Why “Floaties” Are Dangerous

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They are at every check-out line. They are at every big-box discount store. They come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. What are they? Some call them floaties, some call them swim aids. They are items that provide buoyancy to help you stay afloat. Do they serve a purpose? Yes. Does LFSS recommend them? Not if you can be an arm’s length away from your child.

Why shouldn’t kids wear swim aids when they are around water?

  • False Sense of Security: Flotation devices often provide a false sense of security for parents (and kids) when children are in or around water. When children are wearing swim aids, parents and caretakers are often not watching them as vigilantly as they should. And, while wearing them, children often become emboldened, taking risks in and around the water that they would never take without one on.
  • Poor Design: Some buoyancy aids can easily fall or slip off, or allow your child to flip over. We especially discourage devices that slip on the arms and rely on friction to stay in place and ones that have to be inflated. I used a tank suit with the Styrofoam panels for my son. The suit keeps a child buoyant but, as my son gained strength and skill, I progressively cut out the float pads in the front so it put him in a prone position and he had to work harder to keep his head up.
  • Statistics: In the World Health Organization’s 2014 Global Report on Drowning, swim aids were NOT included in their list of the top 10 actions that can prevent drowning. Why? People still drown while wearing life jackets and flotation aids.

If you can’t be within an arm’s reach of your child (which we discourage unless your child is a competent swimmer), be sure to invest in a Coast Guard-approved, non-inflatable flotation device that holds your child in an upright position.  And never forget—swim aids are not a substitute for swimming lessons. In fact, children (and adults) who develop a dependency on floaties often find learning to swim much more difficult.