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The use of floatation devices: pros and cons

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

Many parents rely on floatation devices to ensure their children’s safety in the water. However, a question that often comes up is whether or not floatation devices are doing more harm than good. When it comes to learning how to swim, floatation devices may give parents a false sense of security and interfere with a child’s ability to properly learn how to swim.

The best type of swimming you can offer with your child is freedom to move and explore using their own buoyancy and balance in the water.

Any floatation device you use on your child will change their centre of buoyancy. Most will have your child swimming in an upright position. Having your child swimming in this position for a long period will imprint the incorrect muscle memory and movement for swimming and may hinder a child from learning basic swimming skills. Floatation devices also give parents and children the false sense that the child can swim. If a child that has learnt to swim with a buoyancy aid falls into water they are usually unable to save themselves.

If you do choose to use a buoyancy aid ensure you use it for a short period and then allow your child to swim freely. Below are some things to consider when purchasing:

  • A ring float can easily tip over and actually hold your baby underwater. Children using this type of buoyancy aid do not have the physical strength to right themselves in these situations.

  • Backpack floats may keep a child above the surface of the water, but these devices can also tip a child backward or forward. If a child is not being supervised and cannot lift their head up, they can drown.

  • Arm floats can hinder a child from using the correct swimming stroke or motion to move through the water and it puts the child in a vertical swimming position.

  • Neck floats can cause injury to the neck and are a potential drowning risk.

Parents who rely on these devices rather than getting in the water along with their child are missing out on some essential bonding time. For a child to progress to independent swimming, do get into the water with your child. The ability to have uninterrupted bonding time with your child, away from your mobile phone, is priceless.

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