Swimming aids to use on holiday that won’t ruin all the progress made in swim lessons

In our swim lessons, we work on:

  • Achieving a horizontal body position (legs up)
  • The children to experience their own balance and buoyancy in the water
  • Rolling on to their back to rest and breathe when needed.

When on holiday, parents want to use buoyancy aids for their child to be safe around the water. In an ideal world it is best to swim with your child so they do not need buoyancy aids but here are some aids to consider:

Arm bands – encourage the child to be upright which encourages a cycle kick action and face to be out of the water. Limits arm movements. Can be removed easily. Avoid! The best version is arm bands with a body belt (the one pictured is from Decathlon).  They keep them a little more horizontal in the water

and as they clip at the back then they cannot be removed. There is more flexibility as they progress as it can be used as a body belt only. Useful for 1-2 year olds if they need more support to keep their head out of the water to breathe.


Body belt  or back floats – once a child swims with their face in, these are a great tool as they provide a bit of extra support, can be used on their front and back and therefore the child can turn on their back to rest. The amount of support can be adjusted. For younger children they can find it hard to lift their head to breathe or find they are tipped forward. Equally, when they are vertical the level of floatation isn’t enough to keep their mouth above the water. Generally they are harder for a child to remove. Useful for swimmers once they swim with their face in.


Noodle – often provided in holiday pools and can be used on front or back. However I find they are let go of easily. Useful if used under close (arms-length) supervision but if you are supervising that closely you may as well try and use no floatation device.. They are bulky to pack your own but it is possible to buy inflatable versions. Useful for more competent children if they get tired after hours in the pool or if parents just need a pair of hands for another sibling.


Shark Fin – encourages horizontal body position. Child can turn to the side to breathe but often will lift their head up to breathe. Can’t be used for swimming on their back. A useful tool if the child can swim but gets tired over long distances. Useful for first snorkelling experiences.

Swim ring – before I was a parent I thought swim rings were only for babies to bob up and down in. However, they are a great alternative to a noodle on holiday. Children can run in waist deep water in them and just have a bit of support if they slip or start to swim. They don’t require to be held like a noodle and they pack small. Swimmers who are used to swimming with their face in can still put their face in and scoop with their arms. It also doesn’t create an over reliance on aids so younger swimmers don’t feel like they are only able to get too attached to them. Useful for toddlers in waist deep water.

Schwimmkissen – They are a cross between a noodle and a body belt. These two inflatable cushions provide extra support in the water. I find that they are less obstructive. When out of the pool, they kind of deflate and dangle down from the waist and so easier to wear when out of the pool too. The air gets trapped in the cushions again when back in the pool. They are very supportive even for older children or adults. They pack down very small. They can be used on your front or back and it is possible to turn on your back or side to breathe.  More hardy and more environmentally friendly. They are more tough to blow up than arm bands. My aid of choice as they allow the most natural swimming position. Useful for all ages once they are able to lift their head out of the water confidently.

In terms of buoyancy aids, none are designed to be used without supervision. Always explain to children that they should not enter a pool without an adult with them. Get into a habit of briefing children before they enter the pool to explain where the entry and exit points are and any depth changes. Remember they need active supervision throughout their swimming time.


Mel Hargreaves

Parent to 2 children

Institute of Swimming Mentor and Tutor

AquaQuack Swim Scheme Director