Those lazy, hazy days of summer will be here soon. I’ve already spent many days in our backyard pool with my two (soon to be three) water-loving kids. However, one thing that won’t be showing up at our pool this summer is water wings.
Can I please encourage you to never put water wings (arm-floaties) on your children in the swimming pool or in any body of water?
Throughout high school and college, my summers were spent as a lifeguard at a public pool. The job was fairly perfect—one hour on the stand monitoring the pool, one hour working the concession stand, and one hour spent lounging by the pool reading a book and working on my tan. Then repeat rotation . . .
Can I go back to those carefree days of my youth?
But the job of a lifeguard is actually very serious. Lifeguards are responsible for the safety of all the children and adults in a pool full of water. I would actually wake up in the middle of the night not sleepwalking, but sleep guarding. I’d find myself sitting in my bed, scouring the floor (what I thought was the pool), ready to jump off my bed to retrieve a child who had just gone underwater. This dream happened over and over.
In reality, I only had to jump off my lifeguard stand a few times.
But almost ALL of those saves were because a child slipped out of his water wings. In all cases, the parents were close to their child but distracted. The child had quickly and quietly slipped out of the floaties and was silently struggling underwater.
Did you know that 90 percent of all drowning deaths occur within 30 feet of safety?
Thankfully, my lifeguard training course had prepared me to keep a close eye on non-swimmers wearing arm floats. I watched those kids like hawks and swore I’d never allow my own children to wear them.
Here are six reasons you should never put water wings on your child:
- Water wings are not a U.S. Coast Guard-approved device for swimming. Shouldn’t we always use the devices rated safest for our children?
- The air-filled chambers of floaties pop very quickly. It just takes one small puncture for them to deflate.
- Arm-floaties slip off easily. Especially when kids jump off the edge into the water. (Water wings+ sunscreen + water = floaties easily sliding off a slippery arm.)
- Water wings inhibit the ability to learn to swim.
- Floaties provide a false sense of security to parents. A parent’s back can be turned and a child can slip under the water quickly and silently.
- Both the Mayo Clinic and the CDC warn that water wings will not prevent your child from drowning. “Don’t rely on air-filled or foam toys, such as water wings, noodles or inner tubes, to keep children safe.”
Yes, arm-floaties are sold at every big box and dollar store in the area. They are inexpensive and often feature a cute cartoon character. But you should never privilege price or convenience over safety. Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. Those of us who love summer swim days need to use caution when taking our little ones to splish and splash. We should have fun but respect the water.
So What Can You Use?
Life jackets are the obvious answer, but can be a bit bulky for the pool. A great alternative is something called a Puddle-Jumper.
Did you know that those super-cute Puddle Jumpers are actually U.S. Coast Guard Approved?
They work great in the swimming pool for toddlers and preschool children who haven’t yet learned to swim, but won’t be in your arms the entire time. They also work great for a day of fishing or boating.
Have a dynamite summer, but please think twice about using arm floaties in any body of water!