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Should we use armbands?

Armbands are generally viewed as an integral part of children’s swimming. Most sports stores sell a range of armbands along with swimsuits and goggles. While they can be extremely useful aids there are also negative impacts of using them. Below we’ll look at the pros and cons of using armbands.


Pros

Using armbands can help put nervous swimmers at ease. They feel more secure with armbands on and know they won’t accidentally slip under the water. This also gives the swimmers the confidence to explore the pool a bit more, whether it’s staying in the same general area but not holding on to a parent or wall or going a bit deeper in the pool.

During a family swim armbands can be extremely helpful to parents, especially with multiple children. It gives them peace of mind that their children have that extra bit of safety, so will be a more relaxing and enjoyable experience for all. There are also parents that are not comfortable themselves in the pool but don’t want to pass their fear or anxiety on to their children, so rather than avoiding taking them swimming the use of armbands will be a way to overcome this.

In a lessons setting armbands can be a huge help to teachers. When a teacher is teaching non swimmers from poolside, the most effective way to ensure the safety of the swimmers is to use armbands. Teachers that are in the water can also make use of armbands if they have a particularly difficult class and are concerned about safety. It helps them to be able to focus on other aspects of the lesson as well as focusing on safety. Some children that are used to wearing armbands outside of lessons and having parents in the pool with them can be distraught at suddenly having neither, so allowing them to wear armbands gives them something familiar, helping them to settle into the class.


Cons

Over use of armbands can cause children to become very reliant on them. There are some children that become more confident and want to move on to swimming without armbands but also some that point blank refuse to go swimming without them. They have the ability there but have used armbands so much that they’ve been reliant on them and believe that they can’t go swimming without them. Overcoming this is one of the hardest things for a swimming teacher to do.

Becoming over confident can also happen with regular armband use. Children can start to think there’s no chance of them going under the water when swimming, usually because they’re either wearing armbands or being supported and don’t quite make the connection. So when they go swimming without armbands and without someone right there to support them (e.g. attending a lesson and entering the pool without the teacher present as they’re too excited to wait) they have this confidence that they can do anything, and if something was to happen that they didn’t expect, like slipping on the floor, it can have a negative effect on them.

Wearing armbands will change the body position and movements of the swimmer. For example, if they were to attempt a push and glide with arms stretched out in front of them, the armbands will prevent the required streamline arms. For smaller children there’s the possibility of the armbands covering their face and restricting their breathing if they were to attempt practices such as push and glides. There’s also the possibility of the armbands (more likely with arm discs) slipping off of smaller children’s arms while moving through the water.

Armbands are fantastic for family swims but can lead to reduced parental supervision. Children that can’t swim should be supervised and within reach of an adult at all times but it can be very easy for children wearing armbands to drift away from parents and not be able to get back to them as their kick might not be strong enough to be effective yet. Parents can also become distracted by other people in the pool, e.g. people they know or other children, and may not notice children getting further away.

In certain situations, armbands are a great aid to have as long as they are being used correctly and under constant supervision. As a swimming teacher I’m not a fan of armbands during lessons unless absolutely necessary, but if I were to go for a family swim with non-swimming children, I would consider using armbands along with other aids to keep them safe. Every child is different so the decision whether or not to use armbands is essential what is best for the child. Parents that do decide to use armbands should be wary of over use and, when the child is ready, encourage and support moving away from wearing armbands to help develop their confidence and swimming ability.

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