Manotick families – have your say about George McLean park

This blog post is part PSA and part rant.

The PSA part is that the city is planning to update the play structures at George McLean park in Manotick. (Thanks to the Manotick Village and Community Association for the notification on this one!) According to the MVCA parks and recreation page:

The City is replacing aging play structures in George McLean Park, and would like community input as to the type of new play structures it would like to have.

The city has advised of the following mandatory play equipment changes:

1. The sand will be removed and replaced with wood chips
2. The little merry-go-round/roundabout will be removed for safety reasons.

The city has asked residents to provide their comments on replacement options and if possible to also complete this questionnaire..

Comments and completed questionnaires should be sent to

The deadline for feedback to the City is April 11; removal and replacement of the structures is expected to begin in August.

(I know the deadline was last Friday – I’m hoping we can get a bit of an extension for comments.) So families, if you are interested in what happens to George McLean park, please take a moment to express your opinions.

Here comes the rant.

The city wants to remove the roundabout for “safety” reasons. This makes me crazy. That roundabout was our hands-down favourite feature of that park. Look!

Easter family fun

It’s old, I know. My attachment may be purely nostalgic. Maybe there is a perfectly good reason for this gorgeous retro roundabout to be removed – but I suspect there is not. I fear the safety issue is not in its construction or durability but in its inherent design. I fear that what we are facing is not a safety issue but a liability issue. We are not protecting the kids, we are protecting the city.

Yes, kids will go flying off the roundabout- remember how much FUN that was? Did you ever get one of those metal bars to the cheekbone? I did – and I learned to keep my face out of the way the next time. And I learned about centrifugal force at the same time. Fun + learning = learning that stays with you!

I’m not the only one ranting about disappearing roundabouts. Check out these articles from Free Range Kids and KATU media in Portland, Oregon, both published within the last few months on this subject.

I fear, however, that I am waging a lost battle.

If you have a few extra minutes to spare, please read this brilliant article from the March 2014 edition of The Atlantic entitled The Overprotected Kid. This is exactly what I am afraid we are denying our children when we coddle and overprotect them:

[Ellen Sandseter, a professor of early-childhood education at Queen Maud University College in Trondheim] began observing and interviewing children on playgrounds in Norway. In 2011, she published her results in a paper called “Children’s Risky Play From an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences.” Children, she concluded, have a sensory need to taste danger and excitement; this doesn’t mean that what they do has to actually be dangerous, only that they feel they are taking a great risk. That scares them, but then they overcome the fear. In the paper, Sandseter identifies six kinds of risky play: (1) Exploring heights, or getting the “bird’s perspective,” as she calls it—“high enough to evoke the sensation of fear.” (2) Handling dangerous tools—using sharp scissors or knives, or heavy hammers that at first seem unmanageable but that kids learn to master. (3) Being near dangerous elements—playing near vast bodies of water, or near a fire, so kids are aware that there is danger nearby. (4) Rough-and-tumble play—wrestling, play-fighting—so kids learn to negotiate aggression and cooperation. (5) Speed—cycling or skiing at a pace that feels too fast. (6) Exploring on one’s own.

This last one Sandseter describes as “the most important for the children.” She told me, “When they are left alone and can take full responsibility for their actions, and the consequences of their decisions, it’s a thrilling experience.”

And here’s a fascinating and relevant set of statistics about just how little of a difference our endless safety standards are having:

According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which monitors hospital visits, the frequency of emergency-room visits related to playground equipment, including home equipment, in 1980 was 156,000, or one visit per 1,452 Americans. In 2012, it was 271,475, or one per 1,156 Americans. The number of deaths hasn’t changed much either. From 2001 through 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 100 deaths associated with playground equipment—an average of 13 a year, or 10 fewer than were reported in 1980.

In other words, we’ve taken away all the fun, all the learning, all the exploration and adventure, and in exchange we’ve gained — nothing.

Speaking of statistics, check out this link from the Royal Society on the Prevention of Accidents. The leading causes of accidents on children’s playgrounds are swings (40%), climbers (23%) and slides (20%). Roundabouts come in at a measly 5%! And nobody is talking about taking away the slides or the swing. (Thanks to Jane at the MVCA for the link!)

If you’d like to have your say about what happens to the George McLean park play structures, please complete this PDF questionnaire from the city. (If I can get my hands on an electronic version, I will share it.)

And while you’re at it, please put in a kind word for our roundabout. Some things are worth saving!

Got anything to say on the subject of the modernization of retro playground equipment? You know I’d love to hear from you!

Free information session for parents: CHEO Connects

I received this information about a great series of information sessions put together by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and I thought I’d pass the information along to you.

CHEO Connects is a free information series for parents in the community, providing trusted information and access to local experts. There will be six evening events rolled out over the 2011/2012 school year — each covering both physical and mental health topics for a specific age group.

Each CHEO Connects session will help parents focus on key such things, including: What is “normal” for this age group? What are the biggest red flags I should watch out for? What I can do to help make a difference? CHEO experts will be on hand to answer questions.

This Monday, November 28 2011, the session focuses on 6 to 9 year olds. The sessions begin at 7 pm at the Adult High School (300 Rochester at Gladstone) and you can choose two of the following breakout sessions to attend:

Self Esteem, Friendships and Social Skills: What You Need to Help Your Child – Dr. Simone Kortstee
How can we help our children accept themselves and be confident in who they are? What can we as parents say and do to help them get along with others without losing themselves? In developing more independent friendships, what do our children need to know about peer pressure and bullying?

Helping your 6 to 9 year old develop skills for co-operation and self-management – Dr. Virginia Bourget
At this age, children develop increasingly effective executive function skills. Learn to understand and facilitate the abilities that will allow your child to regulate his/her emotions and behaviour with growing independence. Parental strategies for those times when adults and children can’t seem to agree will also be discussed.

Depression and Anxiety in Children: Tips and Tools – Dr. Marjorie Robb
With all the changes that children 6 to 9 experience, some stress and anxiety is to be expected. Children become more independent, and school and friends start playing a more important role. This presentation will look at signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety in children with an emphasis on “red flags” that parents should be aware of and suggestions about first steps to take in responding.

Healthy Activity and Balance! Can We Do Everything Well? – Dr. Annick Buchholz. Dr. Laurie Clark, Kelly Hefferman, RD
Healthy active living begins in childhood and carries on into our lives as adults. How can parents ensure a balance amongst school demands, extra-curricular activities, eating and sleeping? This session will review suggestions for how to help create balance in our children’s daily activities in order to promote physical and mental health.

This sounds like an amazing resource, doesn’t it? You can get more information on the CHEO Connects Web site.

Ontario’s new online organ donor registry is live!

In 2005, I wrote a post about organ donation, and I wrote one in 2006, and in 2007, too. (You’ll see why organ donation is dear to my heart later in this post.) Yesterday, I heard that Ontario has finally set up an online organ donation registry:

According to Ontario’s health minister, more than 1,500 people are currently on waiting lists for such transplants. More than 80 per cent of Canadians say they would like to donate their organs, but less than 20 per cent of those eligible have registered to do so.

Did you know that a single organ donor can save up to eight lives?

Here’s the story of one life that was saved through organ donation: my father’s. This is the first blog post I wrote about organ donation, back in 2005:

In late October of 2001, I was just about five months pregnant with our first son. I had been over at the grocery store buying Halloween candy for us — er, I mean, the neighbourhood kids. When I came in the door, before I could even get my coat off, Beloved approached me with tears in his eyes. “Your mom called,” he said, and the world stopped turning for the briefest instant. Thankfully, it was not what I was expecting, what I had been gradually bracing myself for through the long and awful course of my father’s illness.

“They got the call. Your dad is getting his liver transplant.”

My dad got Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion in the early 1980s. We didn’t find out he was sick until much later. Aside from becoming increasingly weak and frail, one of the most disturbing and debilitating results of my dad’s cirrhosis was how it affected his cognitive processes. The gist of it is that the liver filters toxins like ammonia out of your blood, and when it isn’t working properly, the toxins can build up, leading to serious cognitive impairment. It really messes with your memory, your moods, and your mental stamina, among other things. In a lot of ways, it is similar to Alzheimer’s disease. It made me so very sad to see him struggling, because my father is one of the smartest people I know, and I aspired as a child to be as funny, as charming and as quick of wit as him.

We have been blessed. After the transplant, it wasn’t long before I had my ‘old’ dad back. Every time I see him interact with Tristan and Simon (ed: and now Lucas!), my heart soars. Simon especially has a thing for his “Papa Lou” and even as I type this, I am grinning as I imagine how his face lights up when my dad catches his eye.

I don’t have the words to express how the pain of some family’s loss can be so intimately bound to our family’s joy. I wish I could let them know what a difference their donation has made in our lives.

Within about 18 months of receiving his transplant, my parents moved across the province to live in the same city as us. Some days, when my dad is out and about, he calls me and offers me a ride home from work. They live just a few blocks from us, and when I was home on maternity leave, he would sometimes wander over in midafternoon while taking the dog for an extended walk.

It’s these tiny moments that are the gift we’ve received from an organ donation. How do you say thank you for the joy of a happy life with someone you love? How do you thank someone for the look in a baby’s eyes as his face lights up with excited recognition?

If it weren’t for an organ donor, this would never have happened:

157:365 Happy Birthday Papa Lou!

What are you waiting for? With one click, you could save eight lives. It may be the most important thing you do today.

Flotsam and jetsam – a “cleaning out my inbox” post

A few tidbits that have dribbled out of my inbox lately, worth a mention but not quite an entire post…

Remember when I blogged about the MoonJars? I just received their newsletter, and now you can enter to win a set of 25 standard MoonJars for your child’s classroom. Follow this link for details. (The contest is aimed at classrooms or community groups for Grades K-3. Entries should be submitted on behalf of classes/groups through their teachers or parents.)

I won my first-ever auction on eBay this weekend! I’ve bought stuff before, and I’ve bid and lost things, but I’ve never actually won an auction. I’m so stoked! The item was shipped from Mississauga yesterday, and I’ve been using Canada Post’s tracking feature to watch it migrate across the province. Did you know you can get e-mail tracking updates? How cool is that? I’m ridiculously excited to watch its progress across the province. It arrived in Ottawa at 6:36 this morning — with any luck, it will be waiting for me at home tonight. Yippee! (You’ll have to wait to see what I got, but it has to do with the 365. Fun!)

There’s a kids’ consignment sale happening on Sunday, October 18 called My Kid’s Funky Closet . According to the e-mail I received, ” It has been happening for 4 years now at The Glebe Community Center in Ottawa. The Ottawa Police provide their child finger printing service and Little Rays Reptiles put on a show. They collect for the food bank and snowsuit fund as well. They have consignors who make money selling their gently used children’s items and maternity wear and people at the show have an opportunity to dress their children at a fraction of the cost of buying new. There are toys, games, bikes, strollers, baby equipment, clothing, maternity wear and vendor booths to visit as well.”

Those of you with daughters might be interested in this one.

Plan Canada just released the 2009 edition of their ground breaking series of reports Because I Am A Girl (BIAAG). These reports highlight the plight of girls around the world and the unique role they play in the fight against global poverty.

Plan Canada in support of the 2009 BIAAG report is filming a documentary across Canada and will be in Ottawa from October 2nd to the 5th filming at locations across the city. This documentary is aimed at capturing the experiences of teens, tweens and their inspirations. These experiences will be captured and replayed as a documentary to be released in Spring 2010.

If you think your teen or tween might be interested in participating in the documentary, the latest filming schedule will have them at the Rideau Centre downtown on Saturday, October 3 from 12 pm to 2 pm.

If people are unable to attend the events they can still support the campaign by visiting and find more ways to get involved. You can also follow the documentary crew as they blog about traveling across Canada and talking to girls who are helping to achieve positive social change around the world.

And finally, I’ve been chatting with one of the producers for All in a Day on CBC Radio. They’re thinking of doing a sort of parenting panel debate on when is the right time to let kids walk to school by themselves. We’ve had a lot of similar discussions here, so I said I’d ask y’all to see if anyone is interested. Even though I’m still shepherding Tristan back and forth at age seven, I think I’m pretty close to letting him walk by himself — assuming he’s ready for it.

I’m a little conflicted on the subject, but want to subscribe to the “free range kids” kind of ideals and believe that it is just as safe now as it was when I was a kid for kids to be roaming the neighbourhood. If you want to debate the issue, and especially if you’d argue a more conservative approach, let me know and I’ll pass your information along to Sarah at the CBC.

Good news and bad news online

The good news is, Facebook has changed it’s mind about that stupid “beacon” thing that I ranted about last week, where they broadcast your online purchases in your Facebook news feed. You now have to opt IN to the service, which is totally the way it should be, instead of making users go to the trouble of opting out. Bravo Facebook, I guess I won’t be quitting just yet…

The bad news is, Blogger sucks! Did you notice that as of late last week, you can no longer leave your URL in any comment you leave on blogspot blogs? If you don’t have a Blogger account, you can only leave your “nickname” with no link back to your blog. How lame is that? I find all sorts of great new blogs by surfing the blogs of people who comment on other blogs. I looked for documentation about this all through Blogger’s site and couldn’t find any reference to why they would do this.

There are workarounds, of course. You can open a Google account and display your URL prominently in the Blogger profile, or just add your blog name as an href tag in the comment itself. Since they haven’t promoted this as some sort of new spam-reduction service, I can only imagine that they’re doing this to prop up the registration for Google accounts. Makes me even more happy with my decision to dump my Blogger blog. My Gmail account may be next, at this rate.

Shame on Google!

Why I’m thinking of quitting Facebook

A not-so-hypothetical situation: It’s the Christmas season, and you’re doing a little bit of online shopping. You click over to Amazon, or eBay, or another one of 40 or so sites, and make your purchase. And the next thing you know, all of your “friends” on Facebook get an update in their Facebook News Feeds: “DaniGirl just bought Season Six of Smallville on DVD from” What, you didn’t see the little pop-up window warning you that your purchase was about to be added to your Facebook account? Oh well, hopefully the “friend” you were buying the gift for doesn’t read his news feed that day.

As if that weren’t creepy and disturbing and Orwellian enough for you, how about the fact that you are automatically signed up for this “feature” and to opt out you have to do so on a case-by-case basis.

Here’s how the CBC describes “Beacon”, the latest new “service” on Facebook (thanks to Barbara for the link):

For example, when you engage in consumer activity at a partner website, such as Amazon, eBay, or the New York Times, not only will Facebook record that activity, but your Facebook connections will also be informed of your purchases or actions.

If you buy a book on Amazon, a little bit of code is embedded within that site then sends the data to Facebook and informs your friends that you’ve bought a particular book. Or say you’re surfing the recipe/food site Epicurious and rate or comment on a few recipes, again your Facebook friends will be notified of your culinary interests, as will Facebook itself and their advertising partners.

Thus where Facebook used to be collecting data only within the confines of its own website, it will now extend that ability to harvest data across other websites that it partners with. Some of the companies that have signed on to participate on the advertising side include Coca-Cola, Sony, Verizon, Comcast, Ebay — and the CBC. The initial list of 44 partner websites participating on the data collection side include the New York Times, Blockbuster, Amazon, eBay, LiveJournal, and Epicurious.

The idea, of course, is that if you see a friend buying a certain product or using a particular website, you’ll take that as an endorsement for that product or service. It’s insidious and creepy, and may be the achievement of advertising’s Holy Grail: ads that don’t seem like ads at all. You may also find your profile picture beside paid ads for whatever product or service you bought. Imagine it: “Trojan Condoms with extra sensitivity, now available from DaniGirl bought a box yesterday!” with my profile pic of me – and the boys, no less – beaming out at you. offers a flash demo of how Beacon works. I’ve been trying to figure out the technology behind the tracking of purchases, and while I’m sure it must use some sort of tracking cookie, I can’t find any information about exactly how it’s triggered.

Now, you know I’m not anti-advertising, and I’m not even all that vigilant about protecting my personal information online. I think the nature of most bloggers leaves them fairly laissez-faire about sharing information about their activities and interests online in a public forum. When the Sitemeter / Specificclick blogstorm passed through (Sitemeter was installing “spyware” tracking cookies to report web behaviour back to an advertiser) I made sure to switch to a tracking-free account, but I wasn’t alarmed enough to stop using Sitemeter because of it.

This time, however, I’m seriously considering using these instructions to not only deactivate my Facebook account but to delete it entirely. (Facebook doesn’t allow you to simply delete an account, it just lets you put it into dormancy, leaving all the juicy personal details you’ve added intact in its databanks.)

At the very least, I’ve signed the petition at, which required the use of a fake zip code, since they don’t seem to be receptive to Canadian signatories — ironic, because Facebook is far more popular here than in the US.

I have to admit, I don’t use Facebook much anymore these days anyway. I sign on every day to play a couple of ongoing games of Scrabulous, but I haven’t perused my own News Feed in a while. If Facebook reconsiders its position and makes Beacon an opt-in system like most of its applications, I’ll probably keep a stripped-down account just so I can keep my toes in the social-networking waters. While it’s a fun toy, I can’t say that Facebook has been an incredibly useful tool, or even as much fun as blogging. I don’t think I’d miss it.

What do you think? Do you have a Facebook account, and does this freak you out, or is this just something we’re going to have to get used to in an increasingly transparent online world?

Facing the ugly eco-truth

Yesterday, I alluded to the several pounds of carbon emissions I contributed to the atmosphere (I’m guessing) by driving all over hell’s half acre and back, and how we’re really going to have to capitulate to suburban living in the next few months by buying a second car.

I don’t want a second car. Aside from the fact that I’m reluctant to take on the cost of buying and maintaining and insuring a second car, I’ve always been a pleased with our reduced eco-footprint as a single-car family. I’m happy to content with tolerant of commuting to work by bus.

Now, not only are we looking at a second car, but we need seating for five, and room in the back seat for three car seats. I’m holding out hope for the Mazda 5, but am thinking we’ll have to capitulate to a (whimper) mini-van. Talk about joining the dark side! At least, I suppose, it’s not an SUV. Or a Hummer.

So anyway, I’m writing all of this while I’m thinking about the BlogHer Act Canada September Challenge, which asks us to consider the various ways we can reduce the disposable packaging in our lives.

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “What the hell? She’s supposed to be writing about how we can reduce our eco-footprint, and she’s talking about how she’s planning to DOUBLE hers.” The point is, I need to compensate. If we’re going the way of the two-car family (the minivan-and-car family, David Suzuki forgive us) then we’re damn well going to have to find some other way to contribute.

So I took this Eco-Footprint quiz to give myself a baseline, and to maybe see where I could make some improvements.

The Eco-Footprint calculator measures the amount of natural resources an individual consumes in a given year. The “average” Canadian consumes the equivalent of 8.8 global hectares per person per year. According to the quiz, I’m consuming 7.8 hectares per year… but on average the world has just 1.8 hectares of natural resources per person. I’m doing a little bet better than the average Canadian, but barely.

The kicker? “If everyone lived like you, we would need 4.3 planets.”

Ouch. And that’s BEFORE the second car.

The quiz also showed me that while I am doing (relatively) well in transportation and shelter, I really need to improve in the categories of “food” and “goods and services.”

And lookit that, here we are back on topic. What better way to start than to look for ways to reduce excess waste from consumer packaging.

Here’s what I am going to work on. They’re small changes, but I’m only going to commit to what I’m sure I can manage, and go from there.

First, I’m going to get a thermal mug and carry it with me. Inconvenient, yes, especially for the person who always forgets to wash it out at the end of the day. But I’ll save 25 to 40 paper cups a month – that’s a good start.

Second, I’m going to be more diligent about using my reusable shopping bags. I actually LOVE those new ones from Loblaws… you can fit more in them, they stand up in the back of the car better so the apples don’t roll all over the place, and you can fit way more stuff in them. I’m not bad at remembering them for the big weekly grocery trip, but I have to remember to bring one with me for smaller excursions, too. Hoping to eliminate 50 plastic bags a month.

Third, less Ziploc baggies. Oh, how I love Ziploc baggies for everything from sending snacks to school to wrapping up the leftover grated cheese for storage. I have to break this unhealthy relationship with Ziploc baggies. Can I make due on a single box for an entire year? I’ll try!

Fourth, less juice boxes and water bottles. So convenient, but so wasteful. I’ve been lazy about juice boxes for Tristan’s snack lately; time to shake it off and start reusing the rubbermaid straw bottles again.

Fifth and finally – way less takeout lunches. This will be good not only from an eco-perspective, with less styrofoam and other disposable packaging, but from a financial and even dietary perspective. This may require a strategic investment in some decent tupperware-type serving containers. Any recommendations?

It’s not much, I know, but it is a start. If you want more ideas, check out the original BlogHers Act Canada challenge post. Through this Sunday, you can even write your own post and play along on the challenge!

Thomas the Tank Engine toy recall

A friend at work sent me this link today, and I was positively stunned. RC2, the American makers of the wooden Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends toys, has issued a recall on a number of engines and accessories over fears that the paint on the engines could contain lead.


(I shudder to think how many of those trains we have, and how much time the boys spent with them – and yes, they have all been chewed on, drooled over and sucked on.)

I found the actual recall notice on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site, and it has details on exactly which engines and accessories are involved in the recall (seems to be mostly the red ones) and what to do. RC2 Corp has information on its recall page on which trains are recalled and how to return them (including information for Canadians and Americans.)

Public Service Announcement – Safe Kids Week

(I wrote this last week and then forgot to post it. While it’s no longer Safe Kids Week, I still think this is important information. Since I wrote it, another three year old child in the city has died by drowning in the family’s above-ground backyard pool.)


It’s not often I get a press release that’s worth just pasting verbatim into a post, but I thought this information from Safe Kids Canada was so timely and relevant that I would do just that. I read on the weekend a frightening story about a 22 month old child who is recovering in hospital from a near-drowning at his daycare outside of Ottawa.

Even we had a bit of a close call last week at a friend’s inground pool. Tristan was an arm’s length away from me as I held Simon in my arms with my back to Tristan. He misjudged the slope from the shallow end to the deep end and I turned around to see him flailing and struggling to get his footing back under him and managed to pull him back into the shallow end, sputtering and frightened but safe. Awful things can happen in a heartbeat; please read this and be safe this summer. (It’s long, so I’ve tucked it below the fold. Click on the “more please” button to see the rest of this post.)

Safe Kids Canada – Backgrounder on Drowning

Many serious injuries and deaths among Canadian children are linked to summer activities, especially swimming. In fact, the majority (60 per cent) of drowning incidents occur in the summer.[i]

The Facts:

· According to Safe Kids Canada, drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death for Canadian children. An estimated 58 children under the age of 14 will drown every year. This is equal to two elementary school classrooms of children.

· Another 140 children will be hospitalized each year as a result of a near-drowning incidents.[ii] Near-drowning can cause brain damage and change a child’s life forever. Children who have nearly drowned can have difficulty learning, remembering, planning and paying attention.

· According to a new poll, 34 per cent of Canadian parents believe that if a child were drowning they would hear splashing, crying and screaming. This is simply not true. Drowning happens quickly and silently – often the child just slips under the water. Their lungs fill with water making it impossible to make any sound.

· During the 10-year period from 1994 to 2003 nearly half of all child drownings and near-drownings in Canada occurred in swimming pools (49 per cent); the remainder were in open bodies of water (37 per cent) such as streams, lakes and ponds; and bathtubs (14 per cent).[iii] Young children can drown in as little as 5 cm (2 inches) of water.

· Quebec and Ontario are the most popular provinces for backyard pools. They lead the country with backyard pool drownings with 47 per cent in Quebec and 37 per cent in Ontario.[iv]

· Children under age five are twice as likely to drown as older children. They are attracted to water but do not know its dangers. Their physical characteristics also put them at risk: a combination of poor balance and top-heavy bodies make them vulnerable to falling in the water.

· 38 per cent of drownings of children under the age of five occur in home pools.[v] Often these drownings occur when an adult is not present, while the child is walking or playing near the water and falls in.

The bottom line – these drowning deaths and injuries are predictable and preventable. Parents and caregivers should use ‘layers of protection’ to keep kids safe when in, on or around water.

Safe Kids Canada: Splash into Safety in 2007

It’s simply not enough to teach your child to swim. Safe Kids Canada strongly recommends using ‘layers of protection’ to keep your child safe when in, on or around water.

Advice for Parents about “Layers of Protection”: Follow these 5 Steps to Water Safety

Step 1: Actively Supervise

42 per cent of all children who drowned in the past 10 years did not have an adult watching them.

When in, on or around water make sure you stay within sight and reach of your child at all times – whether it’s a bathtub, a home pool, a lake, a river, a stream or a pond. This means you have no distractions and you are ready to react – no reading or talking on the phone. Wherever water is present, adults need to be vigilant at all times, not only when children are swimming.

Create a safe water environment inside your home and drain the tub after bathing and avoid using bath seats. Babies can drown when bath seats tip over, or when they slip through the leg openings of the bath seat.

Step 2: Get Trained

Know how to react in an emergency situation. Learn to swim or have an experienced adult swimmer supervise children in, on or around water. Weak swimmers should take swimming lessons, and caregivers should learn First Aid and CPR before assuming the role of supervisor.

Step 3: Create Barriers

Children should not be able to access the water directly from the house or cottage. If there are natural water hazards on your property, fence off an outdoor play space for children to keep them safely away from the water.

Many Canadian municipalities require pools to have three-sided perimeter fencing. Since three-sided fencing uses the house as the fourth side to enclose a pool, it enables children living in the home to easily access the pool from the house. A four-foot high (1.2 m), four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate provides a proven layer of protection. Research has shown that a four-foot high (1.2 m), four-sided pool fencing is twice as effective in preventing home swimming pool drownings compared to three-sided pool fencing.[vi]

Isolation or four-sided fencing is the only passive prevention strategy that has been shown to significantly reduce drowning in backyard pools.[vii] Research shows a fence that goes around all four sides of the pool could prevent 7 out of 10 drownings in children under five years of age by preventing unsupervised access to the pool.[viii]

Whether you have children or not, if you have an in-ground or above-ground pool you should install a four-foot high (1.2 m), four-sided fence with a self closing, self-latching gate. Pool fences and gates should be designed to resist climbing and the gate latch should be installed out of young children’s reach. All these precautions will prevent children from reaching the pool unsupervised.

Even inflatable pools should be fenced off to prevent young children from gaining access directly from the house.[ix]

Other tips: Remember to remove the ladder when you have finished swimming in an above-ground pool. If you are using a wading pool, make sure to empty it when you are done.

Changing four-sided fencing by-laws; what can you do?

Safe Kids Canada is urging Canadians to help enact a municipal by-law requiring a four-foot high (1.2 m), four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate around all home swimming pools. Not only should in-ground and above-ground pools be fenced, even inflatable pools need four-sided fencing. Pool fences and gates should be designed to stop kids from climbing and the latch should be installed out of a young child’s reach.

Parents who want to find out about their local by-law and advocate for change to the laws in their area, can start by contacting their local councillor. Advice on how to change by-laws is available on the Safe Kids Canada Web site:, click on public policy and advocacy, or by calling 1-888-SAFE-TIPS (723-3847).

Step 4: Use Lifejackets

Lifejackets are designed to keep you afloat in water, but they only work if you wear them. Nearly one-tenth of parents believe that children can be left alone while swimming if they are wearing a floatation device such as a lifejacket, arm floats or an inner tube. Arm floats, inner tubes and other inflatable toys should never be used to prevent your child from drowning. Only lifejackets and Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) are designed for safety. Stay within sight and reach of your child and put young children and weak swimmers in lifejackets when in, on or around water.

Other Tips: Lifejackets and PFDs should be snug; if there is more than three inches (6 cm) between a child’s shoulders and the lifejacket or PFD, it’s too big. Look for the Canadian Coast Guard or Transport Canada approved label on your lifejacket or PFD.

Step 5: Teach Kids To Swim

Evidence shows that swimming ability alone cannot prevent drowning. While parent and tot swimming classes are designed to educate adults in water safety, toddlers are still too young to grasp these concepts. Safe Kids Canada recommends that by age five children are ready to be enrolled in swimming lessons. This is a developmental milestone for children. At this age children have the mental capacity to understand the concepts taught in swimming lessons, as well as increased muscle development and coordination.

Other tips: Teach kids water safety rules. For example, when at the beach or lake only let them swim where you know it is safe.

[i] Safe Kids Canada. Child & Youth Unintentional Injury: 1994 – 2003 10 Years in Review. 2006.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Canadian Red Cross. Drownings and other water-related injuries in Canada. 10 Years of Research. 1991 – 2000.
[v] accessed March 19, 2007.
[vi] Stevenson M. Rimajova M, Edgecombe D and Vickery K. Childhood drowning: barriers surrounding private swimming pools. Pediatrics 2003; 111(2):e115-e119.
[vii] Bierens JJLM. Handbook on Drowning. Springer: Germany, 2006. p. 97.
[viii] Safe Kids Canada. Child & Youth Unintentional Injury: 1994 – 2003 10 Years in Review. 2006.
[ix] Sécretariat au loisir et au sport, the Canadian Red Cross (Québec Divison), and the LifeSaving Society. Pertinent Facts about Drownings and Other Water-Related Deaths in Quebec. Undated (1991 – 1991 data).