from

  • Double red flag: water closed, no public swimming

  • Red flag: high hazard of surf and/or currents

  • Yellow flag: medium hazard or moderate surf and/or currents

  • Purple flag: dangerous marine life such as jellyfish, stingrays, or dangerous fish

  • Green flag: low hazard, calm conditions

  • Black and white checkered flag: set up along the beach, usually as a pair, to indicate separate sections to help keep swimmers and surfers safely apart in the water

Keep children close, especially if you’re in the water. Even shallow water can knock kids suddenly off their feet. At the beach you and your family or friends might enjoy activities such as swimming, bodyboarding, kitesurfing, canoeing, stand up paddleboarding, surfing or scubadiving. these are fantastic sports to take part in, as long as they are done safely. Especially in the ocean. Rip currents, for example, can quickly sweep unwary swimmers, surfers and body-boarders out to sea. The RNLI has a whole page dedicated to safety advice which covers a broad range of water activities to help keep you safe. Tips such as being aware of others in the water and staying between the black and white flags when surfing. RNLI lifeboat crews launched 99 times to kitesurfers in trouble in 2015. Taking some simple steps to stay safe will reduce your chances of getting into trouble and help you get the most out of the sport you love.

Rivers and Canals

Stay away from the edge is the main message if walking past. Apart from the obvious risk of drowning, if you fall in, cold water can cause the body to shut down very quickly. Canal and river water is also not treated and so it may cause illness. The Canal and River Trust offers water safety advice for children.

Talk to older kids, such as teenagers about the dangers of jumping or diving into rivers. It might be shallower than it looks or have unseen hazards beneath the surface, such as rocks, rubbish or worse. Don't go in near weirs, locks, pipes and sluices. These and some other water features are often linked with strong currents.

If enjoying an activity on the river or canal then do your research. As a paddleboarder I always make sure I check the weather forecast and tide times (for tidal rivers) before I set out - I use the app Windy. I never go paddling if the wind is above 10 knots, less if it's at sea, and I try to always go with a friend. I have downloaded the app What3Words and would definitely recommend it, it allows users to save and share their exact location – even if you’re in the middle of the sea or on a remote river.

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