cartoon drawing of 3 kids in lifejacket. Lifeguard is instructing them.
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Let’s All Learn About  Water Safety and...

Learn How To Swim This Summer!

Healing & Hope Badge and DPCA Badge

A is for Adult. B is for Barriers. C is for Classes.

Follow Stewie the Duck to learn the ABCs of water safety!

Stewie the Duck wearing a medal.

A is for Adult Supervision

B is for Barriers, Layers of Protection

C is for Classes and Coast Guard Approved Lifejackets

We have a lot of pools around here! One in three homes in the Phoenix area have ’em, many apartment complexes do, too, and there are all those public and semi-public pools. As schools draw to a close and temps warm-up, kids and families look forward to a lot more time in the water. But before you go, there are some basics y’all need to know!

Swimming pools aren’t the only water people need to stay safe around—there are rivers, lakes, reservoirs, canals, washes…also bathtubs, hot tubs, toilets, buckets, and those plastic wading pools can be drowning hazards. In fact, drowning is the leading cause of death for kids ages 1–4. And in Maricopa and Pinal counties, we have between 40 and 60 fatal drownings a year, which usually are mostly adults. Most years, there are more than 100 non-fatal drownings in the Valley, and most of those are kids. The good news is that drownings are preventable. Kids and parents need to learn water safety rules and understand the importance of being careful when you’re around water!

Block letter AAdult Supervision

Unfortunately, drownings are a year-round concern in Arizona. “Drownings are the number one cause of death for kids ages 1 to 4,” points out Tracey Fejt, injury prevention coordinator for Banner Desert Medical Center and part of the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona. But the good news is that drownings are preventable!

A is for Active Adult Supervision. “Once you get out into the pool or if you have your kids in the bathtub—it’s truly eye-to-eye supervision,” Fejt emphasizes. “And you can’t leave them, not for anything! Not for a phone call, not for a knock at the door.” For very young kids in the water, “they have to be close enough to touch.”

She also warns that just because there are adults around the pool, it doesn’t mean that any of them are actively watching the kids in the water. “We recommend that there’s one adult (a designated water watcher) who’s not eating, drinking or on their phone—they are truly watching the kids around the water,” Fejt says. With larger groups like at pool parties, she says it’s a good idea to switch up who’s watching the water every 20 minutes so they stay alert.

Block letter BBarriers & Layers of Protection

With so many swimming pools, Arizona has one of the country’s highest drowning rates. 

Barriers, including an adequate pool fence and gate, need to be in place.

Parents need to think ahead, especially these days. “No parent can watch their kids 24/7, and I think the COVID (situation) made things even worse because parents started working from home and children were being schooled at home. It just made it more CHAOTIC,” Fejt points out. “So you need to have protections set in place.”

Looking at your pool, make sure “there’s no doggy door that has access to the pool; the back door is locked and it has a high latch that kids can’t reach to get out; for sliding doors, lock them, put a bar in them, put the latch higher up,” she continues. “Alarms on doors and windows (that lead to the pool area) are wonderful to have.” 

The pool fence needs to be at least 5 feet tall with a self-latching, self-locking gate. “We want the pool fence to go around the pool and not be attached to the house,” Fejt adds.

Such steps are called layers of protection—things put in place to prevent drownings.

Pool toys can be ENTICING for young kids to go after. “You never want to leave toys in the pool or anything that looks fun for the children. Always when the kids come out, all of those (toys, etc.) come out,” Fejt instructs. And since most kids, even little ones, are expert climbers, keep patio furniture and other things kids could use to get over the pool fence as far away from the pool as possible.

Learn The Water Safety Song

Sing these lyrics to the tune of winkle Twinkle, Little Star.

Two ducks in front of a sign. Don't jump til you learn to swim.

Authors Kim and Stew Leonard wrote the book and created the Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation in honor of their son, a toddler who they lost in a drowning accident.

Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim book cover.

You can purchase Stewie’s book “Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim” at

Block letter CClasses

Another important layer of protection is classes. “We want young people in water safety classes or swim classes as soon as possible.” Fejt emphasizes. While several sites that offer swim classes have been closed due to the pandemic, “we’re seeing more and more come back!” she says. Many of these places offer mom and tot classes. And for adults who don’t know how to swim? It’s never too late to take swim lessons! (Check out the next page for places like the YMCA that are offering swim classes and more.)

And classes don’t stop there. “Every parent needs to know CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and they need to know children’s CPR,” Fejt says. This is something kids who are mature enough should learn, too! “We have to really look at kids individually because they mature at different times,” she explains. “We definitely want to see them in junior high knowing how.”

To find CPR classes, check with your local Red Cross or fire departments to see if classes have resumed. 

Life Jackets & More

Certified life jackets (also called life vests) that fit right can be super important. Families need to stick with Coast Guard-approved life jackets. “If the kids don’t know how to swim—it’s great to have a life jacket on them,” Fejt says. 

They usually are printed with a weight and chest measurement, but Fejt says a parent really needs to get into the water with the child to make sure the life jacket is doing what it’s supposed to do. Don’t rely on plastic puddle jumpers that are growing in popularity or those arm floaties to keep a kid-safe in the water!

Life jackets aren’t just for kids who don’t know how to swim. Everybody in open water like lakes or rivers, including adults who are swimming, tubing or boating, should have them on!

Canal strip in the desert

No one should ever swim in an open canal or the CAP aqueduct.

Fejt warns that a kid should never try to jump in the water to save another kid or an adult. So if people are using the pool, there should be a phone available to call for help. Fejt also suggests having on hand something that floats—even a couple of pool noodles—to throw out to someone who needs help.

Swim riddle

Swim Safety Rules Worth Saving!

4 kids in the swimming pool

Water Safety Rules

Call 911 if there is an emergency at the pool.

Take swimming lessons. They help you to be stronger in the water. Wear a life vest when you are learning to swim. Always wear a life vest in a boat. Never swim alone. Even grown-ups should swim with someone. Always have a grown-up watching you. If the grown-up has to leave for a minute, get out of the pool. Don’t swim at a friend’s house if there is no one to watch you. Floaties and noodles are pool toys. They do not take the place of a safe life vest. Watch out for your friends in the water. Call for help if someone is in trouble. Make sure you watch little children around bathtubs, toilets, and buckets of water. They can drown in small amounts of water.

Lifesaver Maze

Contact These Valley Locations for Current Info On Swim Lessons

Apache Junction: Superstition Shadows Aquatic Center

(480) 982-8002  June–August, Infants to adult lessons

Chandler:  480-782-2750  Year round lessons, Infants to adult

El Mirage: Valley of the Sun YMCA  (602) 404-9622

Parent/Child lessons, Infant to adult lessons

Gilbert: Aquatics (480) 503-6200

Preschool to adults

Glendale: Foothills Recreation & Aquatics (623) 930-4600

Rose Lane Aquatics (623) 930-7905

Mesa: Parks & Rec (480) 644-7529

Infants to adult lessons

Peoria: City of Peoria (623) 773-7000

Parent/Child to adult lessons. Private lessons available

Phoenix: City of Phoenix Parks & Rec (602) 262-6011

Registration begins May 13. Free lessons for ages 3-12

Paradise Valley: Paradise Valley Pool (602) 534-5161

Registration begins May 13. Free lessons for ages 3-12

Scottsdale: Aquatics (480) 312-6677

Infants to adult lessons

Surprise: Parks & Rec (623) 222-2251

6 months to adult lessons. Private lessons available

Tempe: (480) 350-4311

8 month to adult lessons

YMCA: Various locations around the Valley (602) 404-9622

Parent/Child lessons, Infant to adult lessons