You Are Keeping Kids Safe Around Water

Last updated: September 27, 2022, at 2:36 p.m. PT

Originally published: September 26, 2022, at 12:39 p.m. PT

Water Safety Blog_PRF2_99145.jpg

Whether you're playing in a backyard pool, splashing in a bathtub, or cooling off during the summer months next to a local stream or river, it just takes a moment. A child or weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to reply to a text, check a fishing line, or apply sunscreen. Teaching children how to swim and be safe in and around water is one of the most important life skills we can give children. Water safety builds confidence and saves lives.

  • In 2020, thirty-three people lost their lives in King County waters, nearly 70% of which occurred in open water incidents and drowning continues to be the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children and teens.
  • More children ages 1 to 4 years die from drowning than any other cause of death (except birth defects).
  • The fatal-drowning rate of Black and African-American children is three times higher than white children. Eighty percent of those who drown are male.
  • Research has shown that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning among children ages 1 to 4 years by up to 88 percent.

This summer, the Kent YMCA offered the Y’s Safety Around Water program in partnership with Mother Africa, a local organization whose mission is to advance racial equity through supporting African refugee and immigrant women and their families to reach their highest potential. Eighty-five children learned swimming skills and important safety tips around water, such as floating, underwater swimming, what to do if they fall into water unexpectedly, and what to do if they see others struggling to swim. Each child who learns safety and grows confidence in the water shares that experience with their own friends and family, spreading the positive impact exponentially.

Some participants and their parents shared what swim lessons mean to them and how water safety affects their lives.  

Faith, a 10-year-old, enjoyed learning different swimming techniques, “This is a fun new way to learn different stuff that I hadn’t done before. I liked the class because it helped me get out of my comfort zone. I feel confident because now I know how to be safe around water and I can help my family with some of them who don’t know how to swim.”  

Aliyah, who is taking swim lessons for the first time, has advice for others learning to swim, “Believe in yourself, you can try something new, and if you can’t then you can ask a teacher to help you.” 

The experience is just as rewarding for parents, especially those who did not have the same opportunity to learn to swim as a child. “This is such a positive experience. I did not learn to swim growing up, there weren’t opportunities for girls to do that. When I was 21, I was with friends on the beach and thought, oh it must be easy. But when I walked into the water up to my neck, I could not control my body and the waves began to drown me. Luckily, there were others nearby to help me out. Before Covid, I started adult swim lessons at the Y and will now continue with those. I am even more confident now for my son, he’s teaching me the steps of what to do in the water. He loves it, he always wants to go to the Y for swimming lessons.” 

Mediya, a mother of three, saw her five-year-old son save her two-year-old when she was struggling in the bathtub. “Six months ago, my second daughter would have died in the water in the bathroom. My son saw that she was drowning, and he helped her. We will definitely continue these swim lessons with the Y.” 

“To see a child learn to swim is very rewarding. Especially, if they start from nothing, when they start very scared of the water and then are so excited to get into the water and don’t want to come out. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” said Eric, Kent Y’s Aquatics Director. “I can really see their level of confidence grow from the first day to the last day.” 

As the Y continues its work toward Vision 2025, water safety remains a key component of equity and justice and Whole Person Health. That’s what drives Vision 2025 and the YMCA of Greater Seattle. With the help of our donors, all people can enjoy life to its fullest, including the natural wonders of our great state and all the rich experiences it has to offer. The Y is proud to be the most accessible community resource to prevent drowning and encourage a lifelong enjoyment of swimming. Each year, your donations help more than 13,000 people learn how to swim through our group and private swim lessons. And as with many Y programs, scholarships are offered so that a family’s financial situation is not a barrier to learning to swim. 

Accessing swim lessons, regardless of financial situation, is vital to delivering our mission of building a community where all people, especially the young, are encouraged to develop their fullest potential in spirit, mind, and body. It is because of our donors that we can make this vision a reality. Donations to the Y save lives and enrich our whole community by encouraging all of us to enjoy the water safely. 

Learn more about the Safety Around Water program > 


Category: Impact Newsletter