Swim Floats: Swimming Aids for Toddlers and Children
Swimsuits with Built-In Flotation
Children's swimsuits with built-in flotation devices are one of the best swim aids for children. The integrated design prevents the swim float from falling off or detaching from the child. Styles include swimsuits with built in type III personal-flotation devices (the Stearns Swim N Float swimsuit qualifies as a Coast-Guard approved PFD for children in boats, so a separate life jacket is not required).
A simpler suit style includes an integrated inflatable swimming tube around the child's waist. A full-suit style is better than the "vest" style, as a full swimsuit prevents the ring from slipping over the child's head. This style has the benefit of reduced bulk by the child's arms, allowing the child to have "free arms" when they are in and out of the water (i.e. the child will not need to take the swim float off to make sand castles). The negative of this style is that the child may tip forward into the water, or may sit low in the water, allowing the child's head and face to become submerged. As with all swim floats, adult supervision is required!
The Stearns "Puddle Jumper" suit offers the safety of an integrated swimsuit flotation device with the additional buoyancy offered by attached arm floats ("water wings"). This suit will keep young children higher on the water level, and will aid in preventing unintentional water swallowing. Some children may dislike the bulk of the arm floats when out of the water, which could be a potential negative if the entire suit has to be removed and replaced each time the child goes into or out of the water.
Puddle Jumper Swimsuit Float
The Konfidence Swim Vest
Swimming vests offer another option for kids who desire some independence in the water. Some swim vests qualify as Coast-Guard approved personal flotation devices (class III), while others are simply swim aids.
The Konfidence jacket is a swimming aid for children, constructed out of neoprene to prevent the jacket from riding up while the child is in the water. Customers comment that the swim vest is comfortable and soft, which makes children more apt to wear it!
The Speedo "Begin to Swim" flotation aid is easy to put on and take off, with a full zipper down the front of the vest. This swim vest also offers UV protection and a leg strap to verify the jacket does not come off while the child is in the water.
The Texas Recreation Ensolite swimming vest has the highest customer reviews. The swim jacket is soft, flexible, and is not bulky. One customer comments,
"This is absolutely the best life jacket ever! My 4 year old can wear it for hours (literally- I can't get her out of the water!) without ever even asking to take it off."
Other customers loved the fact that this swim vest does not get soiled or stinky, as it is waterproof and is easy to wipe off after each use.
Arm Floats ("Water Wings") for Kids
Arm floats (also known as "water wings" or "armbands") are an option for children who have the ability to remain upright in the water. These devices may cause a child to sit low in the water (increasing the risk of unintended water swallowing) and will not keep a child from tipping forward in the water.
Arm floats can be a wonderful choice for children who need a little support in the water, as they give the child a flotation "boost," are easily removed, and are extremely inexpensive. These swimming devices can also be deflated and are easy to pack in a suitcase! Choose an arm float covered with fabric, as this will make the swim float easier to put on the child's arm.
Swimming Toddlers: Safety is Paramount
Swimming aids are wonderful tools to help a toddler, preschooler or non-swimming child experience the freedom of floating and swimming on a hot summer day. Swim floats and other swimming aids are not life preservers, and should never be treated as such. Swimming aids are merely tools to help a child gain some independence in the water. Children who use swimming floats must always be accompanied by an adult in close proximity. Adults must constantly monitor children and ensure children are not slipping too low in the water. Swim floats and other swimming aids may slip off of a child, posing a hazard to a non-swimmer. In addition, children may swallow large amounts of water, which can cause a rare, but fatal condition called hyponatremia ("dry drowning").
The CDC reported that in 2007, 30% of children who died from unintentional injury were killed by drowning. Drowning is the second leading cause of death due to unintentional injury for children ages 1-14 years.
Before purchasing a swim float or swim aid, adults must become educated on the limitations of such devices. For families anticipating boating or other prolonged water activities, a type-I life-preserver (personal flotation device) is the best protection for children. Life preserver fit and function should always be tested in a safe pool environment prior to use on an open body of water, to verify the device is appropriately sized and secured.
For parents who use flotation devices correctly and with supervision, these swimming aids can add a lot of fun and independence to a family trip to the pool or lake!
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