floating the idea

This Swim Coach Wants Parents To Stop Using “Pools As Playgrounds”

Parents rely way too heavily on floaties and puddle jumpers — she says kids who can’t swim shouldn’t be in a pool without an adult.

A swim coach firmly believes parents should not bring their kids to the pool until they can swim by ...
@swimcoachkendall / TikTok

Summer will be here before you know it, and that means kids and families will be flooding their local pool to cool off from the heat. I grew up at my local pool. My siblings and I would ride our bikes down to the pool after lunch and not come home until dinnertime.

That being said, my parents put me in swim lessons at a very young age where I became a pretty decent swimmer. When I was younger, my mom wrapped some sort of foam egg contraption around my waist and threw me in, and while that sounds wild today, is floating in the pool at three years old in my foam egg any different from arm floaties and puddle jumpers?

Nowadays, it seems like so many more older kids are still wearing life vests, floaties, and puddle jumpers at our local pool — plus all the little kids wading in the shallow end with no parent nearby. This reality peeves 20-year swim coach, Kendall Duncan, who firmly believes parents should not bring their kids to the pool to play without parents until they can swim by themselves.

“Your kids should not be in a pool this summer unless they can swim. Are you so mad at me? I work for the Fun Police and I'm here to ruin your life,” Duncan joked.

“I don't really know how to say this, but ... You have to hold your kid in the water if they can't swim ... What if we stop being obsessed with bringing our kids to the pool when they can't swim?”

Before parents start in on her about how hot the weather is and how much a local pool can be a lifesaver, she offers up several other alternatives that involve water play and zero pool time.

“I live in Florida. I get it. It's hot, and you need a water activity. What about a splash pad? Can I interest you in a splash pad? You don't have a splash pad in your town, you say? That's okay. You can buy one. Y’know, what builds character? Playing in a hose, baby,” she said.

Despite her pleas, Duncan understands that parents will remain staunchly in their position of kids in the pool even if they can't swim.

“There's gonna be a few of you that are like, ‘No, I'm going to that pool party with my friends, and if my kid can't swim, they can't swim, but they're not gonna ruin my life.’ You do, you baby,” she said.

“We're so obsessed with having our kids like the pool and have fun in the pool before we prioritize giving them skills to survive in the water. I’d really like to change that.”

In the caption on the now-viral video, she wrote, “Can we all make a pact to get our kids swim lessons before we encourage them to play in the pool? Floaties are not a substitute for swim lessons 😬”

Several users understood where Duncan was coming from, however, several parents fought back against her hot take.

“But they learn to swim faster if you take them to the pool often 🤔,” one user wrote.

“You are not wrong! This was directed towards those who use the pool like a playground without the intent to teach,” the OP replied.

“I mean if I want to take her swimming I’m going to. We do all things water. She’s supervised and she’s ok,” another said.

Another user asked,“I just don’t get avoiding a pool until they know how to swim. How will they learn?”

“You’re right! This is for those who use pools as playgrounds without any intention to teach their child the skills they need to safely enjoy the water,” Duncan clarified.

Swim safety should be of the utmost importance when it comes to pool time with children. Kids should always be supervised, especially when they are not strong swimmers.

According to WeAquatics, floating devices such as puddle jumpers can often give kids a false sense of safety in the water, leading to indifference in kids and adults. This is when tragedy can occur. Puddle jumpers can also restrict a child’s movement and make it difficult for them to swim.

Duncan agrees with this notion, telling Scary Mommy: “Devices like puddle jumpers make children feel overly confident in their swimming abilities, leading them to take risks they wouldn't otherwise take.”

“The buoyancy they provide makes the water feel fun and effortless and it is absolutely not! They put the child’s body into an incredibly inefficient vertical swimming posture, known as the drowning position. In addition to the false sense of ability they instill in the kids who wear them they also lull the parents into a false sense of safety.”

Flotation devices for children are not a replacement for proper swim lessons and attentive parents always having a hand on their kids in the water.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages one to four, and the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that kids should learn to swim a lot earlier than most parents might think.

“Drowning is the single leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4,” said Sarah Denny, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, Prevention of Drowning published by AAP in 2019.

“Many of these deaths occur when children are not expected to be swimming or when they have unanticipated access to water. Toddlers are naturally curious; that’s why we must implement other strategies, such as pool fencing and door locks.”

Like Coach Duncan said: if your child cannot swim without a flotation device, they cannot swim and should never be in the pool unsupervised.

For those parents who still want to push back on Duncan’s advice, she has one last desperate plea.

“I’d implore them to listen to the stories of ... mothers [who] lost their children to drowning and deeply believe that their children’s use of puddle jumpers directly contributed to their deaths,” she tells Scary Mommy.

“As a mother myself, I listen to mothers. I take their warnings seriously. I believe that we all want to protect one another from feeling unimaginable pain. If they won't listen to me I hope they'll listen to them.”

There is an argument against Duncan’s push for no kids in pools until they can swim which focuses on access to swim lessons. The ADA recommends swim lessons as young as one year old, but is that feasible for parents, especially in today’s economy?

“I know that swim lessons can be inaccessible for so many reasons. I want to help!” she says.

“My sole purpose online is to empower parents with the information they need to teach their own children how to swim. I want to demystify everything. I can’t shut up about it in real life so I figured I’d start being obnoxious on TikTok too!”

Despite the pushback, she’s grateful so many parents are ready and willing to learn about pool and water safety with kids.

She continues, “I’m encouraged by the amount of people who are willing to listen with an open mind, learn, and even pivot. All in all the response has been overwhelmingly positive! I think we are all doing our best with the information we have. It's hard to always get it right! Of course, there has been some defensiveness and I understand that.”