Don’t know how to swim? Buying a colorful doughnut inflatable swim ring might seem like a lifesaver. Spoiler alert – it is not. Floatation devices can backfire on you and put you in a situation you were trying to avoid in the first place. It’s alarming that the vast majority of users are kids, and parents seem to be okay with it.
Instead of gluing their kids into a shallow kiddie pool, parents tend to strap their children into inflatable arm wings or put them onto an air-filled duck-shaped raft. There’s nothing wrong with using them for fun, but when parents get the false notion that these pool toys are designed to act as life preservers? That’s when it becomes threatening.
Below are five reasons why kids should avoid using floatation devices.
- Floats are flimsy and unstable
Imagine a 3-year old floating around the pool on his cute inflatable unicorn raft unsupervised. The raft gradually moves toward the pool’s deeper parts. Should the child become boisterous, chances are that the raft will overturn, trapping the kid underwater or the raft will pop then deflate.
Floats are unreliable. While air-filled floats are very easy to inflate, they’re also easy to deflate. It’s made of plastic so it takes only one small puncture to pop it. It can take kids into areas they don’t want to be in. When the arms are slippery, floatation devices like arm wings and swim rings can also slip off easily.
- Floats limit the child’s range of motion
Arm wings, also known as “floaties”, are one of the most dangerous floatation devices. They are not well designed to keep a child upright so it’s difficult for kids to navigate and maneuver around the pool. If they shift slightly or if the kid gets off balance while wearing them, then they end up face down in the water and it’ll be hardly possible to roll over.
- Floats give a false sense of confidence to children
Arm wings give a child confidence in the water, but it’s the wrong, life-threatening kind of confidence. When they’re used to floaties, they are likely to think of floaties as something that “give them the ability to swim” rather than something that merely “keeps them above water.” Such wrong signal pushes them to take risks, like attempting to swim without water wings in the deeper parts of the pool.
- Floats give a false sense of security to parents
In the same way, floaties can give the false idea to parents that their kids are “safe” as long as they’re on them. Inflatable tubes, rings, vests, pool noodles, water wings, and blow-up rafts – these are all labeled as pool toys, not life-saving devices. They make it easy for parents to pay less attention to their kids.
These colorful, often cartoon and animal-shaped pool toys which cater to kids’ tastes, have an alarming tendency to deflate easily and tip over. Manufacturers in defense stretch out the idea that their products are toys, not substitutes for life jackets. They carry warning labels in their packaging (often in different languages), but some parents tend to overlook them. You shouldn’t be beyond arm’s reach of your infant or your small kid using a floatation device.
- Floats hinder one from learning
It’s ironic how a tool that can provide buoyancy in the water can actually be the reason why a child can’t learn to swim. The aid of the floatation device stunts the child’s process of knowing how it feels to float naturally in the water. Floaties force kids into a vertical position, which is unnatural since people are most buoyant when they’re horizontal. With this, it can be a hard task to make them build a healthy relationship with the water.
Safer alternatives to inflatable pool toys
There are three safer alternatives if your kid needs support in the water. Firstly, opt for coast guard-approved life jackets instead of cheap inflatables. Parents are also urged not to purchase a larger size, thinking that the child will “grow into it.” Opt for a more snug fit safety life vest that zips or straps on so it’ll work effectively. To determine whether or not the life jackets are reliable and have met safety standards, see if they carry a UL or Coast Guard certification. There should be a “UL” mark on it.
Secondly, the rule of thumb is to never let your kid float where he/she can’t swim. Just because the device is proven to be safe doesn’t mean you’ll pay less attention to your kid. That leads us to the final and most important option: learning how to swim.
Author Bio: Ina Salva Cruz is one of the writers for Swimprint, a go-to shop for swimming enthusiasts, specializing in swim caps in the UK. While she’s fascinated in writing articles focused on sport fashion, health, and wellness, she swears to never give up pizza.