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The charity making life better by water

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.

Helping toddlers and pre-school children to stay SAFE

We know how excited children get by the water but standing too close to the edge can be dangerous. At the Trust we teach young children our SAFE message, to Stay Away From the Edge.

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

  • Talk to your kids when you're out and about near water, whether you're walking or cycling, 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.
  • Download water safety activities from the Explorers website to help your little ones continue learning about safety when they're at home.

Sing the song

We've created a simple and annoyingly catchy song to help you talk to your children about staying safe near water.

Hold hands, take two steps back
Hold hands, take two steps back
Hold hands, take two steps back
Let's stay safe together, Quack Quack!

Listen to children's presenter Maddie Moate sing it in the film above!

Enjoy the poem

The waterside is fun to go,
But there are things you need to know.

Let's stay safe and not be silly,
The water here is very chilly.

Find your grown-up, hold their hand,
Two steps back is where you stand.

Look out for bugs and ducks that quack,
But always do it two steps back!

Read the book

2,000 nurseries along the Trust’s 2,000 miles of waterways have received a free printed copy of our water safety story, Quack, Quack, Take two steps back. You can read it right now in either English or Welsh.

Squirrel and Mouse are playing with their acorn ball, but “Oh no!” it falls in the canal. Find out how, with the help of their friends, they get their nut back and learn all about staying safe by water.

Read the book

Toddler enjoying the canal safely

Other tips

  • Always hold your child's hand when by the water
  • Make sure the brake is on the pram or pushchair when stationary
  • Make sure to look out for other people on busy towpaths before stepping back
  • Head to the Explorers website to download learning activities to help you toddlers and pre-schoolers learn how to stay safe by the water.

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, what3words and describe any landmarks.
  • 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.

Last Edited: 14 February 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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