Why Puddle Jumpers are THE WORST (and Other Things your Swim Instructor Wants You To Know)

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Puddle Jumpers are THE WORST. I literally cringe when I see a child wearing one in the pool. My friends know this. My swim families know this. And now, YOU know this.

puddle jumpers

We’ve all heard the scary statistics about children drowning, and I’m completely convinced that putting kids in puddle jumpers directly contributes to these accidental deaths.

  • Puddle jumpers (and arm floaties) keep children in a vertical position — head up, feet straight down, and arms out to the side (like a T bobbing in the water)
  • Puddle jumpers make kids kick in a bicycle motion in the water, creating a bad kicking habit (swimmers need to flutter kick horizontally, not bicycle vertically)
  • They are not usually coast-guard certified and are instead marketed as a swim aid. Flotation devices of any kind should never be used as a swim aid.
  • Puddle jumpers prevent quick forward movement and full arm extensions. Kids basically paddle around while wearing one and do not have much range of motion. Swim instructors need kids to practice completely reaching with a fully extended straight arm; it’s an essential part of lessons to learn to reach for the wall, ladder, or heaven forbid, rescue devices (but NOT the adults in the water).
  • Puddle jumpers prevent kids from putting their faces in the water. Half of learning to swim is being comfortable in the water and getting their face completely wet or submerged underwater. When kids are used to NOT getting wet, a swim instructor spends their time teaching the kids to put their faces in, rather than on actual swim instructions.

And the biggest reason? Puddle Jumpers give kids a false sense of security that they can actually swim, when they actually cannot.

Plus, did you know that puddle jumpers are in fact created for ages 3 and up (30-50 pounds)? But that’s typically not who’s using them. I’d venture to say the average age of puddle jumpers wearers are between 18 months and 3. And they’re wearing them wrong!

puddle jumpers
This girl is wearing her puddle jumper completely wrong, making it ineffective.

So what is a parent to do you ask?

1 Simply put, if you have a non-swimmer in your family, an ADULT must be in the water with them at all times.

If you have MORE than one non-swimmer, then you either need to have kids take turns (if you have your own backyard pool, this would be easiest), or have another adult present — a spouse, friend, or even a hired babysitter. And yes, this means you’re holding your child, assisting your child, or helping your child stay safe while sitting on pool steps. Having a non-swimmer means you have to get in the pool (and not sit on the side watching your child paddle around in a puddle jumper).

2 Invest in a fence

Much of keeping kids safe around pools is prevention. Don’t just assume your child won’t go jumping in your pool. They will. They absolutely will, especially if you’ve caused the false security by putting them in puddle jumpers. Kids gravitate towards water in the summertime. If you own a backyard pool, get a fence to surround your actual pool, not just your backyard. If your kids are climbers and will push a chair over to unlatch the pool gate, use the key (they all come with one) to lock it.

3 Learn and get certified in infant and child CPR

It amazes me how many parents don’t know CPR. It’s quite easy to get certified or to simply take a class to learn the proper techniques. CPR saves lives, especially in those critical moments that a child might be pulled from a pool. If you are around water a lot or own your own pool, learn CPR. No excuses.

4 Enroll your child early in swim lessons or ISR

Nothing teaches your kid faster that they, in fact, cannot swim, faster than actual swim lessons. I’ve been teaching kids for over 20 years and that moment a child who’s used to wearing a puddle jumper jumps into my pool and drops to the bottom is the moment they quickly realize they cannot do what they’ve been doing. Swimming is hard. It takes energy, coordination and practice. But every one — no matter the age! — CAN AND SHOULD LEARN TO SWIM.

5 Absolutely cannot live without your child in a floatation device? Then make sure you purchase a coast guard certified LIFE JACKET.

Have your child try them on (don’t just go by the weight limits labeled). Life jackets need to be worn properly, with all straps buckled, no matter how uncomfortable the kids are. Plus, if you go on a motor boat or go kayaking, you would be required to wear a life jacket anyway (not a puddle jumper).

But for the love, please remember to not buy or put your kids in puddle jumpers. They really are THE WORST.

puddle jumpers

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