My daughter has just turned two and uses a "noodle" float and i've just bought a jacket with floats in it. We've not been to lessons but go swimming regularly. I've been encouraging fun and independence in the water with her. She can comfortably kick using either of the floats for a long time / distance i.e. more than 20 metres, she can jump in off the side onto the noodle, turn herself using one arm, swim back and get out (although the edge of the pool is at the water level). I've just come across this site and the resources are great. Until i came across the site, i assumed little ones didnt / couldnt float without help! Do you have any suggestions for retaining the independence and weaning her off her floats?
A 2 year old certainly can have lots of fun with Flotation devices and for many families its a great way to introduce children to water by having some fun. Many swimming teachers and 'experts' can become quite passionate and opinionated about whether or not to use them. I have seen great teachers be successful with and without the use of Floatation equipment.
At Aquatic Achievers swim schools we don't use floatation devices for children this age because;
1. Safety - Aides can create a false sense of security when children are around water. Meaning that a 2 year old may think they can swim independently because they have had floaties and not needed mum and dad in the past. An important part of lessons is teaching young ones the inherent dangers of water.
2. The devices also don't teach the child to feel their own buoyancy and learn how to float properly.We feel this slows down the process of getting the child swimming independently.
3. Body Position - we are trying to teach children to paddle in a horizontal position so they can get to safety (young children will sink if they stay vertical). Most Floatation aides hinder this process because the child gets used to the hips being low and would end up in a vertical position if the aid was not used.
so, although i dont have personal experience weening a child from aides, i would suggest take it slow and begin following the uSwim program (which will mean less independence) where we teach submersions with the face in the water and the body horizontal. It is very important children feel comfortable with their face in the water and have breath control. Otherwise they will panic if they ever fall into water.
please let us know how you go
im sure other parents will be trying to do the same