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BLOG POST / July 11, 2024

Swimming Safety for Kids: Understanding the Risks of Floaties

With summer in full swing, families are flocking to pools and beaches to cool off and enjoy the sunny days. Swimming is a wonderful way for children to stay active and have fun. However, it’s crucial to prioritize safety to ensure those joyful moments don’t turn into tragedies. One aspect of swimming safety that often goes overlooked is the use of floaties. While they might seem helpful, floaties can pose a significant drowning risk. 

The Hidden Dangers of Floaties

Floaties, also known as water wings or inflatable arm bands, are commonly used by parents to help their children stay afloat in the water. They are often seen as a convenient way to introduce young kids to swimming. However, there are several reasons why floaties are not as safe as they appear: 

  1. False Sense of Security: Floaties can give both parents and children a false sense of security. Parents might assume their child is safe if they are wearing floaties, which can lead to less supervision. Children, on the other hand, might become overconfident in their swimming abilities, not realizing that floaties are not a substitute for actual swimming skills. 
  1. Improper Fit and Maintenance: Floaties can easily slip off or become deflated without warning. An ill-fitting floaty or one that suddenly loses air can leave a child vulnerable in the water. Regular maintenance and proper fitting are essential, but even with these precautions, floaties are not foolproof. 
  1. Restricted Movement: Floaties can restrict natural movement in the water. These devices often limit the range of motion, making it difficult for children to learn proper swimming techniques. Also, floaties put swimmers in a vertical position in the water, which is the opposite of the position you want to be in when swimming. A horizontal position is essential for effective swimming and floaties can hinder achieving this posture. 
  1. Unbalanced Support: Floaties keep a child’s upper body afloat but do not provide support for their lower body. This imbalance can lead to a child tipping forward and potentially submerging their face in the water, which is particularly dangerous for young swimmers who might not yet have the instinct to lift their heads. 

Safer Alternatives to Floaties 

While the risks associated with floaties are concerning, there are safer alternatives that can help keep children safe while they learn to swim: 

  1. Swimming Lessons: Enrolling children in swimming lessons from a young age is one of the best ways to ensure they develop strong swimming skills and water safety awareness. Trained instructors can teach children how to swim confidently and handle themselves in the water. The United States Swim School Association has an online directory available to find a school near you. 
  1. Coast Guard-Approved Life Jackets: Unlike floaties, life jackets are designed to keep a child’s entire body afloat and are far less likely to slip off or become deflated. It is important to ensure that the life jacket is properly fitted and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Keep in mind that while U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets and swim vests are suitable for boating activities, they are not rated by the Coast Guard as learn-to-swim aids. 
  1. Close Supervision: Regardless of the flotation devices used, active supervision is crucial. Parents and guardians should always be within arm’s reach when children are in or around water. 
  1. Swimming with a Buddy: Encouraging children to swim with a buddy can enhance safety. Even in a group setting, having a designated buddy system ensures that children are looking out for each other. 

Creating a Safe Swimming Environment 

In addition to choosing safer alternatives to floaties, creating a safe swimming environment involves several proactive steps: 

  • Fencing and Barriers: If you have a pool at home, ensure it is surrounded by a fence with a “self-closing”, “self-latching gate” to prevent unsupervised access. 
  • CPR Training: Parents and guardians should be trained in CPR and basic water rescue techniques. In an emergency, these skills can be lifesaving. 
  • Clear Rules: Establish and enforce clear rules for water play. Teach children to never run near the pool, always ask for permission before entering the water, and avoid rough play. 
  • Emergency Equipment: Keep emergency equipment, such as a life ring and a first aid kit, readily accessible near the pool area. 

Swimming is a cherished activity that brings joy and numerous health benefits to children. However, it’s essential to prioritize safety and understand the risks associated with floaties. By choosing safer alternatives, providing close supervision, and creating a secure swimming environment, we can ensure that our kids enjoy the water safely. Remember, the best floatation device for a child is always a vigilant and informed adult. 

To further enhance your child’s swimming safety and skills, consider enrolling them in professional swim lessons. Search our website at https://usswimschools.org/find-a-school for a comprehensive list of schools that offer swim lessons. Our network of trusted swim schools will help your children develop confidence and competence in the water, ensuring they have a fun and safe swimming experience all summer long. Dive into a world of learning and safety with the U.S. Swim School Association! 

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