Swimming & flotation aids

Swimming and flotation aids are not safety devices and they are not designed to prevent drowning. Children must be supervised at all times when around water. Children may drown when flotation aids are used incorrectly, do not fit properly, or are faulty or not maintained. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for safe use.

About swimming and flotation aids

Swimming and flotation aids help to keep children afloat so they can become confident in the water while learning to swim. They can be designed to be worn as a vest around the body, or attached over their heads and around the waist. Other designs include cuffs or armbands, rings or seats.

Risks and injuries

Children are at risk of drowning and brain injury when swimming and flotation aids are not used correctly, or are damaged.

Parents and carers should constantly watch children while they are in or around water, including when they are using swimming and flotation aids. Children who are playing, or inexperienced, or who may be unconfident, or overconfident around water can unexpectedly get into trouble and panic. This can happen very quickly and quietly.

Buying tips

  • When choosing swimming and flotation aids for your child follow the manufacturer’s age and weight recommendations. Choose a design, size and fit that suits the development of your child, e.g. swimming and flotation aids designed for younger children may not be suitable if your child is above average height and size for their age group, and vice versa.

Safe use

  • Check swimming and flotation aids for holes, tears and leaks before use, do not use and replace if damaged. Always follow the warnings and instructions for assembly and use.

  • Ensure an adult is supervising children at all times when they are in and around water.

  • Contact the ACCC to report swimming and flotation aids that fall apart or deflate too quickly.

Review of mermaid tails & fins

In 2017-18, the ACCC funded a review of mermaid tails and fin products by the Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia (RLSSWA).

The report found that found these products can significantly hinder a child’s ability to swim and recommended that:

  • the wearer should be an experienced and competent swimmer
  • mermaid tails and fins should not be used by young swimmers (under the age of 7) or non-swimmers
  • products should only be used under active adult supervision in controlled environments such as swimming pools.

See: Mermaid tails and monofins report