Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 6: Play Areas/Playgrounds and Transportation

6.3 Water Play Areas (Pools, Etc.)

6.3.1 Access to and Safety Around Bodies of Water Enclosure of Bodies of Water

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 02/27/2020.

All water hazards, such as pools, swimming pools, stationary wading pools, ditches, fish ponds, and water retention or detention basins, should be enclosed with a permanent fence, wall, building wall, or combination thereof that is 4 to 6 feet in height or higher. The barrier must measure a distance of 3 feet horizontally from the swimming pool or body of water.1 The maximum vertical clearance (or gapping) allowed between the ground and the fence shall be 2 inches from surfaces that are not solid, such as grass or gravel, and measured on the side of the barrier that faces away from the vessel.1(p25)

Openings in the fence should be no greater than 3.5 inches.1 The fence should be constructed to discourage children and unwanted visitors from climbing and be kept in good repair. A house exterior wall can constitute one side of a fence if the wall has no openings capable of providing direct access to the pool (eg, doors, windows).

If the fence is made of horizontal and vertical members (like a typical wooden fence) and the distance between the tops of the horizontal parts of the fence is less than 45 inches, the horizontal parts should be on the swimming pool side of the fence.1(p26) The spacing of the vertical members and/or all mesh barriers should not exceed 1.75 inches.1(p26)

Exit and entrance points should have self-closing, positive latching gates with locking devices a minimum of 54 inches from the ground.1(p26–27)

If the facility has a water play area, the following requirements should be met:

  1. Water play areas should conform to all state and local health regulations.
  2. Water play areas should not include hidden or enclosed spaces.
  3. Spray areas and water-collecting areas should have a nonslip surface, such as asphalt.
  4. Water play areas, particularly those that have standing water, should not have sudden changes in depth of water.
  5. Drains, streams, waterspouts, and hydrants should not create strong suction effects or water-jet forces.
  6. All toys and other equipment used in and around the water play area should be made of sturdy plastic or metal (no glass should be permitted).
  7. Water play areas in which standing water is maintained for more than 24 hours should be treated according to Standard Pool Water Quality and inspected for glass, trash, animal excrement, and other foreign material.

All areas must be visible to allow caregivers/teachers adequate active supervision of all children.2


Fenced enclosures around swimming pools and spas provide an adequate barrier to prevent unwanted and unsupervised access.3 Drownings can occur in fresh water, often in home swimming pools within a few feet of safety and in the presence of a supervising adult.4 An effective fence is one that prevents a child from getting over, under, or through it and keeps the child from gaining access to the pool or body of water except when supervising adults are present. Fences are not childproof, but they provide a layer of protection for a child who strays from supervision. Fence heights are a matter of local ordinances with minimum heights being 5 feet.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Inspection of Indoor and Outdoor Play Areas and Equipment Inspection of Play Area Surfacing Accessibility to Above-Ground Pools Sensors or Remote Monitors Pool Safety Rules Pool Water Quality
  1. International Code Council, The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals. 2012 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code. Country Club Hills, IL: International Code Council; 2011. Accessed August 21, 2019

  2. US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center. Safety practices. Active supervision. Updated January 29, 2019. Accessed August 21, 2019

  3. American Red Cross. Swimming and Water Safety. Accessed August 21, 2019

  4. Leavy JE, Crawford G, Leaversuch F, Nimmo L, McCausland K, Jancey J. A review of drowning prevention interventions for children and young people in high, low and middle income countries. J Community Health. 2016;41(2):424–441


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 02/27/2020.