Watch this video....Now watch it again....really carefully....again....
This kiddo was consistently put in a puddle jumper, because that's what his momma thought was safe. When she learned that it wasn't, she got him in survival swim lessons. What you see on the left side of this video is what consistent puddle jumper use teaches a child. Let me walk through it with you:
1. See his vertical position in the water once he is on his own without the aid of anyone else? Puddle Jumpers put children naturally in a vertical position in the water and teach muscle memory for that position, meaning the child's muscles learn to automatically and without thinking get into that vertical position every time they get in water. The vertical position is also the DROWNING position.
2. Notice that this boy is so close to the wall, but just can't reach it? The only way kids can move forward in a puddle jumper is to bicycle their arms and legs. So, when they are taken out of the puddle jumper, that's what they have learned and that is what they do, but without the device, this bicycling will not move them in the water. This is non-productive movement in the water; it expends energy and it is also part of the drowning process.
3. Puddle jumpers allow kids to keep their heads always above water if they want to, so they don't have to get their faces wet (which most kids naturally hate doing and have to get used to). That means if they get to water without their device and they feel the shock of water on their faces, they could do an auto response to draw in breath, but since they are under water, would draw in water instead and that would start the drowning process.
This boy knew that he was in lessons and had already gotten his face wet at this point, so he didn't get shocked or take in a breath under water, but imagine if he was unaware and just fell in, not having been used to getting his face wet....
4. Notice that he can't get his head above the water line for a breath? Again, that vertical positioning puddle jumpers teach doesn't allow a child to sustain their head above the water.
5. Having spoken with the instructor, this boy was under the impression that he could swim. Does he look in that first video like he can swim? False sense of security is one of the main problems that puddle jumpers cause!! Using them will inadvertently teach the kids that they can swim, when it's really the device keeping them up, but that sense of safety they gain makes them much more likely to try to get in water without their devices on.
Now focus on the right side of the video:
1. This is the same boy, in the process of unlearning the bad habits that the puddle jumper taught him. He is now learning to keep his body horizontal in the water. That's the swimming, floating and breathing position.
2. Horizontal positioning in the water is taught through lessons and not by putting devices on our children.
3. Notice how when he needs a breath, he can simply turn onto his back, breathe and rest.
4. Notice how he can propel himself through the water now, instead of staying in one place, no matter how much effort he gave it.
5. Once kids have been in these devices and have learned these bad habits in them, all instructors we have spoken to report that it's extremely hard to re-teach correct body posture in the water. Correct, life saving habits and skills can take much longer to learn with these kids as a result. Instructors also report when parents put kids back in devices after lessons, it basically un-teaches them the good habits they learned while in lessons.
Now, I want you to think about what could have happened to this boy, given his false sense that he could swim when he couldn't (because the use of the puddle jumper made him believe he could) and given the positioning and habits that the Puddle Jumper taught him, if he had snuck to water without his parents knowing.....
We would have had another drowning...another life cut far too short....another family devastated forever.
Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in children under 5 years old.
It only takes 30 seconds for a child under 30 pounds to drown.
67% of all young child drownings happen when the children are not supposed to be in the pool and the vast majority of those kids were seen outside of the water just 5 minutes before being found in it.
This isn't an unlikely thing to have happen and it happens to careful, loving, safety conscious parents (I would argue that parents who put their kids in these devices care a lot about protecting them, they just don't understand the connection between the devices and what the devices teach their kids). This can happen to anyone. It can happen to YOU!
Help shift the culture around floatation devices in pools. Now that you see what they do, let's stop using them in pools and get kids skilled to be their own flotation devices instead.
Participation in formal swimming lessons is associated with an 88% decreased risk of childhood drowning. Let's make the change that is best for our children!!
**Survival swim lessons- for kids under 6 years old because before that, most don't have the upper body strength or coordination skills to be able to learn traditional swim well enough to save themselves in a water emergency. Check out infantswim.com, infantaquatics.com or survivalswim.net to find an instructor near you.
**Traditional swim lessons with a focus on swim-float-swim -for kids over 6 years old.
You can do this parents!
~Christi Brown-Judah's Momma and Education and Advocacy Director at the Judah Brown Project