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When it comes to water safety for children, there's a number of different ways you can keep your little one afloat - swim rings, sit in floats, foam floats and ride-on inflatables. But the oldest and the best are the armbands, and I went for the BEMA Armbands.
A word of note however, I purchased the BEMA Armbands in birth - 12 months size and got almost no use out of them because my little girl was too small to understand she needed to hold her head up and paddle, we ended up using a sit in float from Mothercare until she was one. But now she is 14 months it's just the right time to be using them in my opinion, she's walking, she understands you need to keep your head up and paddle in the water, and she can enjoy the increased freedom arm bands give you over a sit in float.
I purchased the BEMA Armbands from B&M Bargains, they're usually around £4.99 but I paid £2.99 which is a great price. I chose them because they have all the safety markings and regulations on them and because I like the standard bright orange colour.
Putting them on my daughter was easy, I simply inflated one side, then slipped the bands up her arms, and inflated the other side until we had a snug fit. As we were in Lanzarote, she was wearing a UV protective swim suit also and it fitted fine over this, too.
We placed her in the children's paddling pool, and she was sitting, splashing, jumping and getting very excited, and inevitably she ended up head under the water, but as she had the arm bands on she popped back up - I don't like to make a fuss as I don't want her to become scared of the water - and true enough she was giggling away. Obviously you still need to very closely guard any small child in the water but the arm bands do help keep her stable and help build her confidence. I can also hold her horizontally and her arms are kept up whilst we work on paddling her legs, I'm trying to get her swimming early on for safety (and for exercise for the family).
Overall I really can't fault the BEMA Armbands, they inflate well, they are a nice bright colour, they don't have any sharp edges and they stay inflated until the time comes to deflate them, at which point they are easily and quickly deflated. Unlike other floats and inflatables, they hardly take up any room and store flat when deflated, so they're very easy to store. My daughter doesn't mind wearing them, in fact she doesn't really seem to notice. And of course, the price is a factor, under a fiver or potentially under three pounds is great, I've certainly seen arm bands more expensive in specialist baby and swimming stores.
Overall I highly recommend the BEMA Armbands as a 'must have' for anyone wanting to take their child swimming. Personally I'd recommend them for the over 1s given my own experience, but it's different for every child and I'd say any parent wanting to take their child swimming should get a set of BEMA Armbands.
We wanted to get our little lad to swim as soon as we could. Both me and his mum didn't learn to swim until we were adults and I can clearly remember 'swimming lessons' at school, whereby all my classmates were off swimming from one end of the pool to the other and I was clinging onto the sides at the shallow end, too afraid to let go of the edge of the pool. We didn't want our little lad to be like that so we introduced him to swimming from about the age of five years old. He was eager to get into the water straight away but we needed to make sure he was safe and so invested in some quality armbands for the purpose - the ones we chose were BEMA armbands.
These cost us £4.99 for the two bands and they were in a vivid bright orange colour - so no fear of 'losing' him in the pool then! We bought the size 1 armbands which are designed to fit a child from the age of 6 years to about 12 years. The smaller armbands tend to go on a child's weight, rather than age and our little lad has always been on the skinny small side (unlike me or his mum) and we were a bit concerned that they would be too large for his skinny little arms. They actually were a really good fit.
These armbands acted as a fantastic buoyancy aid for our little lad for a long time and gave him a massive amount of confidence in the water. What we liked about them in particular was that they actually 'stayed put', so when he was climbing in and out of the pool they never slid down his arms and he had confidence in the fact that they would stay where I had placed them before he'd initially got his feet wet in the water.
They are made from vinyl material which is quite a heavy gauge in my opinion, and they have a flat strap design which allowed the little lad to be able to move his arms freely and practice his swimming strokes. They are very easy and simple and quick to inflate but I have to say they were not so easy to deflate at the end of the swimming lesson. They took a bit of effort to get all of the air out.
Never once did they leak though and they were always strong and durable and the seams never showed any signs of splitting or any wear and tear. We gave them tour neighbour's daughter to use after the little lad had finished with them as he s now able to swim without any buoyancy aids at all and has full confidence in the pool.
Overall, they were definitely money well spent. They were relatively inexpensive and a high quality product that enabled our lad to get used to the water and gave him the confidence and ability to be able to learn to swim quicker than he would have done without them.