How to make a pond safe for children.

How to make my garden pond safer for children.
A garden pond can be an oasis for frogs, toads, newts, and dragonflies helping children see and understand the workings of nature. It is also a very dangerous place for young children left alone.  

It's impossible for any parent to supervise children one hundred percent of the time, so apart from filling the pond in, lets look at a few things we can do to make a pond safe and reduce the risk of children climbing or falling into water and drowning.

Pond safety net

On the face of it supervision by an adult seems to be the best way of stopping kids from getting into a pond, whilst still allowing them and us unrestricted views and access to the natural beauty of a nature pond or the fun of feeding Koi in a fish pond.
In reality, even the most highly trained specialists can be momentarily distracted.
It is impossible for any parent to supervise a toddler one hundred percent of the time, this is not scaremongering! Almost all child drowning incidents  occurred after a break down in supervision. Source: ROSPA Drowning Statistics
Safety Fencing around the pond.
Rustic fencing looks good and natural fixed around the perimeter of the pond. The fence should be at least 1.1m high  made using stakes cemented firmly into the ground with half post rails screwed on the top of the posts to form a handrail. Space the posts every six foot and nail or screw trellis between the posts. The squares should be small enough to make it impossible to crawl through.  Chicken wire or strong close mesh wire can be used in place of trellis.
Fencing is only a partial solution though, offering a false sense of security unless it is built in a way and of such a height and design that makes it impossible for young children to climb in, unfortunately this can also spoil the look and purpose of the pond. What a fence can do however when combined with supervision is provide time in preventing access to the water during our inevitable short periods of distraction.
A  strong rustic fence 1.1m high all around the pond when combined with supervision is a good way of preventing accidents in garden ponds. 
If you are unable to offer 100% supervision, fencing in the form of a cage covering the complete pond may be the answer. Or consider covering the complete pond surface area with a strong mesh or grille.

Rigid mesh or a grille is a good way of covering the surface of a garden pond to make it safe for children.

Safety Mesh or grille covering the pond. 

 The mesh or grille must be firmly secured and  be able to support the weight of a child  above the surface of the water. Grilles set below the surface or that sag below the surface of the water when carrying the weight of a child will not remove the risk of drowning.
The mesh or grille should be made of heavy duty  6-8mm diameter wire and be self-supporting. If thinner wire mesh is used it will need to be supported with a well made frame, also larger ponds may require a frame to provide stability and anchor points. In both cases it's important the  frame is positioned clear of the water and take into consideration sagging under the weight of a child.
When the frame is fitted in place it's important to make sure children cannot crawl under or get trapped in any moving parts. The mesh should have a grid size of no more than 80mm x 80mm to ensure against entrapment. 
Fencing materials, such as chicken wire, are unsuitable as they will sag in the middle under a child's weight also children can crawl beneath, or pull the wire aside. 
Large or odd shaped ponds are more difficult to make safe but Modular interlocking plastic grids that can be made to fit various shapes and sizes of ponds are available as well as steel mesh. Security grille suppliers and metal stockholders can cut steel mesh to size.

Pond safety tips from the BBC website

The main risk with ponds is that children will fall in and drown. It is best to avoid building a pond until a child is at least five years old. If you do have a pond, then fill it in. If you must have a pond in the garden, follow these tips to minimise the risks:

  • Position the pond where it can be seen from the house.
  • Design the pond with gently sloping edges - this is safer than a sudden drop into deep water.
  • Cover small ponds with a combination of heavy-duty wooden trellis and wire mesh. Safety grids that sit just below the surface of the water are also available from a number of retailers.
  • Put a fence around large ponds to ensure children cannot access them.
  • Grow plants around the deeper side of a pond to stop children getting near the edge.