Are water wings safe?

It’s a question that is asked every summer: Are water wings safe? For many parents water wings are seen as a way to keep kids safe and protected at the pool, but water wings or arm floaties are not recognized as safe personal flotation devices (PFD). The CDC in particular doesn’t recommend the use of water wings in the pool. To provide you with insight on the use of flotation devices in the pool, American Pool has cleared up common misconceptions associated with water wings.

“Water wings keep kids safe”
The use of water wings provide a sense of false security. While unintentional, watching a kid with arm floats can make it tempting to split your attention between careful supervision and, say, your phone. For any guardian choosing to use water wings, it is very important to keep in mind that a disaster can occur in the blink of an eye. Easy to remove and susceptible to punctures, water wings are not indestructible.

child swimming safely

“Water wings assist new swimmers”
While it’s true, water wings can provide a new swimmer with confidence without being cumbersome, they can also hinder a child’s swimming development. Arm floats condition kids to float vertically as they balance their body in the pool using just their arms instead of the proper swimming position that promotes effective breathing and torso balance control needed to swim safely and confidently. Avoiding dependency on water wings means avoiding dependency on “arms only floating”, in place of swimming.

“Water wings help kids maneuver around the pool easily”
Water wings not only promote ineffective vertical positioning in the water, but also make it difficult for a child to move or paddle around the pool due to  the counter-intuitive angle of the child’s arm while in floats. The placement of water wings can make it hard for a child to roll over if they do end up face down in the water.

kids in pool floats

“Water wings have no place in the pool”
As we’ve mentioned above water wings are not recommended to keep you child safe, but can also instill confidence at the same time. We admit this can be a confusing mix of information. Ultimately the primary thing to remember for parents and guardians who choose to use water wings is not to rely on the floats as a safety mechanism. This means:

  • Getting your child comfortable with being in the pool without floats
  • Practicing touch supervision whenever your child is in the water
  • Have your child  spend time underwater
  • Enroll your child in swimming lessons to develop both confidence and skill in the water

Deciding to give up water wings?
Opt for life jackets instead. Recommended and approved as the go-to personal floatation device, Coast Guard approved life jackets are the safer option (and should always be paired with child supervision).

Other floatation devices TO NOT USE include:

  • Pool noodles
  • Swim rings
  • Inflatable tubes & floats
  • Inflatable rafts