We all want our children to enjoy the summer. We want them to eat popsicles, ride their bikes, and swim until their skin is wrinkly. But when they are in the water, we want them to be safe. There are tons of toys and accessories on the market for swimmers today, but some of them are not as safe as you would hope. As a matter of fact, they can be extremely dangerous.
You have probably seen the mermaid tails that have been on the market for several years now. Sure, they’re cute and they’ll easily turn your swimmer into a creature from the sea, but you must keep your eyes on your child at all times when they are wearing them. They are effectively binding the swimmers feet together making it increasingly difficult to maneuver in the water. They must never be used by a child who is not a strong swimmer, or without adult supervision. Even the most established swimmers could find themselves in a precarious situation in a mermaid tail.
In a 2015, a 35-second clip of a young girl in a backyard pool was viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube. It shows a girl in a mermaid tail, and whom we presume is her mother, playing in the water. The girl attempts to do a flip, but cannot get herself turned around, while the fin stays out of water weighing her down. The mother springs into action, pulling her up and saving her from what could have been a tragedy. What if she had not been there? What if she hadn’t been watching? It’s scary to think about.
This isn’t the only incident of a child struggling in the water with a mermaid tail on. There have been others, and they have been equally frightening. When toys are used in the pool and are not done safely, it can lead to serious consequences. Often times, children have a false sense of security in the water, which experts warn is dangerous.
“We all know water is inherently dangerous and always carries risk with it. Water toys, inflatables, mermaid tails all can impose risks and should be used carefully. With mermaid tails I believe they should always be used with effective supervision and the user should be trained and taught how to maneuver in them,” Natalie Livingston, of ALIVE Solutions, Inc. told Scary Mommy, “Just knowing how to swim isn’t enough; it is a different restricted motion and the user should know how to move, float, how to quickly remove the device, and demonstrate the ability to keep their airway out of the water.”
She continued that the best way to ensure that you are safe in the water is to have layers of protection. This includes things like proper supervision, lifejackets, understanding the environment and knowing how to respond in a potential drowning event. The key is to always stay alert.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission commissioned a study by the Royal Life Saving Society of WA to determine the safety of mermaid tails for swimmers aged two to 12, by testing swimmers in that age group’s proficiency in the water both with and without the tails on. “These products significantly reduce a child’s movement in the water as they’re quite binding in their nature holding their legs together.” RLSSWA Senior Health Promotion and Research Manager Lauren Nimmo said.
She added that the study showed that these products dramatically changed the child’s swimming proficiencies, reducing the overall ability to swim and making them tire in the water more easily. Due to the fact that a child can drown so quickly, she does not recommend use of mermaid tails at all.
It is important to remember that it isn’t just mermaid tails that pose a danger to swimmers. There are lots of things that our kids are using in the water than need to be monitored. Scott Barron, owner of Barron Swim School in St. Louis, talked to Scary Mommy about water safety in general and what we need to look out for. When it comes to toys, there are a few things that you may not even think about.
For example, are you keeping your pool toys clean? This is something that you may not have ever considered. But Barron says it is important to prevent the growth of bacteria and germs. He also said that we need to check our pool toys after the winter months to be sure that they haven’t become damaged or rusted. It is also essential to keep our pool decks free from scattered toys. This can pose a hazard for all swimmers, not just kids.
And when it comes to those toys, safety is key. Let’s talk about water mats and pools noodles. These are a pool staple, but they do pose risks. Kids can easily get stuck under a water mat if no one is paying attention. It is hard to see kids underneath and they can trap a beginning swimmer easily, making it hard for them to escape. And of course there are pool noodles. These are everywhere, but be careful.
“Do not let your child use the noodle as a lifejacket. They can be a great teaching tool and fun to comfortably navigate around the pool, but should not be relied on as a safety device,” Barron said.
Barron added that it is never too soon to start teaching your child to swim. His school begins lessons with babies as young as four months. This will help your swimmer to learn to love and respect the water at a young age, he said, adding that children who learn to swim as infants learn to be much safer in and around water more quickly than children who start as toddlers.
Of course we want our children to be strong, safe swimmers who have a respect for the water and their surroundings. But how do we teach them to be this way without making them fearful? That can be tricky. There is nothing wrong with a healthy fear if it makes you conscientious and safer. And learning to swim early and to use toys in the water safely will make for a great experience. As Barron said, we have to be safe, but the number one rule is to have fun!
The goal for our kids is to become confident and competent swimmers. It is important for all of our children to learn these skills so that they can be strong swimmers for life. “They will be able to go on a family vacation and swim in the ocean, to surf or ski, to scuba or snorkel, to join a competitive swim team, or to go to the pool with friends and be able to swim in the deep end and jump off the diving board,” Barron concluded.
And while they certainly aren’t without critics, there are several mermaid tail companies on the market that can be used by these confident swimmers. If they are used responsibly, they can be fun. Fin Fun creates mermaid tails in a variety of colors and styles. Their website is a great source of information about using tails safely.
They offer a few tips to keep in mind when using a mermaid tail.
Mermaid tails should only be used with adult supervision
We never want our kids to be in the water without an adult, but particularly when they are using an accessory like a mermaid tail. If your child cannot be properly supervised, they shouldn’t be in the water.
Swim within your limits
If your child can’t confidently swim the length of the pool, they shouldn’t try to with a tail on. Be respectful of their abilities. They must be swim ready; if the child is unable to swim strongly with two legs, then they are not ready to use a mermaid tail.
Don’t try to swim above, under, or through objects
It is best to swim independently or float in a mermaid tail. Trying to swim around other objects can be dangerous.
Maintain proper breathing
It is important to continue to breathe normally and often while in a mermaid tail. Do not try to stay underwater longer than you normally would.
Choose clean, calm waters to swim in
Mermaid tails are great for the pool because your child can see where they’re going. They can be more difficult to control in rough waters, so it is best to stay in calm areas. You don’t want to risk getting the tail caught in a current or undertow. And similarly …
Mermaid tails should only be used in waters a person could safely navigate without a tail
If your child isn’t able to swim in deep water or in the waves of the ocean confidently and safely, do not put on a mermaid tail and try to swim with it on.
Make sure the mermaid tail fits properly
Your child’s mermaid tail must fit properly in order to be safe. Make sure that you have chosen the right size.
Childhood goes so quickly; make sure that your kids have the tools that they need to become strong and confident swimmers. We also want our kids to have fun and be adventurous. Using toys like mermaid tails can enhance their swimming experience, but again, it must be done safely. Be sure to check out all of the instructions and suggestions before putting on any type of mermaid tail. Pretending to be a mermaid is fun, but not when it’s risky.