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  • Information about the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has been moved to a new, separate area. Information provided by DCDEE related to COVID-19 and child care providers, settings and health precautions can now be found on the Coronavirus Information for Child Care page.



Be On The Safe Side: Aquatic Activities

What you need to know before splashing into summer!

Planning fun summer activities for children can be challenging, especially when it's hot and everyone wants to stay cool while outside! The purpose of this article is to give a better understanding of NC Child Care Rule .1403 regarding aquatic activities, the intent of the rule, and how to plan an aquatic activity.

Let's start by taking a closer look at the rule. North Carolina Child Care Rule .1403 (b) defines aquatic activities as "activities that take place in, on, or around a body of water such as swimming, swimming instruction, wading, visits to water parks, and boating."

Aquatic activities do not include water play activities such as water table play, slip and slide activities, or playing in sprinklers.

If your facility plans or participates in aquatic activities, staff must maintain compliance with all requirements of Child Care Rule .1403. To get started, each facility must create an Aquatic Policy. The policy must include, but is not limited to: aquatic safety hazards; supervision both during the activity as well as in restrooms and changing rooms; behavior management during the activities and last but not least, field trip and transportation policies. Prior to any aquatic activity trips, and annually thereafter, staff must sign a statement that they have reviewed the policies.

Next you'll need to consider staff/child ratios and how to ensure adequate supervision. Children must be supervised at all times while participating in the aquatic activity. Staff should be stationed in pre-assigned areas that enable them to hear, see, and respond quickly to children. To ensure adequate supervision in a pool, half of the staff needed to meet the ratio shall be in the water, and the other half of the staff shall be out of the water. Notwithstanding the staff/child ratios, at no time shall there be fewer than two staff members supervising the activity.

Aquatic activity ratios are as follows:

Age of Children


Ratio Staff/Children

3 to 4 years



4 to 5 years



5 years and older




 *Children under the age of three should NOT participate in aquatic activities*


The facility must ensure that there will be a certified life guard on duty for all aquatic activities that include swimming, wading, or any activity where children will have their bodies in water. For every twenty-five children there shall be at least one person who has a life guard training certificate issued by the Red Cross, or other training determined by DCDEE to be equivalent to the Red Cross training. These certified life guards DO NOT count in your staff/child ratio. Before choosing a swimming pool, water park, or other swimming activity, please be reminded that the body of water must meet Sanitation Rule 15A NCAC 18A .2833 regarding swimming and wading pools.

If the aquatic activity includes boating, rafting and/or canoeing, children shall wear an age or size appropriate life jacket. Additional requirements and the full context of this rule can be found on our website at 


Now that we have highlighted the requirements of the rule, let's talk about activities that are near water but the intention of the activity is not to play in the water. Those activities that make you stop and wonder..."Does this activity meet the definition of an aquatic activity?"


Some activities that you may question are: ferry rides, visiting the Battleship U.S.S. North Carolina, aquariums, miniature golf and parks. In regard to riding a ferry, that is a mode of transportation and not an aquatic activity. If you visit the U.S.S. North Carolina Battleship, which sits adjacent to the banks of the Cape Fear River, taking a tour of the ship is not an aquatic activity. If you visit an aquarium or a museum that features touch pool exhibits, that is not an aquatic activity. If the miniature golf course has areas of water with bridges, connecting two different holes, walking across the bridge does not make it an aquatic activity. If you are at a park and children will be playing on equipment that is adjacent to a retention pond or body of water, that is not an aquatic activity.

To find the appropriate application of child care rules, you should always consider the intent of the field trip/activity. If the field trip area includes water, but the INTENT of the trip does not include "water play," supervision is the rule that must be followed.

Double check your list of summer field trips. If you find yourself uncertain if the activity is considered an "aquatic activity," talk to your DCDEE Child Care Consultant. Provide him/her with a description of the outing and a description of the activities. Your consultant can help you figure out if an activity meets the definition of an aquatic activity and what you'll need to do to prepare.

DCDEE's goal is for staff and children to have a fun summer filled with exciting and instructional outdoor activities. The first step for successfully having fun is being prepared. Start with a well thought out plan that includes knowing the group of children you plan to take on a field trip. Just because their age meets the requirement to participate doesn't mean your group is ready for an aquatic activity! Once you have a plan, review new and/or existing field trip and aquatic policies, field trip, and transportation procedures and the child care requirement(s) applicable to the field trip.

Preparation and planning are key factors to help your staff and children splash into fun this summer!




2201 Mail Service Center | Raleigh, NC 27699-2200
919-814-6300 | 1-800-859-0829 (In State Only)

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