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Playground and water features safetyPosted: July 20, 2012

Playgrounds are occasionally built near natural water features, such as ponds, lakes, or streams. Other water features, like splash pads or wading pools are incorporated into playground plans to add design interest and variability of play. Both types of features can pose a drowning hazard to young children.

Although older children are also susceptible to drowning, research indicates that young children (under five years of age) are most at risk because:

• They can drown in as little as 1 inch (2.5 centimetres) of water;
• They are attracted to water, but cannot understand the inherent risks;
• They lack balance and coordination which increases their risk of falling into bodies of water.

To address this risk, active adult supervision (staying within both sight and reach) is strongly recommended for children under five years of age. For older children, staying within sight and reach also helps to reduce drowning risks.

Personal Floatation Device Information

Personal Floatation Device (PFD) Sizing Chart for Children

BEFORE you go to the store HAVE:

o Child’s chest measurement underneath the arms

o Child’s Weight

o Apparel Sizing

At the store:

Try the jacket on – it should fit snugly, make sure that it does not slip over chin and ears. If there is more than 3 inches between the child’s shoulders and the PFD is TOO big.

Consider the child’s swimming ability. A type II Child vest may be more suitable for children who are non-swimmers due to greater buoyancy.

Consider age and experience with lifejackets. Children should learn how to relax and gain control of their bodies with supplemental buoyancy. Adult supervision and support is critical.

Choose the right jacket for the activity.

Children should always wear a PFD when they are in, on and around water, no matter how shallow the water.


When purchasing a PFD for your child, make sure it fits. To check for a good fit, lift the child by the shoulders of the PFD. If the PFD fits right, the child’s chin and ears will not slip through.

Look for features that improve the fit and performance like a safety strap between the legs, waist ties and a large collar with a grab strap. Straps on the PFD should be used at all times – they keep the PFD in place.

Resist the temptation to buy a PFD too large so the child can “grow into it”. A loose fitting PFD is dangerous. A PFD that is too large can’t function properly or might slip off in the water.

Parents should help children test their PFDs in shallow water. It is important they get used to wearing one in the water.

Set an example; wear your own PFD.

by Kim Levie

East Kootenay Child Care Resource and Referral


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