Water safety tips for parents

We want everyone to grow up enjoying our inland waterways, but it’s equally important to us that everyone knows how to enjoy them safely. Our Safety Team and our Learning & Skills Team have put together a few points to help keep you and the children in your life safe.

A family feeding a duck A family feeding the ducks

It’s never too early to start talking to your children about staying safe near water.

One of the best ways to help children learn about staying safe is to talk to them when you’re out and about near water, whether you’re walking or cycling, having a picnic or out on a trip to feed the ducks or look at the boats. Repeating safety messages regularly will help young children remember what to do.

Helping toddlers and pre-school children to stay SAFE

At the Trust we teach young children our SAFE message, to Stay Away From the Edge. We know how excited children get by the water but standing too close to the edge can be dangerous. A simple idea is to encourage them to stop and take one step back to make sure they are safe.

This Rosie and Jim episode is all about staying safe near the water and includes a simple song about taking one step back that you could sing together

Other tips

  • Always hold your child’s hand when by the water 
  • Make sure the brake is on the pram or pushchair when stationary

What to do if a child falls into the water

  • There may be other people around, so shout for help as loudly as you can.
  • If you have other children with you, make sure they are safe.
  • Dial 999 and ask for the fire and rescue service. Explain your location clearly - use road names, bridge numbers and describe any landmarks.  Perhaps download the what3words app to give a precise location. 
  • Lie down on the ground and try to reach them in the water. Use a tree branch, stick or an item of clothing to reach out to them. Don’t get in the water yourself. If they have fallen in, it’s likely that they won’t be too far away from the edge.
  • If you can, haul them out of the water. Do this by lying down on the ground and pulling them out by grabbing their clothes. Don’t pull them out from a standing position as you are more likely to fall in the water yourself.
  • If you can’t get them out, lie on the ground and hold on to them until help arrives.

If the Fire Service wasn’t informed, please let us know what has happened.  We will be able to review the area to see if safety measures need to be implemented.

Helping primary-aged children to stay SAFE

Family walking on canal towpath Family walking on canal towpath

As children grow older they may learn to swim and find new ways to enjoy the water. It’s important to keep reminding this age group to Stay Away From the Edge. Water can be dangerous, no matter how strong a swimmer you are. You could also help them to follow our Water Safety Code.

Water Safety Code

  1. Spot the dangers
  2. Take safety advice
  3. Go together
  4. Learn how to help 

Spot the dangers: this ‘spot the hazard’ poster is a great way to show children what sort of behaviour is dangerous and get them thinking about how to stay safe

Take safety advice: look out for any warning signs around reservoirs, canals and rivers to help you stay safe.

Go together: when around water, go with friends or family.

Learn how to help: if children know what to do in an emergency, they are more likely to stay calm. They should remember to:

  • Shout for help from a nearby adult
  • Call 999 - ask for the Fire Service. Explain your location, use road names, bridge numbers and describe landmarks
  • Never get into the water
  • Encourage them to stay calm and float
  • Lie down on the ground and try to reach the person in the water. Use a tree branch, stick or an item of clothing to reach out to them

Enjoying our waterways

Children playing by the Grand Union Canal Children playing by the Grand Union Canal

Being by the water is fun. Visiting a canal or river offers a chance for children to see wildlife, learn about boats and the canals and enjoy being in nature. There are lots of water safety activities you can do with your children through the Explorers website:

Water safety at school

The Learning & Skills team run water safety assemblies for primary aged children. Why not ask your child’s primary school to set up a FREE assembly

This page has been put together by the Water Safety Communications Team, the Learning and Skills Team, and we also took advice from a group of parents who work at the Trust.  If you feel something is missing from this page, please get in touch 

Last date edited: 16 June 2021