First things first. If you have made a different decision from me, you do you. This is nothing more than my perspective and reasoning for making the decision I made when teaching my kids to swim. I am not on an anti-puddle jumper crusade, HOWEVER, I will say that I do think that a lot of parents don’t realize there is another approach. One that just may lead to more savvy swimmers at a younger age.
Growing up, I was always in the water. I competed (and often won) swim races on a swim team as early as 6 years of age. Back stroke was my strength. We went to the beach every summer where I quickly learned it is often easier to dive through the waves instead of being pummeled by them. I later went on to become scuba certified and even now, I get into the pool and swim with my kids more often than not. I still love being in the water.
It was important to me that I also raise my kids to be comfortable in the water. Even if they did not end up loving it the way I did, I at least wanted them to be confident and safe. It was for this reason that exposure to water and swim lessons (first from me, then from swim instructors) was a priority. It is also the reason why I never used puddle jumpers.
I feel it is important at this time to say that life vests are important and absolutely serve a purpose. My kids had them on as toddlers the first time I took them out into the ocean – just in case. We take them on boats and obviously wear them when they are required by outside agencies. But for the goal of teaching them to swim, we have always gone sans life vests (and puddle jumpers) as much as possible. I am not a trained swim instructor, but here is my rationale for why.
- Balance – The way you stand, move and balance in water is different and it’s a learned skill. When you have a floatation device on, this changes the way this movement occurs. When you finally take off the puddle jumpers, the kid has to learn this aspect of being able to swim and it sets them back a notch.
- Creating a False Sense of Security – The security that comes with a floatation device to help to keep their head above water may lead to more relaxed supervision or a young kiddo who doesn’t realize they aren’t as effective in the water when they don’t have it on.
- Challenging Fears – There are parts of swimming that are just part of swimming. Your face will get wet, your head will go under and you will sometimes swallow water, etc… Part of teaching comfort in the water is allowing these things to happen so the kiddo can realize that they will be okay when they do. And learn how to cope when it does.
- Once they are introduced, they are harder to take away – I have watched kids much older than mine struggle to toss aside this crutch. They haven’t learned the skills needed to swim and now that they are older, the fear is harder to overcome.
- I believe in swim lessons – I did some basic swim education with my kids when they were infants and toddlers, but once they hit early preschool, they were in official lessons. They already had the comfort level by that point and could float, hold their breath under water, etc… but I needed them to learn the official skills needed to actually swim. It’s amazing how much they have learned.
- They look ridiculous – This one has nothing to do with practicality. I just wasn’t going to put those ridiculous things on my kids.
Perhaps my kids would have ended up here anyway. Maybe they are just natural born fish. All I know is that they learned how to swim successfully and confidently at an early age. Pool days are a family favorite and I am enjoying watching my little fish loving the water as much as I do!