Warning for all parents: 'It's never cold enough to walk on ice in this country'

Parenting experts share tips on how to have this conversation with kids

Warningt o parents over icey water
(Image credit: Getty images / Future)

A stark warning for all parents to alert their children - young and old - to the dangers of frozen lakes and ponds in this country.

Police have confirmed the heart-breaking news that four boys – aged six, eight, 10, and 11 – sadly died after falling through ice into Babbs Mill Lake in Solihull. 

The Royal Society of Life Saving (RLSS) claims that British children are at risk because of inadequate water safety education, they highlight disparities in swimming ability and risk management skills among children. And, while the national curriculum has included pool-based lessons for the last 28 years many children are not confident or competent in the water. This is exactly why all parents are urged to have this important conversation with their children. 

While children may see ducks and birds sitting on the ice, or movies showing people pouring onto local lakes to ice skate, children in the UK need to know that it is never cold enough for ice to be safe to walk on in this country, ever. Parenting expert and mum-of-two Kirsty Ketley (opens in new tab) share the best visual to explain it; "Tell them how it's a bit like when you freeze ice cubes, and they haven't had long enough in the freezer, there is a thin layer on top that can easily be broken."

The UK Fire Service echoed this sentiment with their Tweet urging people to avoid icy water. It reads: 'Please please keep away from frozen ponds. It's never cold enough in this country to provide ice thick enough to be walked upon. There will always be weak areas. #thinice'

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The UK Health Security Agency (opens in new tab) (UKHSA) issued a cold weather alert in the first two weeks of Dec 2022, as many parts of the UK were hit with snow and icy weather, prompting the fire service to remind people, 'don't attempt to rescue. Reassure form a safe distance and call 999.'

And many more emergency services are pushing the same safety messages after receiving reports that children are on iced-over ponds. With Carlisle Police Tweeting 'PLEASE stay off the ice at Hammonds Pond today, we had a report of 20-30 children seen on the ice following school. LUCKILY none of them fell trough into the water. This is extremely dangerous and could be fatal, ensure your children are safe and educated on the risks.'

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In addition, Rick Ogden, assistant chief fire officer for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, told the Cumbria Crack: (opens in new tab) 'With temperatures set to remain very cold, struggling to get above freezing over the coming days, many ponds and other stretches of water are at risk of freezing. While they may look solid from the surface and tempting to step on, they can be extremely dangerous and very unlikely to hold your weight.

"Parents, please speak to your children to warn them of the potential consequences if someone goes through into the frozen water. Please also keep pets on leads when near frozen water and don’t throw objects onto the ice for them to retrieve. If you see anyone in difficulty please call 999 immediately. Reassure them but don’t attempt to rescue them as you could become the next casualty."

This heart-breaking story has sent a chill through most parents hearts; "I just want to wrap my children up and not let them out of my sight," mum-of-two Sam tells Goodto. Parenting expert Kirsty Ketley completely understands that, "the best way is to be matter of fact - ice is NEVER thick enough in this country to be safe to skate/walk on," she says. 

She adds; "Use the fire brigade and safety websites to show that you know what you are talking about and have a good conversation about peer pressure - they wouldn't walk off the edge of a cliff if their friends told them to, so they shouldn't go on the ice. It's the same level of danger."

Remember, to always talk to them about the dangers of cold water on the body and how it can make you go into shock. So even if they find frozen water that isn't deep that they could drown, they could get stuck waist high for instance and then become very cold, very quickly. It's all about educating on the facts, really."

Kirsty added; "My children heard the story on the news this week, which prompted us to talk about it and although they felt sad, they weren't distressed, it just helped them really understand the danger."

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Stephanie Lowe
Family Editor

Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodTo covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. With his love of choo-choos, Hey Duggee and finger painting he keeps her on her toes.