Why My Daughter Never Wears A Puddle Jumper

With baby number one, expectant parents are exposed to so much advice. Some recommendations you take and treasure, while other advice you ignore as soon as you hear it. There are factors in that decision equation such as the source, the examples shown and the research on what advice you listen to. Swim lessons and how to approach water safety is just one of the million things we have to navigate as parents.

I enrolled my first born in swim lessons when she was one. I went to a swim instructor that came highly recommended from someone I trusted. Plus, I had seen little bitty children who went to her that could swim, which … what parent doesn’t think that’s a pretty cool outcome?! Based on the recommendations and the research, this was a perfect fit for us. So we signed up and eagerly attended her swim lessons. We ALL went to her swim lessons. Yes, we were the family with the one year old in the pool with both parents on the side and both sets of grandparents watching. I may or may not have had the DSLR camera in hand as well. Nope, an iPhone photo wouldn’t do.

The instructor, or “The Swim Whisperer” as I affectionately called her, had our daughter swimming to the side of the pool in the first two classes. She was adamant that when lessons ended we should continue to expose our daughter to swimming in order to continue to develop her skills. Our instructor also had two rules that we were to follow. Number one was … NO goggles. Her reasoning is that if your child ever fell into a pool, they would most likely not have goggles on. So the child would panic because the water hit their face instead of swimming to the side safely. If children are comfortable and at ease with water in their face then they are not be as likely to panic from that particular factor.

Her second rule was no puddle jumpers or floaties. Yes, you read that correctly. Her reasoning with regards to this advice is that puddle jumpers and floaties give kids a false sense of security because they sit higher up in the water. Then, when they don’t have the puddle jumper or floaties on, like when learning to swim, they are uncomfortable and scared because it feels unfamiliar and not as secure.

You know what? We followed her rules precisely. My nearly six year old has never worn goggles or puddle jumper. She is a great swimmer, so parental mission accomplished.

All of that said, we now have two daughters and our youngest is a toddler who keeps us on our toes. Our six year old NEVER wore a puddle jumper but now I am nervous with man-to-man coverage of parents (2) to children (2) in the pool. Our second daughter is quite the handful, and her legs never stop moving. So as the parent who never put their first child in a puddle jumper, I am stuck between a rock and puddle jumper.

I know it sounds silly, I really do. This is not a monumental decision on the road of parenting. But I so deeply treasured this advice with the first child and I saw that it was effective.

But what works for one child doesn’t always work for the next … so you may just see my daughter in a puddle jumper this summer!

Tell me :: are you on team puddle jumper?


  1. I think I might be the perfect person to answer. I have two boys who are ten months apart. When they were two and three we enrolled them in ENAI Swim. Their instructor focused on the swim-float-swim method. She too told us to get rid of the goggles and the floaties. We did. Best advice ever. It was scary at times have two rambunctious boys who were new to swimming both be in the pool at the same time, but my husband I made it work. We always assigned ourselves a child so that way we wouldn’t be overwhelmed. It was a good year or more before we felt confident enough to handle bring both boys at the same time when we were by ourselves.

    Fast forward 5 years and I now have an 11 month old who just completed the course and, even though I’m a seasoned swim mom by now, I am still amazed at the method. The fact that My teeny tiny baby can save himself if he were to fall in is a gift we could give him like no other.

    So in short, my advice to you is this; make sure your kids are all enrolled in an infant survival course, and do not go alone to the pool with them until they are confident swimmers.

    • Do you know if there are infant survival courses offered in the greater New Orleans area? I looked into it once but didn’t find anyone locally. I worked on the float, swim, float method with my older daughter myself after watching those infant self rescue videos online, but don’t know how to teach my two year old without any basic skills.

  2. We are in the same boat! With our 7 year old, swim lessons starting at 3, no floaties of any kind, but she did use goggles. Now we have a second child who is two and the complete opposite of our cautious, rule following first born. We also now have a swimming pool. I think it was about the second time we had her in the pool that I put on the first floatie we already we had, which just made it easier to hold her but wouldn’t really keep her up. We just bought a puddle jumper and I (and she) love it! And I actually enjoy myself in the pool (while still always watching her) instead of being unable to relax at all!

  3. We started my (then) 3-year old in a PuddleJumper at the pool. Then when he began swim lessons, we felt like you did & saw it as a hindrance to him learning to swim. He also jumped into the deep end once when he forgot that we’d removed the PJ & he quickly sank to the bottom, an experience he won’t soon forget. We do however make him wear one when we’re at the beach. But that’s less of a swimming experience & more about (my) fear of the undertow.

  4. I have four kids (soon to be five) and we moved to a house with a pool when my twins were 3 and my other was 18 months. I had 3 puddle jumpers because otherwise I could not be in the pool with them alone. It wasn’t long before my 3 year olds wanted to go under water and refused the puddle jumpers…and the 18 month old did the same and was nearly swimming before two. It wasn’t pretty at first but they learned.

    I just tried the puddle jumper with my 17 month old son who just wants to be underwater and has no interest in being held up. So it should be interesting…he’s the only one I’ve considered doing ISR with or formal lessons.

    I completely understand the “false confidence” argument against floaties and that’s fine. BUT if you have multiple small children you might not have a choice. I doubt you’ll wind up with a 6 or 7 year old with a puddlejumper on. 🙂

  5. Can absolutely relate to this struggle! Our son who is now 5 has never used a puddle jumper or floaties (and goggles on occasion). I grew up swimming competitively, and was adamant he learned to swim without “aides.” Now 5 year old brother has a 2 year old sister. 2 year old sister is fearless in the pool and wants to do everything 5 year old brother does. Mama is left to manage two kids with two different swimming skills, often. So today while at Costco, a puddle jumper may or may not have magically appeared in the cart. 😉

  6. I have an almost 7 year old and almost 4 year old. Neither of them have ever worn a puddle jumper. They only wear life jackets at the lake. My oldest has been on swim team since she was 5 and my son is able to swim to the side on his own after falling/jumping in. It hasn’t been easy but I don’t regret it.

  7. I never thought about it much but in order to go to the pool by myself I put my oldest in a puddle jumper and hung on to the younger one. Fast forward to a family day at my moms pool and my oldest slid into the water. I was in the pool and quickly went to her. She was kicking to the surface and held her breath but I firmly believe she *thought* she had a puddle jumper on. No more puddle jumpers. One of my most scariest parenting moments yet. If two of us can’t go, then no swimming for us.

  8. I will forever be against floats/puddle jumpers. This weekend we learned first hand what can happen when your three year old thinks she has it on and forgets she doesn’t. Thank GOD my niece saw her go under and I jumped in to save her immediately… but she will NEVER wear one again. She started swim safety and lessons Monday. Those are a huge false sense of security.

  9. I learned to swim underwater at age 6 months. Children are less fearful if they never learn that water is scary or that one needs floaters or puddle jumpers. Still doing laps!

  10. Oh I am so glad I read to the end! ? My older two boys never wore puddle jumpers and are great swimmers. Boys #3 and #4? OMGosh. 4:1 are not good odds and o strut around the pool with TWO boys in puddle jumpers because I just have to. Way to go for knowing that what works for one may not work for all!!


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