Get packed for your holiday!
I've had a lot of emails lately from parents asking for advice about swimming on holiday this Summer. There are so many buoyancy aids on the market, and people want to know which is the best one to buy to keep their children safe on the beach and around the hotel pool.
Your priority should be to relax and enjoy the water as a family. I've lost count of the number of times a nervous swimmer has returned from two weeks of jumping into a hotel pool a swimming pro - super confident with their faces in the water and desperate to show off their new skills to their swimming class.
In order for you and your child to relax, you need to feel confident that they're safe. No matter how good a swimmer your child is, their safety around the water is the number one concern. There are a number of buoyancy aids that can, with the right supervision, give you some reassurance, and they all have their pros and cons.
Swim discs are great - I recommend the ones from Delphin. They're fairly unrestrictive, but still give a nervous child that confidence to relax in the water. You can take them off as your child becomes more confident, and you're eventually left with a happy, independent little swimmer. But where holidays are concerned, discs aren't hugely practical. You need two to three discs for each arm, and if you're taking more than one child away, that could quickly fill up your suitcase. They're also not hugely easy to cart about in your beach bag. Discs can slip off if a child jumps in or pushes away from the wall too.
Arm bands are another option, as in a rubber ring. I recommend Bema armbands, which are hard wearing and easy to put on. These are much more practical for transporting in your luggage and to and from the beach, and they fit snuggly so are less likely to come off in the water. On the downside, armbands and rubber rings can keep your child very high in the water, which isn't great for building confidence, and they can restrict arm movement, meaning that your child might find it harder to propel themselves through the water. They can also give your child a very upright body position, rather than the flat, horizontal position we aim for in lessons, but then we're not always looking for ways to promote perfect technique on holiday - we want children to be safe, and able to rest when they need to (without always holding a parent to do so!)
A swim noodle is another option, but they're not at all practical unless your suitcase happens to be huge! This Summer, I'm recommending the Konfidence Swim Jacket. They've been on the market for years, and have floats built in for buoyancy. They're made from neoprene, giving a bit of warmth (useful for those of us travelling in the UK or France!) and leave your child's arms free for swimming or digging in the sand. They provide 100% UV protection, and you just have to zip them up, so they're nice and easy to slip off when it's time to dry off. Konfidence have a new fact sheet, which has all the details and a link to order online. They're easy to fit into your case, and can be worn down to the beach or pool.
Being vigilant around the water is your number one priority, but giving a child some independence so that they can relax and build their confidence can really improve their chances of learning to swim long term. Enjoy your holidays everybody!