I swear to you my three kids (now ages 3, 5 and 7) sprout fins during the summer.  It is the only explanation for the sheer amount of time they can spend in the swimming pool and love every second.  So with three children of varying ages and sizes, we’ve tried out our fair share of water floatation devices.  Just thought I’d share with you, from a Mom’s perspective, what worked and what didn’t work and why.

Life Jackets

Our public pool has bins of these for the younger kids to wear so they were our obvious first attempt at floatation devices.  It didn’t seem to matter how small we went, the life jackets never seemed to fit well.  When the kids would get into the water, the vests would float upwards around their ears, which they hated.  Then when they inevitably lost their footing, the vest would push them forward leaving them face down in the water, which is obviously never good.  After a few scares like that, we retired the life jackets.

Arm Floats

These inflatable obviously traveled easier than about anything else.  My older girls would wear them and they would work okay.  However, one of my girls is quite a bit skinnier than the other and we did have the problem of the floats slipping right off her slender little arm.  Plus, my youngest at the time was just plain too little for them as he couldn’t keep his head and shoulders above water.  Again, a couple of scares later and we did away with the arm floats.


Noodles are the long slender pieces of foam that can be seen at any pool.  They work well…so long as your child is holding onto them.  For me, these were scary because if the kids let go, they were under.

Puddle Jumpers

I hadn’t heard much about these, nor seen them at our local pool.  A friend told me they were the best floatation device out there for kids.  Skeptically, I went onto Amazon to read the reviews.  They were absolutely glowing.  At that moment, I purchased three and waited anxiously for them to arrive.

Truly, these were one of the best purchases I have ever made.  Not only do the puddle jumpers stay on well, the buckle is in the back so older kids can’t remove them if they tried.  Plus, the floatation is on the front of the chest and on the arms, so if a child loses their footing in the pool, they are automatically flipped to their back where they safely float instead of having their faces submerged in the water.  In some models, the layers of floatation are removable, so you can adjust for your child’s swim level and gradually decrease the floatation allowing them to swim and float more on their own than being so dependent on the float.

Puddle jumpers have finally given me that confidence in the pool that if I’m distracted by another child for just a few seconds, I won’t turn around to find another child at the bottom of the pool or floating face down.  And all parents out there will know that this is a necessity when watching more than one young child while swimming.

Swimming Lessons

Even with the peace of mind that the kids have puddle jumpers on, our prior experiences have taught us that no device will replace our children’s ability to swim.  The knowledge that if they get in over their head or when we decide to lose the devices altogether that at the very least the kids can get themselves to the side of the pool is priceless.

Swim lessons start in most places around three years old, although I recently learned about infant swim classes that teach even babies how to get to their backs and kick to the side of the pool.  Swim lessons are an absolute necessity if you plan on spending any time at a pool, ever.  And swimming is much like riding a bike, once you learn the skill; it will stick with you always.  My children’s emerging ability to swim is a gift of peace of mind to me and a special gift of confidence in newfound ability to them.  This is one decision, as a mom, I will never, ever regret.

A Final Note

There are some pool behaviors that just need to be taught early.  These include, but certainly aren’t limited to:

  • Never, EVER pretend like you are drowning.  Not only is it not funny, it could also make a child less believable if they ever were in trouble.
  • Do not get them in the habit of jumping off the side of the pool with their floatation device on.  Sometimes kids simply don’t understand what makes them float or what happens if they aren’t secured in their device.
  • Do not dunk other kids, especially little ones.  A drowning and injury hazard, this is an obvious no-no.
  • Always make sure a grown up knows you are headed into the pool.  Always.