Did you know that the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is responsible for boating safety in the United States and its territories? USCG sets standards for testing and approving certain boats and boat equipment.
One type of boating safety gear that you may be wondering about is the so-called “puddle jumper”. Puddle jumpers are also sometimes called “pool noodles” or “floaties”.
What Is A Puddle Jumper?
Puddle jumpers are hybrid devices that combine the features of a life vest and a swim aid. They are designed to keep your child safe in and around the water.
To operate, your child must slip their arms through an arm float on each side. The device is then buckled behind the back to secure it.
Puddle jumpers can be very helpful for kids who are not strong swimmers or who may be prone to getting tired quickly when swimming.
(Related: Best Floaties For One and Two Year-Old Toddlers).
Are Puddle Jumpers US Coast Guard approved?
Puddle jumpers are considered Type III personal flotation devices (PFDs) by the United States Coast Guard.
This means that they are designed to keep a wearer’s head above water in the event of a fall overboard. They are not, however, intended to turn an unconscious person face-up in the water.
For this reason, it is important to make sure that your child is supervised at all times while wearing a puddle jumper – especially if they are not a strong swimmer.
Puddle jumpers are not intended for use by infants or very small children. The US Coast Guard recommends that puddle jumpers only be used by kids who weigh more than 30 pounds and who are at least 4 years old.
(Related: Bringing Babies On A Boat: Is It A Good Idea?)
Are Puddle Jumpers Safe For Boating?
Yes, but puddle jumpers should only be worn while the boat is anchored or moored. They should not be worn while the boat is underway.
This is because puddle jumpers can make it more difficult for a child to swim if they fall overboard. They can also impede a child’s ability to climb back into the boat.
If you are planning on having your child wear a puddle jumper while boating, be sure to also have a properly fitting life jacket on board for each child – just in case.
What Is The Main Benefit Of Puddle Jumpers?
Unlike arm floaties or water wings, which are NOT Coast Guard approved, puddle jumpers are fully Type III certified. This means they will support the child’s upper body above water.
They are not recommended for rough waters or underway boats since they will not turn unconscious children face up.
(Related: 10 Best Baby Floats).
What Are The Dangers Of Puddle Jumpers?
Swimming technique is very important for efficient swimming, and puddle jumpers can cause children to develop ineffective swimming posture.
They subconsciously train children to be upright and vertical in the water- head up, feet down, arms out. This causes them to use more of a bicycling motion to kick under the water.
Puddle jumpers can also cause children to hold their breath while swimming instead of exhaling normally. This can lead to panic and respiratory distress if the child becomes tired or submerged in water.
Finally, puddle jumpers can give children a false sense of security and may encourage them to take unnecessary risks in and around the water.
So, while puddle jumpers can be helpful in keeping your child safe, it is important to use them properly and never leave your child unattended while wearing one.
Life Vests vs Puddle Jumpers: What’s Better?
Puddle jumpers are more effective at keeping your kid’s chin out of the water than a regular life jacket. They are also more comfortable for kids to wear since they don’t ride up like a life jacket can.
However, puddle jumpers are not intended for use by infants or very small children.
The US Coast Guard recommends that puddle jumpers only be used by kids who weigh more than 30 pounds and are at least 4 years old.
Puddle jumpers are also not intended to turn an unconscious person face-up in the water. For this reason, the Coast Guard recommends that you put your child into a Type II life vest once the boat is underway.
What Is Better Than A Puddle Jumper?
A life vest is technically better than a puddle jumper because it will turn an unconscious child face-up in the water. That said, it’s a lot less comfortable to wear for prolonged periods of time.