Water Safety and Children

Keeping Children Safe

With the warmer weather your thoughts might turn to paddling pools in the garden and water play.  While both these activities are undoubtedly exciting for children and many children with trajectory schemas benefit hugely from water play, we do have to be very careful about exposing other people’s children to such risks.

Risk for different children

Babies – likely to drown in water if they crawl up to investigate;

Toddlers – likely to drown in water if they want to experiment with it;

Disabled child – likely to drown in water if they do not understand the risks;

Child with English as a second or additional language – likely to be hurt if they do not understand the dangers related to them in English.

Control measures should be in place to keep children safe including...

  • Spills which might cause slips or falls are mopped up immediately;
  • Substances added to water (soap flakes, food colouring, essential oils etc) are suitable for use by children and non-toxic;
  • Resources added to water (plastic fish, buckets, pieces of sponge, toy boats etc) are safety checked before and during play;
  • Children are fully supervised when playing with water;
  • Water is the correct temperature for use by children and is checked with a thermometer if the practitioner is unsure;
  • Children with hand eczema or sores on their skin are provided with waterproof gloves;
  • Children wear waterproof aprons and are changed quickly if they are wet;
  • Practitioners are clear about safety rules and remind children regularly;
  • The practitioner ensures places where water might collect are checked before children go outside;
  • Overcrowding at the water tray is avoided through supervision;
  • Babies are fully supervised when in contact with water and provided with a small bowl of water rather than pulling up at the water tray;
  • Resources used with water play are checked for safety before use and discarded if broken or damaged;
  • Children are reminded to roll up their sleeves and wear aprons;
  • Practitioners are aware that wet clothing makes children susceptible to infection and can cause sore skin;
  • Fresh water is used and changed daily: if there is a risk of local contamination advice is taken before children are allowed to play;
  • Bowls for animals to drink water are not left out during working hours in reach of children in case they think it is a play area;
  • Daily checks ensure the water tray is safe to use;
  • All practitioners are trained in first aid;
  • Children are reminded not to drink the water;
  • Telephones are taken outside so that children are not left unattended when playing with water;
  • Paper towels and single use cloth towels are provided for children to dry themselves;
  • Sun cream is re-applied after water play.

Enabling the children to manage their own safety can be a slow process for many children. Practitioners need to remind them of the dangers regularly and can involve them in age-appropriate question and answer sessions which encourage them to think about danger and work out how to manage it for themselves.

For example, we are going to play with the water today...

  • Who can remember what we need to wear?
  • Who knows what happens if water gets spilled?
  • Can anyone remember why we need to dry up after we have finished playing?
  • If you are thirsty which water do you drink?
  • How many children can safely play around the water tray?
  • What happens if you want to play with the water tray and there are 3 children already gathered around it?
  • What should you do if you drop one of the toys from the water tray on the floor? Give it to an adult to wash, yes well done!
  • Who can remember where we keep the aprons?
  • What should you do if your clothes get wet from the water tray?

By involving the children in considering their own risk assessment we are helping them to think the risks through and to be more aware of what might hurt them – and we are helping to prepare them for school when they will be given more autonomy over their play.


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