For decades, many parents have considered inflatable arm bands an adequate flotation device for young children swimming at pools, beaches or lakes, but in fact, proper water wings safety habits strictly discourage this misconception. By understanding what these popular floats can and cannot do, parents and caregivers can practice better swimming safety to protect novice swimmers.
About Water Wings
Water wings go by many names - floaties, arm bands, swimmies, side wings, etc. - but they all have similar design construction. They are inflatable plastic bands worn around the upper arm that provide mild flotation assistance for uncertain young swimmers. It is important to note that water wings are not a lifesaving device and should not be worn as a substitute for a life jacket; instead, using water wings safety equipment can help encourage novice swimmers to enjoy the water with less fear of going under because the arm bands, when worn properly, help provide extra floatation to the head and shoulders.
Depending on the exact manufacturer, the precise safety features of inflatable arm bands can vary, though cautious parents interested in high quality equipment should look for these qualities:
- Multiple air chambers in case one leaks or deflates
- Safety valves that suppress leaks even if the valve is open
- Bright colors that aid visibility
- Comfortable fits that keep children from removing the bands because of irritation or tightness
- Heavy gauge plastic construction to resist punctures or tears
- Appropriate sizes to suit different swimmers
Water Wings Safety Tips
No safety equipment can be helpful if it is used improperly. When using water wings, be sure to follow these tips for the maximum effectiveness:
- Bands should be worn snuggly on the upper arm to aid flotation of the head and shoulders
- Bands should be properly inflated and checked for leaks, holes or other damage regularly
- Do not allow children to use water wings as toys; this could encourage them to remove the wings and play with them improperly
- Choose appropriate sizes for a snug yet comfortable fit as children grow
- Always supervise children while swimming even if they are wearing water wings
- Store water wings away from sharp objects or other locations that could cause damage
Buying Water Wings
Many retailers offer water wings for sale in various colors, sizes and styles. A good pair generally costs less than $10 but the price can vary based on the exact features of the equipment and whether or not other safety devices are also included. While less expensive versions may be available, parents should always check to be sure they are choosing a quality product. Online retailers offering different styles of water wings safety equipment include:
While it may be tempting to purchase discounted water wings at the end of the summer when many retailers are liquidating seasonal inventories, this can result in purchasing wings that are too small to be effective. Always verify size, age and weight limitations on the packages to be sure children are using the proper equipment.
Additional Water Safety Tips
Despite the ease of using water wings, life jackets and other safety equipment, hundreds of children drown each year or suffer near-drowning incidents that can lead to brain damage or other injuries. Water wings by themselves are not adequate to keep children safe; instead, use a variety of water safety procedures to minimize swimming risks.
- Always use proper safety equipment while swimming, including certified life jackets.
- Supervise children carefully while they are in or near the water.
- For home pools, consider installing a swimming pool safety fence or cover for added security.
- Enroll children in water safety and swimming lessons as soon as possible. Many recreation centers even offer lessons for toddlers or infants.
- Enforce water safety rules including proper use of safety equipment, no horseplay and other safe behaviors.
While water wings safety features can help prevent accidents or injuries while swimming, parents and caregivers should be aware that water wings are not adequate as a sole means of flotation for young swimmers. By understanding what safety features water wings do have and what other precautions are necessary, it is possible to enjoy a safe, fun time at the pool, beach, or lake without exaggerated risks of injuries or accidents.