When summer comes around, everywhere you look, you can see kids in floaties. It seems like very parent chooses a different model for their children. One new design, Puddle Jumpers, has has become very popular over the last few years. There are several arguments for or against the Puddle Jumper, and it can be difficult to make a decision. While Puddle Jumpers provide a safer form of floatation device, they can lead to bad swim habits in young children.
1. Puddle Jumpers are safer than traditional arm floaties. These floaties, or swim wings, can be extremely dangerous and provide both parents and children with a false sense of security. One trip down the slide or a misplaced jump into the pool can cause both – or worse – just one float to come off. This either leaves the child without any means of getting to the surface or stuck underwater by the one remaining water wing.
2. In contrast – Puddle Jumpers have been Coast Guard approved as a floatation device – meaning they can keep your child safe if they fell into the water unexpectedly. The bar across the chest keeps the face out of the water, and the buckle in the back prevents the device from slipping off if properly fitted.
3. Puddle Jumpers can promote confidence in the water – many kids that previously were terrified of splashing water and who lacked self-confidence are able experience water play without concern.
1. Is it a false sense of confidence? Young kids have a difficult time separating things in their mind. Often times what I saw when someone removes the puddle jumper for swim lessons was one of two things:
- The child became OVERconfident and believes they can swim independently before training because they have been paddling independently for years. This is a terrifying idea because this could lead to them jumping into the pool completely unprepared.
- … Or – the child was paralyzed by fear because they held such a security in their puddle jumper. When this occurs it takes a great deal of confidence boosting during lessons for them to learn to trust themselves and try the necessary things to learn how to swim.
2. Puddle Jumper’s create a muscle memory swim instructors have to fix. Because of their safe design, puddle jumpers keep the child’s face out of the water. This position causes the legs to drop below and the kid is almost vertical in the water. To move around, the child develops a stomping motion to propel themselves. All of this is the opposite of a smooth, efficient swimming motion which requires a horizontal body position, straight(ish) leg kicks, and their face in the water. This also means that if a child did fall into the water without support, their muscle memory would be doing them more harm than good.
Ok, so what should we do?
Puddle Jumpers are a great floatation device. I am not advocating that you ditch your’s just yet. They can prevent drowning and help with confidence in the water. They are not, however, a substitute for adult supervision or swim lessons. Alternating between the Puddle Jumper and parent-held play or practice can make this transition even easier. One of the greatest injustices that you could do is leave your child in a puddle jumper until they completely outgrow them – then pursue swim lessons. The younger your child starts learning the correct way to swim the easier – and safer – their pool experiences are going to become.