Remember that game you played as a child – generally in gym class or some kind of summer camp?
The one in which you stand on some sort of box or podium, close your eyes, and fall backward with the sheer hope that the people below you would catch you?
It was a practice build to evoke trust in your fellow peers, which gave credence to the underlying purpose of the entire exercise.
The problem is that it didn’t prepare you for how to survive should that safety net fail you. What if a few people weren’t paying attention? Or someone suddenly got a cramp in their leg? Or worse, your network wasn’t as reliable as you previously been lead to believe? Then what?
It’s great to teach trust, assurance, and communication. However, it is equally important to teach survival in the event that the safety fails you. That’s not being negative; that’s just being smart.
I bring up this analogy because It’s summertime and that means barbecues, family vacation, and lots and lots of time spent in the water. Whether you live by the ocean or lake, have a pool, or are fortunate enough to have friends with pools who let you crash them when the temperature gets to a feverish pitch – having access to water is a fun and easy way to cool off.
This is particularly true if you have kids. There are few things in life that children enjoy more than splashing about in a swimming pool, but if your child hasn’t had the opportunity to learn HOW to navigate water, that can be a dangerous line to tether.
It becomes exponentially dangerous when there are a lot of kids around, and parents get sidetracked or distracted or have had one too many cocktails. Death via drowning happens at alarming rates among little kids, and it’s because of this reality that floating devices like Puddle Jumpers have become so popular. But what if they are doing more harm than they are good?
As an admitted owner of a Puddle Jumper myself, in theory, … THEY… ARE… AWESOME. Your little one can remain buoyant for hours, which takes a lot of the stress and responsibility off you or anyone watching your kid.
But just like the “fall back” exercise I mentioned earlier, Puddle Jumpers only work when they’re inflated, properly on, and in use. However, is your little boy or girl prepared when the Puddle Jumpers come off?
Here’s what happens with floaty devices like Puddle Jumpers: A child becomes comfortable and dependent on the device because they know it will keep them buoyant if they wander off the steps, jump into the pool, or accidentally fall in. Puddle Jumpers are a built-in crutch that almost 100% guarantees safety while in use. Yet, there are two HUGE problems with that.
- Your child becomes lazy. I don’t mean that negatively; I simply mean that Puddle Jumpers keep kids from having to kick or use their arms or learn how to float or come up for air. Toddlers can literally can just bob around like plastic ducks and that’s a very hard habit to break when they actually DO learn how to swim because they haven’t been taught the mechanics nor the importance of kicking or peddling their arms.
- There’s a possibility that constant use of Puddle Jumpers (or really any flotation device) will give them the false sense that they actually CAN swim. So in the event that they accidentally fall in the water or boldly dive in, there is a real likelihood that they think they’ll just float to the surface. In other words, if they haven’t been taught survival methods to float or swim to safety on their own because they’ve been relying on Puddle Jumpers, there’s is a very serious risk involved with that.
To emphasize, I don’t think Puddle Jumpers aren’t without benefits. However, they should never take the place of taking the time to teach your kids how to swim. Just as crucial as it is to have your kid feel comfortable in the water, it is equally important to have them respect the potential danger of water.
Bottom line: it’s never too early to teach your child how to swim. Drowning is a parent’s worse nightmare, and you should do everything in your power to prevent that, including cutting out the Puddle Jumper safety net as soon as possible. As a parent, these floaties save you from the added stress of helicoptering your tyke and give you leeway to enjoy yourself at a pool party or beach day. However, longterm, the popular devices can prove to be a headache (best case scenario) or prove to have heartbreaking consequences (worst case scenario).