However, a toddler or preschooler has not reached that state of development. There is no fear of the unknown because it is unknown.
A 3-year-old has no plan to fall in a pool while walking on the deck. He just sees a brightly colored toy and tries to retrieve it.
The result can be tragedy.
Drowning is a leading cause of death in the United States for children younger than 5, according to Todd Appleman, founder of poolsafe
tynetwork.org, a nonprofit educational Web site.
About 500 children die in drownings each year in the United States, Appleman says.
Out of all preschoolers who drown, 70 percent were in the care of one or both parents at the time of drowning and 75 percent were missing from sight for five minutes or less.
Parents sometimes assume that their children are in bed asleep when they've wandered outside and fallen in the water. Or, one parent assumes the other is watching the child.
While no protective measure can replace adult supervision, it's important for pool owners to have layers of protection in place.
Protective measures recommended on the poolsafetynetwork.org Web site include:
· The pool should be surrounded by a fence that is at least 5 feet tall. There should be no spaces through which a child can squeeze or climb.
· The gates and doors leading to the pool should have self-closing and self-latching gates and doors with latches above a child's reach. The gates or doors should open outward. A small child might be able to push a door open but might not be strong enough to pull a door open.
· An alarm should be placed on each house door that leads to the pool area so you can be alerted if the child goes outside.
· Use a motor-driven safety pool cover to securely cover the pool area.
· Keep toys and other enticing objects out of the pool area.
· Drain standing water off spa and pool covers. Children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water.
· Consider a pool alarm that a child can wear on his wrist that will alert you if he falls in the water.
You can control your environment, but what happens if your child is invited to a friend's swimming party? Children of all ages need to be closely supervised when they're near pools.
"If you go to someone else's house, they might not have any layers of protection," Appleman says.
Parents need to ask tough questions: "Will there be an adult with my child at all times?" "Do you have a gate?" "How high is your fence?"
Perhaps the best protection for your child is you.
You could politely offer to stay by the poolside while the host tends to party details.
If your child is going to be near water this summer, it is important that he learns how to swim.
However, a child who knows how to swim is not necessarily safe in the water. Always stay an armslength away.
Have a safe, fun summer.
Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at email@example.com.