Different Types of Floaties and their Advantages/Disadvantages.  

Hello Floaties family! It’s Michele here with another blog! August has arrived and I hope all of you have been enjoying your time in the pool as much as we have. 

Lately, I have had several parents ask me for recommendations on life jackets, floaties and how to choose the safest one. This goes hand in hand with this month’s topic: Different Types of Floaties and their Advantages/Disadvantages.  

Over the last decade, I have gained so much knowledge about this topic and I cannot wait to dive into it all! My past experience as a lifeguard educated me on all the different types of floatation devices and when/how to properly use them. Certain PFD’s (Personal Floatation Devices) are only meant for lakes, bays and oceans, while others are meant for a pool or small body of water. It’s important to know the proper PFD for your child and that it is being used in the correct setting. 

Now, before I jump into my favorite and least favorite PFD’s, I want to give you my top 2 tips for picking out the right floatation assistance for your child. The first tip is to ALWAYS purchase a PFD that is U.S. Coast Guard approved. This, to me, is the most important thing to take away from this post. There are a lot of different types of floaties on the market that aren’t certified and may ultimately put your child at higher risk of experiencing a water related incident. My second tip is to always make sure that your child’s PFD is fitted properly. To do this, make sure you check the tags for the correct size based on weight. By following proper fitting and sizing, you can assure the safety of your child and that the PDF will do its job properly. 

Life Jacket 

The first PDF that I want to discuss is life jackets. They are also referred to as life vests or ski vests. Their job is to keep the wearer alive and afloat should they unexpectedly end up in the water or elect to participate in water sports like skiing, wake surfing or even swimming in a lake, bay, or ocean. They also provide the swimmer with full range of motion with their arms, making it easy to practice swimming skills or getting to safety. 

How to Choose & Fit a Life Jacket 

Look at the label for U.S. Coast Guard approval. After that, make sure you select the right size based on your child’s weight. Lastly, be aware of the types of activities and water conditions the life jacket is rated for. The life jacket should have a snug fit when fastened. To make sure it’s snug enough, lift your child by the shoulders of the jacket. If it’s the right fit, their chin and ears should not slip through. For younger children, the life jacket should have head support and an adjustable strap between the legs. 

Adults are the best role models for wearing life jackets so it’s important to lead by example and show your child why it’s so important to wear one. Even if your child knows how to swim, always wear a life jacket when:  

  • On a boat, raft, paddle board or inner tube.  

  • Swimming in open water like a lake, river or ocean.  

  • Playing in or near the water and on docks. 

  • Windsurfing, jet skiing and other water activities.  

Puddle Jumpers 

Puddle jumpers are definitely the most common PFD that I see in pools, which is awesome! Puddle jumpers feature water arm bands attached at both arms to a type of chest belt that sits across your child’s chest. They are U.S. Coast Guard approved and perfect for kids who are learning to swim. They are also soft on skin and comfortable to wear. Bonus!  

I absolutely love puddle jumpers and I have yet to see a child who looks miserable in one. They always come in cute designs and bright colors which makes it fun for the kids and also helps you easily spot your child in a crowd of other swimmers. They are designed for your child’s safety. The child’s head is held above water at all times and the puddle jumper always remains stable. Both arms are free to move so that your child can continue to learn new swimming skills and build on what they already know how to do, ultimately increasing their confidence. And unlike normal float rings (inner tubes), the puddle jumper is specially designed so that your child will never slip out of it accidentally if properly fitted.  

3 simple steps to put on a Puddle Jumper 

  • Slide your child’s arms through the arms floats. 

  • Fasten the vest buckle on the back of the puddle jumper. 

  • Adjust the belt for a secure fit. 

In my experienced opinion, life jackets and puddle jumpers are the best personal floatation devices to have. They are both U.S. Coast guard approved, they are a snug fit to your child, ensuring safety and comfortability, and they are able to be worn in multiple aquatic activities. Now I want to switch gears and discuss the PFD that I don’t recommend anybody use. 

Arm Bands (“water wings”) 

When I was little, I remember my mom putting water wings on me whenever we went swimming. Granted, I was born in the 90’s so this was when puddle jumpers weren’t on the market yet and my parents definitely had the best intentions in trying to keep me safe. And although I still see these at convenient stores and supermarkets, there are more advanced and safer options than these.  

  I NEVER recommend water wings for multiple reasons: 

  • Not U.S. Coast Guard approved 

  • Doesn’t properly support the child’s body or head (they are on the arms only, so kids without good upper body strength WILL struggle and possibly go underwater). 

  • Can unexpectedly and easily deflate, shift positions or come undone, leading to possible water related incidents and unsafe situations. 

Arm bands are not dependable life saving devices. They give a false sense of security because they only support the arms and not the rest of the body, putting your child at risk of experiencing a drowning related incident. Kids that don’t have good upper body strength, upper body development, or if they are fatigued, are immediately at risk of drowning or unexpected submerging.  

I hope that all this information has helped you decide which PFD is right for your child. Enjoy safe water play my friends! I’ll talk to you all next month when we discuss how we train our instructors and the comprehensive style of our program. 

Please feel free to contact us at 877-277-7946 or email

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