Flotation Devices

Beyond the Bathtub! 

Many of these new skills are so easy to apply outside of the bathtub and they will hopefully motivate you to get out and have fun with baby in other water situations. 

During these sessions you and baby will have started building a solid foundation for future swimming habits, but your baby will still need constant hands on support and supervision for a while yet. Since babies and young children need so much attention near the water, many parents want to know, what is the best thing for baby to wear in the pool to help them float and swim on their own?  

In order to answer this question, we must first outline the differences between the three main types of floating devices designed and used with children. 

There are three main categories of products marketed and sold for the purposes of helping children to stay afloat. They are swim aids, life jackets, and personal floatation devices (PFD)

Below we take a look at them both and explain some pro’s and con’s between life Jackets and PFD’s . 

Swim aids

Swim aids include swim accessories that include products such as water wings, puddle jumpers and swim bubbles. 

These devices are designed to make time in the water a little easier for parents and caregivers. However, they are not always the best choice for your child and we discourage using them as a regular swim product for your child. The first reason is that they have been known to provide parents and children with a false sense of a child’s swimming ability and they are not designed to save a life in the case of an emergency. This mistrust may lead parents and caregivers to be more nonchalant with the observation of their child and accidents may become more likely to happen. Another reason we do not recommend these types of devices is that they encourage a body position that is not conducive to a proper swimming position in the water. They are designed to make a child float in an upright position so that their head will be out of the water. This position may encourage bad body positioning habits and does not allow the child the opportunity to float on their back should they become tired and need to. In our program we teach that children should make a habit of a back float position, in order for this to work, a child needs to be able to roll onto their back. For these reasons we discourage parents from choosing this type of device for regular swimming opportunities outside of swimming sessions. 

Life Jackets 

  • A lifejacket is designed to turn an unconscious person from face down to face up in the water, allowing them to breathe.

  • Lifejackets have more buoyancy than PFDs. Most of the buoyancy material is in the front of the device.

  • Lifejackets must be red, yellow or orange, and must have a whistle attached. These features make it easier to be located in a rescue situation.

  • A lifejacket is the best choice if your child is unable to swim or is a weak swimmer. It will give your child the best possible chance for survival should they end up in the water unexpectedly

Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)

  • A PFD is designed to keep a conscious person afloat in calm conditions.

  • PFDs have less buoyancy. This makes them less bulky and more comfortable allowing for greater movement than a lifejacket.

  • Canadian and American-approved PFDs are available in a variety of colours. Bright colours allow a person to be seen easily in the water if help is needed.

  • PFDs were designed for use in recreational boating and are a good choice for people who are confident in the water.

Our recommendation is to always use a Life Jacket that is Coast Guard Certified and never, ever, leave a child near water unsupervised. No matter what. Make time to hold and swim with your child. This will allow faster and more efficient progression rather than using consistently floatation aids.  

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