Getting into trouble in the water can happen in an instant. Every year – particularly during the school summer holidays – tragic reports of children (and adults) accidentally drowning highlight the lethal dangers of playing close to or in the water.

You can start to plan a fun and safe family trip to the seaside by knowing and following the safety guidance of the coastguards. Inland also, on days when the temperature soars there are all too many instances of people cooling off in rivers and lakes with fatal outcomes sadly too often reported in the news. For open air swimming choose a supervised public lido (if you have one nearby) or splash at dedicated children’s paddling parks.

Water safety authorities say hundreds of people drown in the UK and Ireland annually and every year UK citizens drown on foreign holidays. Explain the dangers of swimming in or playing by lakes, rivers and ponds to your children, and offer frequently reminders – children are never too young to learn water safety rules.

Seaside water safety

Even the strongest swimmers can find themselves in trouble in the sea where risks include hidden currents, inflatables blown or swept out to sea and cold water. Children should only ever swim and play in the sea with a responsible adult in a safe area designated by beach flags – expert advice is to only ever swim at supervised (lifeguarded) beaches. The advice continues that adults should be aware of potential or real hazards at all times and should follow safety tips:

  • Leave inflatables at home
  • If heading to the beach, visit a lifeguarded beach
  • Red beach flags mean it is dangerous to bathe or swim and you should not go into the water
  • Red and yellow flags mean lifeguards are on patrol. You should only swim or boogie board in the area between the flags
  • Quartered black and white flag? It is not safe for swimmers and bathers – this area is zoned for surf craft and Malibu boards
  • Look for signs and advice about the specific dangers
  • Think about what you will do if something goes wrong
  • Call 999 / 112 to alert the emergency services
    Water safety at home

    Frighteningly, it is possible to drown in as little as 2cm of water which makes the danger of children drowning very real indeed. Parents are warned about the risks of water from the day their babies take their first bath (if not before) – the risk remains throughout childhood. Water comes into play on hot summer days when the clouds part and children ask for the paddle pool. The risk of drowning may be even bigger as large adult pools and plunge pools have become more affordable, and with hot tubs becoming a more common feature in many family homes.

  • Never leave paddling pools and buckets filled with water – empty them out when you are finished using them
  • Cover and keep children out of fish ponds, pools, tubs and any standing water (including water butts, fountains, water features) – use self-closing gates, locks and fences
  • Securely cover all water storage tanks and drains
  • Supervise bath time all of the time – without exception and empty the water after use
    For more advice on water safety for children and young people, please visit

    To find your nearest lifeguarded beach visit the RNLI website, at –

    The RNLI offer more advice on water safety at the coast on their website, here –