When your child is learning to swim, it’s exciting, challenging and can make for some seriously proud moments. If you've got your swimming nappies and swimsuit ready, you're probably thinking about giving them a bit more independence in the pool.
Most babies love to be in the water, but to help them feel safe and confident, it's worth investing in some baby swimming aids. As swimming pools have reopened following lockdown rules lifting, it's time to start thinking about getting your child to grips with being in the water. If you're not comfortable taking them to a public swimming pool, there's always the option of a paddling pool at home, or if you're heading on a staycation to a house with a pool.
Visiting the swimming pool is a great indoor activity to do, and a swim float will really help your child improve their swimming technique. When it comes to toddler swimming aids there are lots of products available to help you out.
When can babies go swimming?
According to the NHS, 'You can take your baby swimming at any age, both before and after they have been vaccinated. It does not matter if they have not yet completed their course of vaccinations.' So really, the choice is yours to make.
Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington shares her tips with us on taking your baby swimming, with the help of her experience from when her daughter Summer was a baby.
"I first took Summer swimming when she was three and a half weeks old. It sounds really early, but it’s fine for your baby to go in the pool at that age. Lots of people were shocked when I said I’d taken her swimming before she’d had all her injections, but the NHS guidelines say that you don’t have to wait until your baby’s had them," explains Rebecca.
"Most baby swimming classes won’t take you if your baby hasn’t had their jabs, but to be honest you don’t need to go to a class the first few times, as you’re only in the pool for about 10 minutes."
If you want a more in-depth guide to baby swimming then you can read our article here.
What is the average age a child learns to swim?
By the time your child turns four, they will be ready for swimming lessons. Learning to swim is an essential life skill so it is good to get them swimming early. By this age, children can usually learn basic water skills such as treading water, floating, and getting out of the pool. By the time they reach five or six, most children in swim lessons will be able to do front and back crawl.
We've rounded up some of the top-rated baby and toddler swimming aids on the market, so whether you're looking for a pool noodle, armbands or a swim seat, you're sure to find the perfect float for your tot.
The best baby swim floats and swimming aids
This swim vest is great for keeping your little ones warm, as well as being a buoyancy aid to assist children learning to swim and gaining water confidence. It's available in sizes for 1-2 years, 2-4 years and 4-6 years, as well as seven lovely colourways. It was Shortlisted in the 2020 M&B Awards Best Travel Product Under £30 category.
Here's what one of our mum testers had to say: "The Splash About’s Go Splash Swim Vest is a must for pool/beach holidays. It is quite slim when folded so it doesn’t take up much room in your luggage. Our son has been going for swimming lessons for a while however he doesn’t like his head getting wet or being in deeper water. The swim vest meant that as our holiday progressed our son’s confidence slowly increased so that he was happy to float and start to kick between us both."
Best for newborns
This bestselling swim seat is suitable for babies that are 0-12 months, and is perfect to keep your baby stable and upright while they get used to the feeling of being in the water. The sturdy vinyl material is durable and long-lasting and designed with a comfortable seat to keep your baby afloat.
Mum reviewer Emma said: "I took my 3 month old swimming in this and I cannot explain how much he LOVED it. He didn't want to come out and was so happy just floating and kicking about. Extremely sturdy, no chance of it tipping over and he sat nicely above the water level. Definitely recommend this to everyone."
Best for growing with your child
This Puddle Jumper helps to keep your child's head above water, while offering freedom of movement. It's made from durable and resilient woven polyester, a softer fabric for less chafing and features a buckle at the back for safety. There are 13 designs to choose from and it's suitable for children with a weight of 15-30 kg (24 months - 5 years).
Here is a promising review from mum-of-one, Kate: "This is the safest thing you can buy for your child from 2 years + I really am happy I ordered this. Whoever came up with this idea is a genius. And really easy to put on and he loves putting it on, there is no struggle."
Best for posture
Available in two sizes, this baby swimming float helps to provide an ideal swimming posture for babies, encouraging them to learn to kick and swim in a horizontal position. It has a raised front and wide adjustable sides to prevent flipping as well as secure straps and a soft bottom support with buckle to avoid your baby sliding out.
Mum Cathy commented: "Used for my 4 month old. She loved it. Great for first time swimming. We pushed her around in it. She even started kicking her legs. She fitted in well she’s average size for her age. Looking forward to using it again."
Best for travel
Suitable for babies aged 0-12 months (up to 11 kg) and 12-24 months (up to 15 kg), this swim seat has a secure seat with a pillow back to help your little one sit upright comfortably and get used to kicking their legs in the water. It's available in three colours and inflates and deflates easily, making it great for travel and popping in your suitcase.
James, dad-of-one said: "We bought this pool seat for my 3 month old son who weighs 15lbs. He just fits in it comfortably with lots of potential for growth which is ideal. We were very pleased with the quality of this product and the fact that the edges of the material were smooth so would not hurt his legs or arms. Easy to blow up and safe for him to sit in. We felt very comfortable seeing him safe in it."
Best all rounder
There are a variety of sizes and colourways available for this float suit, ranging from 1-2 years all the way to 4-5 years, although you should select the size that corresponds to your child's weight to ensure it's the right one. Made from quick drying soft close-knit Lycra, the all-in-one swimsuit isn't constrictive, so allows your child to swim freely.
One review said: "Excellent product, very useful and true to size. My grandson never goes to our swiming pool without it. He looks so cute in it!"
Best for boosting confidence
If it's confidence your child needs, this will absolutely do the trick. It keeps your little shark afloat without restricting movement or getting in their eyeline, so it's perfect for when they reach the big pool. It has ajustable straps so it will be easy to wear and adjust. Suitable for ages two and up.
Mum reviewer, Sarah said: "I bought this for my 6 year old son who hasn't mastered swimming. It gave him real confidence in the "big" pool. It is just enough to help them see afloat without blocking movement. Great for swimming on their back too. I would recommend it if you have a child who has some experience in the water but is not 100% capable of independent swimming."
Best for older children
For slightly older children, this swimsuit jacket offers complete freedom of movement while in the water to help develop the natural swimming position. Made from neoprene with UPF 50+ sun protection, it has built-in floats to aid with buoyancy. Suitable for children ages 4-5 years with a weight of 18-25kg.
Mum Sandy said: "I bought this for my daughter who was a complete non-swimmer to wear at her lessons and soon realised I needed one where you could remove the floats a few at a time. Now she has a bit more confidence, this suit is perfect as it gives enough floatation to keep her head above water but she doesn't rely on it to do all the work."
Best budget buy
If armbands are your child's preferred flotation device, you can't go wrong with these ones from Zoggs. They're made from PVC, with flat contoured underarm gussets for comfort. These come in two sizes, suitable for years 1-3 (pictured) and 3-6.
A review by mum, Jen, said: "Bought for our 18 month old daughter to use on our staycation. They are excellent value for money, work well and seemed comfortable to wear."
Best for the whole family
You can't go wrong with a pool noodle as a toddler swimming aid. Simply place the noodle underneath your child's arms, across their chest. It is comes in a pack of two of assorted colours and measures 33.4 x 31.6cm.
One review by mum Nic said: "Perfect. My 3yr old loves it for swimming. Very effective for keeping you afloat (for kids and adults)."