Parental perceptions of toddler water safety, swimming ability and swimming lessons

Int J Inj Contr Saf Promot. 2006 Sep;13(3):139-43. doi: 10.1080/17457300500373572.


The primary objective of the study was to examine parental perceptions on the role of toddler swimming ability and pre-school swimming lessons in drowning prevention. A self-administered questionnaire was used to obtain information on toddler water safety from parents (n = 882) whose 2 - 4-year-old toddlers were either attending early childhood centres (n = 327) or who were enrolled in swim schools (n = 555). Differences in attitudes between two groups of parents were measured by frequency, with Mann-Whitney U tests used to discern significant differences between groups. More swim school parents believed that: swimming was best taught at 2 years of age or less (42% vs. 29%); swimming lessons were the best way to prevent toddler drowning (57% vs. 47%); toddlers could learn to save themselves if they fell into water (43% vs. 33%); and that it was better to develop swimming ability rather than rely on adult supervision (35% vs. 30%). Many parents have an overly optimistic view of the role of swimming ability and pre-school swimming lessons in drowning prevention. This was especially so for parents with toddlers enrolled in lessons. Swim schools in particular need to counter parental misconceptions of the protective role of swimming and reiterate the importance of close adult supervision of toddlers around water.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Child, Preschool
  • Data Collection
  • Drowning / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • New Zealand
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Safety*
  • Swimming*