NDPA Encourages Parents to Teach Swimming to Kids

With the U.S. Olympic swim trials in progress and medal hopefuls grabbing the attention of young children who look to follow in their footsteps, the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) (www.ndpa.org) is teaming with World’s Largest Swimming Lesson (www.wlsl.org) to amplify the importance of swimming as a child’s #FirstSport as the start of summer marks the official beginning of water recreation season.

“Too many of our children are lost to drowning each year, and the numbers continue to climb,” said Adam Katchmarchi, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, NDPA. “But we need to keep in mind that drowning is accidental and is 100% preventable. That’s our message to parents this summer as we invite them to join us in protecting kids from drowning by watching and sharing our #FirstSport public service video (www.ndpa.org/firstsport), becoming water competent themselves, and always practicing the Five Layers of Protection.”

On May 14, 2024, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Vital Signs: Drowning Death Rates, Self-Reported Swimming Skill, Swimming Lesson Participation, and Recreational Water Exposure for the period 2019-2022. The report revealed that unintentional drowning deaths were significantly higher during 2020, 2021 and 2022 compared with those in 2019. Among the most alarming findings was the rise in drowning rates among children ages 1-4 which increased 28% in 2022 (compared with 2019).

Equally startling was the report’s findings that an estimated 40 million U.S. adults reported not knowing how to swim. Thus, NDPA is putting extra emphasis this summer on water competency with its summer-long #FirstSport campaign to change the trajectory for the next generation.

In advocating for children and the importance of practicing water safety and to reach more parents nationwide, NDPA is teaming with World’s Largest Swimming Lesson, a global drowning prevention event that takes place annually at aquatic facilities in the U.S. and worldwide to build awareness about the fundamental importance of teaching children to swim. 

On June 20, 2024, NDPA will participate in World’s Largest Swimming Lesson by hosting a full-day livestream event via NDPA’s social media platforms (@drownalliance). The livestream event will include over 20 interviews with water safety and swimming experts, national organizations, and Olympians. Additionally, the livestream will feature a variety of World’s Largest Swimming Lesson events happening worldwide.

NDPA’s efforts to educate parents and the public at large via the #FirstSport public service campaign have been gaining traction in actioning parents around childhood drowning prevention. With guidance provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics which advises that children can begin water competency lessons as young as age one, the video encourages parents to practice water safety by following the Five Layers of Protection and making swimming the #FirstSport they teach their child, because it is the only sport that provides kids with life-saving skills. 

NDPA’s #FirstSport campaign kicked off on May 1, 2024 with the debut of a public service video on social media. In its first two weeks, the #FirstSport video received more the one million views thanks to support from athletes, advocates, parents, and partners who shared the video with their fans and followers. Additionally, NDPA’s water safety tool kits, checklists, and online resources have received a record 20,000+ downloads so far this year. 

The National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) remains active in addressing childhood drowning and working year-round to arm parents and communities with life-saving tools and resources focused on the importance of the Five Layers of Protection, which includes water competency.

“We know that a singular drowning prevention strategy is not enough. By adopting the Five Layers of Protection simultaneously whenver a child is enjoying a backyard pool, at the beach, or is exposed to open water, parents have the power to prevent drowning,” said Adam Katchmarchi, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, NDPA. Intended to work together in combination with one another, the Five Layers of Protection include:

  1. Barriers and Alarms – to prevent children from gaining access to a pool or open water unsupervised.
  2. Supervision – close, constant, and capable adult supervision any time children are in or around water.
  3. Water Competency – basic water safety skills can help reduce the risk of drowning and aquatic-related injuries. 
  4. Life Jackets (tested and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard) – to provide protection in and around open water. 
  5. Emergency Response Preparedness – including CPR training with rescue breaths and having a phone nearby to call 911.


According to the CDC, drowning remains the leading cause of death among children aged 1-4. Data also shows that 69% of drowning incidents involving young children occur during non-swim times when a child is drawn back to the water and there are no barriers or adults present, and that teaching a child water competency can help reduce the chances of drowning by as much as 88%.