“WHY NOT FLOATIES?”
Posted on September 17, 2018
“Floaties” are one of the most common swimming aids found around pools. People, especially parents seem to be inevitably drawn to using these inflatable arm bands in an effort to teach their children to swim, or at least make their time in the water more enjoyable. Although Floaties are widely accepted and used, there are some inherent problems in their use and many of these issues apply to other types of flotation devices as well.
First, an explanation of why “floaties” find their way into most swimming pools. The process of learning to swim is a bit of a mystery to many people and “floaties” offer what seems to be an easy and inexpensive way to get children moving in the water. Children that have already mastered walking on land will take very quickly to the use of “floaties” because they allow the child to do what they do on land in the water – remain vertically and visually oriented. The child, and parent, enjoy the quickly established independence they find in the water by using the “floaties”. These results can seduce many parents into significant use of “floaties”, especially during the crucial stages when a child is first learning how to adapt to movement in the water. Although using “floaties” can be tempting, as described above, there are some other factors to consider.
The quickly found independence that children find with “floaties” is often a false independence. The floaties are what enable the child to be on their own and not their own skills. A child does not necessarily associate their new independence in the water with the “floaties”. It is a common occurrence to see a child who has just removed their “floaties” to jump right in and try a swim without them on, thinking it will be just the same, only to find things don’t work quite the same when the floaties are off. The child is then left with the feeling that they can’t swim without their floaties, or even worse that they can’t swim at all. Parents may get a false sense of security also as floaties let parents get out of the water or at least supervise from a distance. This is dangerous! Both parent and child are demonstrating that it’s all right for this child, who can’t swim independently, to be alone in the water. A child always needs to be supervised, even when they can swim, and a child who can’t yet swim, should never be given the impression that it’s all right for them to be alone in the water.
Beyond the issues of security and realistic skills, floaties generally promote a “head up” swimming position. Children can learn to swim with their head up, but the vast majority of swimming professionals teach children to swim with their face in the water. Much less effort is used to move when the body is flat and the head is down. Eventually the head may be lifted or the body rolled to get a breath, but movement is always with the head down. In this way, “floaties” used in the initial stages of swimming directly contradict good body position and efficient movement. Most children need time to adapt to this new way of moving in the water and “floaties” only make the adaptation more difficult. Sometimes “floaties” are used in other ways in the swim school…Perhaps as an aid in assisting in side breathing and sometimes placed in the back of a swim suit to lift the bottom and improve body position. These are alternatives to being put on the arms of non-swimmers.
We generally discourage the use of “floaties” or any similar floatation aid, which encourages head-up swimming. The exception to this would be approved personal flotation devices required during boating and other water activities. If a parent feels the “floaties” must be used, we suggest they be used sparingly so the child has the experience of what it is like to swim without the floaties too, realizing they need a parent nearby – within an arm’s reach.