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6 best swimming aids for kids and toddlers that will help them feel more confident in the water

From buoyancy aids to dive toys, these will provide hours of fun and safe splashing

Zoe Phillimore
Friday 05 January 2024 16:49 GMT
<p>We noted how comfortable and helpful these were for our mini testers during family swims  </p>

We noted how comfortable and helpful these were for our mini testers during family swims

Our Top Picks

We can all probably agree that swimming is not only a vital life skill, but also a hugely enjoyable sport for kids to get involved in. Most of us have memories of swimming lessons complete with sauna-like leisure centres, foam floats and swimming hats. Not much has changed in 2023, but these kids’ swimming aids are bang up to date.

This equipment should make children’s swimming experience more fun, and give adults a bit of peace of mind. There are a few different types of swimming aids, but a good one will foster confidence in the water for babies and toddlers, and for older kids too.

Buoyancy aids, like lifejackets and float suits, are, unsurprisingly, the most well known. These help non-swimmers float, and will help them get used to the principles of swimming. However, they should never be used as a life saver, and they will still require an adult who’s a strong swimmer to be with your child 100 per cent of the time.

With these vests, rather than trying to size up, get one that fits your child right now – both in weight and measurements. Anything too big will ride up and be hugely uncomfortable (and potentially dangerous).

Inflatables can be a lot of fun, and make swimming with young babies a whole lot easier. These you can push around a pool, so your infant can feel the wind in their hair. Again, these aren’t meant to be used for anything other than fun, and you should stick right next to your baby when they’re in one.

Once their skills and confidence grow, dive toys are fab for encouraging children’s development while also providing hours of fun in the pool. Whatever you go for, the main takeaway here is to stay close to your child in the water, even if they’re a strong swimmer. It’s always best to play it safe.

How we tested

We recruited a range of mini testers to give these swimming aids a whirl. That included non-swimming and more confident swimmers, so we really got an idea of what suited different abilities. Of course, we took a big steer from the testers and what they thought was fun and comfortable. During testing we took the testers to family swims, and paid close attention to how handy each piece of equipment was. Here are the ones that made waves...

We recruited both non-swimmers and kids who were more confident in the water to test them out

The best swimming aids for 2024 are:

JoJo Maman Bebe sun protection buoyancy suit

best swimming aids for kids
  • Best: Overall
  • Sizing: 1 - 5 years
  • Designs and colours available: Two

This is going to be a real game-changer for parents on holiday. It’s a shorty-style swimsuit that looks cute, thanks to the florals, but is also seriously practical. Around the waist are cylinders of foam – they can be removed, so it’s easy to wash – designed to help kids stay afloat. The suit is made out of UPF 50+ fabric, which reduces poolside holiday admin a notch, and it also zips up at the back, which means kids can’t take it off themselves and this suit is staying on for the long haul.

Once our tester got used to having an extra tyre around their tum, this didn’t get in the way of pool fun. The fabric is soft and comfy, even for longer stints, and we liked that when our kids jumped in the pool, the floats didn’t knock them in the chin. All in all, a very handy little suit. If florals aren’t your kid’s style, then it also comes in a shark design.

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Speedo junior armbands

best swimming aids for kids
  • Best: Armbands
  • Sizing: 0 - 12+ years
  • Designs and colours available: One

Gone are the days of those pinchy, scratchy armbands of the Eighties. Speedo’s armbands don’t have any scratchy edges, which meant our preschool tester wasn’t pulling them off constantly. They are designed to comply with both European and Australian standards, so they’ve been thoroughly tested. Plus, they pack down to a tiny size, so are perfect for packing on holiday. They’re also easy to inflate using the four valves, so you won’t be spending ages puffing. If the cap pops off, they don’t deflate, either, which is great for added peace of mind. And we love the bright yellow colour, which makes it easy to spot your little swimmer on the beach.

  1. £8 from Speedo.com
Prices may vary
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Konfidence original jacket

best swimming aids for kids
  • Best: Float jacket
  • Sizing: 18 months - 7 years
  • Designs and colours available: 12

The Konfidence brand has been in the swimming-aid biz for around 20 years, and this is its original jacket. Despite coming in a range of designs and colourways, the brand’s trademark of a bright yellow back panel remains – it feels somewhat akin to putting your kids in hi-vis jackets. The soft swim floats can be removed from the inside, meaning you can adjust how buoyant it is depending on your child’s confidence and weight. And if you’re worried about getting the perfect fit, the instructions are printed on the inside of the jacket, so there’s no room for error.

The jacket itself is made from soft neoprene, so it dried quickly and kept our child a bit warmer when they were in the water, and there is lycra binding on the edges to prevent chafing, too. The chunky zip is easy to operate, even when fingers are cold and slippery, while the chin guard stopped any ouchy pinching when it was being done up.

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Speedo Infant learn to swim float suit

best swimming aids for kids
  • Best: For preschoolers
  • Sizing: 2 - 6 years
  • Designs and colours available: Two

This suit is designed to give learner swimmers a literal boost. Offering buoyancy thanks to flat inserts that are worn on the chest and back, kids should be bolstered without it affecting their kicking and arm strokes. While on our family swims, we found it mega handy to give our preschool tester a little bit of help as they got used to the concept of propelling themselves forward. We also liked the neon colours on the suit – we could pick our child out in a crowded pool with no problem. The zip-down front made changing out of it very easy for a shivering three-year-old, too. And we liked that it packed relatively flat – although it is quite wide.

  1. £33 from Speedo.com
Prices may vary
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Speedo dive balls

best swimming aids for kids
  • Best: For more-confident swimmers
  • Age range : One size
  • Designs and colours available: One

Once you have a more confident swimmer on your hands, it’s good to have some toys to keep them busy. And just as in everyday play, the best toys for swimming are the ones that teach them skills without them even realising. These dive balls sink to the bottom of the pool and gave our six-year-old minnow loads of play. They sneakily taught them about swimming under water, holding their breath and breathing, as well as their own buoyancy. The pack comes with two dive balls, and the tails help them to be seen and retrieved more easily from the bottom of the pool.

  1. £13 from Speedo.com
Prices may vary
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Konfidence floatsuit

best swimming aids for kids
  • Best: Swim suit
  • Age range : 1 - 5 years
  • Designs and colours avaiable: 10

This float suit took us back to our childhood. It comes with removable soft foam floats, which fit around the middle of the suit to give your little swimmer buoyancy on all sides. Aside from this, the fabric is very soft and thin, so great for warmer climes, and it also has more of a swimsuit design than a shorty wetsuit, with straps rather than sleeves. What’s also fab is that the fabric is UVPF 40+, so it provides that extra bit of sun protection on the areas it covers.

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The verdict: Swimming aids

We loved the JoJo Maman Bebe float suit. It offered the best sun protection of all the swimming aids, which we think is an important factor. But of course it also offered flexible buoyancy, and our mini tester felt comfortable and confident in it. If you’re looking for more of a vest-style buoyancy aid, then the Konfidence jacket was a real standout for us thanks to the clear instructions and adjustable buoyancy.

Prepare water babies for the pool with the best kids’ swimming costumes for children of all ages

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