My family celebrated the Fourth of July recently by doing what millions of Americans do every summer: We visited a water park.

My kids have been to pools and played in sprinklers. They’ve slid on slip and slides and dipped in backyard kiddie pools. But they had never been to a large water park. This park had multiple, multi-story water slides they weren’t yet tall enough to ride and thousands of people packing splash pads, a lazy river and other pools.

My two young kids were thrilled. As a parent, I was nervous.

Our 6-year-old daughter knows how to swim. Our 3-year-old son, however, is still learning. I required that both kids wear their swim “floaties” as a precaution at the water park.

Halfway through our afternoon, I stood in the kiddie pool area keeping watch, splitting my attention between my oldest child on the kiddie slides and my son on the splash pad nearby. All it took was a brief second of watching the slides to turn around and realize my son was missing. I rushed around the splash pad where I had seen him playing only seconds earlier. I called out his name, searching through the large crowds of families bordering the pools, looking for his white blonde hair and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle swim trunks.

My heart started to race when I realized he was gone. My mind started to wonder, could he try to get in line for one of the big slides? Could he have jumped in the deep end at one of the other pools? Could he have walked off with a stranger?

I panicked as I searched the area.

Luckily, I found him within a couple minutes — standing in line for the kiddie slide with his sister — but it made me realize how quickly things can happen when you take your eyes off a young child, especially around water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two children 14 years and younger drown each day in the U.S.

Another five kids receive emergency care for nonfatal submersions every day.

To help protect your children around water, here are some safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

- An adult should actively watch children at all times at the pool.

- For infants and toddlers, an adult should be in the water and within arm’s reach.

- For older children, an adult should be paying constant attention and free from distractions, such as talking on the phone, socializing, tending household chores or drinking alcohol.
- The supervising adult must know how to swim.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics supports swim lessons for most children 4 years and older.

- Swimming lessons for infants and toddlers do not prevent children from drowning. Your child always needs an adult present.

- If you have a pool, keep toys away from the pool when it is not in use, and empty blow-up or kiddie pools after each use.

- There should be a fence that surrounds an in-ground or above ground pool with a gate that is self-closing and self-latching.

Lydia Seabol Avant writes for The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News.