YMCA swim instructor talking to parent and child
Water Safety and Swimming

As "America's swim instructor," the YMCA teaches children of all ages and from all backgrounds that water should be fun, not feared, if you know how to stay safe in and around water.

Water Safety and Swimming

"America's most trusted swim instructor," the YMCA helps kids of all ages, abilities and backgrounds develop skills they need to become strong, confident swimmers.

Water Safety and Swimming

Safety Around Water at the Y

From oceans to lakes to streams to swimming pools, water is everywhere: 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in it! And while water can be an irresistible place for kids to explore, play and enjoy splashy fun, it can be risky for those who haven’t yet developed their water smarts.

Did You Know?

Parents and guardians have a critical role to play in teaching their kids water safety skills – but they don’t have to do it alone! Each year, the Y teaches more than one million kids life-saving swimming and safety around water skills.

  • 9 in 10 U.S. parents see swimming as a key life skill for children, on par with first aid skills or being able to prepare a simple meal.

  • 24% of U.S. parents have low confidence with water activities or bodies of water.

  • 1 in 2 U.S. parents believe water safety classes are expensive in comparison to the other groups surveyed.

  • 3 in 10 U.S. parents state that water safety isn’t a priority due to affordability concerns.

Tips From Our Experts

Lindsay Mondick, Director of Innovative Priorities, Movement Engagement and Aquatic Safety for YMCA of the USA, shares water safety tips and discusses and the importance of accessible water safety programming in this series of blog posts. 

  • Top 5 Safety Around Water Tips

    Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to water safety. These water safety tips can parents or caregivers will help build confidence and a lifetime love of the water. 

  • Overcoming Barriers to Water Safety

    Two major barriers to water safety education in the U.S. include lack of access for historically marginalized communities and the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Y can help you take your first step towards water safety.

  • Beyond Swim Lessons

    The Y’s Safety Around Water program is the first step in equipping children with essential water safety skills, featuring eight sessions that teach children and adults what to do if they find themselves in water accidentally.

Drowning can happen nearly anywhere with standing water

Safety Around Water Program

Safety Around Water consists of eight lessons designed to teach kids water safety skills that help reduce the risk of drowning and build their skills and confidence in and around water. A typical session includes:

  • Exercises to help kids adjust to being in the water
  • Instruction in two skill sets kids can use if they unexpectedly find themselves in the water: Jump, Push, Turn, Grab and Swim, Float Swim.
  • Safety topics like what to do if you see someone in the water who needs help
  • Fun activities that reinforce skills

Swim Lessons

The Y introduced the country to group swim lessons over 110 years ago in 1909. Now, as one of the largest community-based organizations in the country, we teach more than a million children, especially those most at-risk of drowning, invaluable water safety and swimming skills each year.

There are three general categories of Y Swim Lessons:

  • Swim Starters helps children ages six months to three years develop swim readiness skills through fun experiences that build confidence. In addition, parents learn how to supervise children in the water, prevent accidents and plan for emergencies.
  • Swim Basics enables students of all ages to gain basic water safety and swimming skills. Swimmers become comfortable and confident in the water through practicing safe water habits, engaging in underwater exploration and learning how to swim to safety if they fall into a body of water.
  • Swim Strokes introduces and refines stroke technique in older swimmers (school-age, teens and adults). Having mastered the fundamentals, students learn additional water safety skills and build stroke technique, developing skills that can help prevent chronic disease, increase overall well-being and foster a lifetime of physical activity.

Water Safety Tips for Parents and Guardians

  • Make sure kids know to always ask permission before going into or near water.
  • Designate a responsible adult to be a Water Watcher and maintain constant visual contact with all children playing in or near the water.
  • Water Watchers: make sure you’re not distracted by your phone, a book or other tasks.
  • Don’t rely on water toys to protect weak swimmers. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are the only water safety devices certified to protect children.
  • Teach children to avoid drains in the pool: drains can cause them to get trapped under the water.
  • Don’t let kids play breath-holding games. They can easily lose consciousness.

Enroll in a YMCA Safety Around Water or Swim Lessons Program Today!

Both programs are available to all kids and families. Visit Find a Y to locate a program in your community.

Beyond the Water

Through team sports, family activities and early learning programs, discover more ways that children can develop as individuals.

  • Swim, Sports & Play

    The Y is committed to empowering kids to lead healthy, active lifestyles. From gaining confidence to building positive relationships with friends and peers, sports at the Y are about building lifelong skills and healthy habits.

  • Family Time

    Family time at the Y is about giving families — as a group or as individuals — opportunities to deepen relationships, develop new skills and interests, connect to the community and improve their health and well-being.

  • Child Care Programs

    Child care and early learning programs at the Y focus on child development by building foundational skills, developing healthy relationships and fostering self-reliance, all in a safe and supportive environment.