Your child is just learning to swim, or mastering the art, and you can't wait to have fun in the pool together this summer. But before you slide on that pair of water wings for insurance or blow up that trusty swim ring for your child to grab onto, dive into these facts.

These devices don't offer life-saving protection. Instead, they create an illusion of security for both parents and kids. As helpful as they may seem, don't rely on them to keep a non-swimmer or beginning swimmer afloat.

At no time should you consider the flotation device something that will protect your child if you step away, even for a moment.

Related: Inflatable Pools: Small Doesn’t Mean Safe

"Floaties" to watch out for

The list of swim aids that should never be used for water safety include many familiar to parents across the country:

  • Inflatable tubes
  • Inflatable floats
  • Swim rings
  • Noodles
  • Water wings
  • Inflatable vests
  • Blow-up rafts

Most come with these standard warnings: "This is not a lifesaving device. Never leave child unattended while in use." Or: "Never leave a child in water without adult supervision."

Another issue: These devices tend to not be very durable and can fail without warning. The child can easily snag it on the edge of the pool, then it deflates and they start to sink.

Water wings can float off a child's arms, and even a belt float can unhook. And a child can easily slip out of a noodle or inflatable tube.

Related: Life-Saving Water Tips: Make Your Pool a Drowning-Free Zone

Safe flotation devices

Safety experts say parents should use US Coast Guard Approved flotation devices in both pools and large bodies of water. They also urge parents to not buy a larger size with the idea their child will grow into it — a vest must fit snugly to work properly.

Although US Coast Guard Approved flotation devices have been tested and meet the requirements of safety standards, UL says that the same cautions should apply while your child is in the water. Even with a real life jacket that has a UL mark on it, you still want to be there supervising. You should never leave a child unattended. A parent should never be beyond arm's reach of an infant or small child using a flotation device, even a life jacket.


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Mitch Lipka is a consumer columnist and product safety expert. He was the 2011 recipient of the "Kids Best Friend Award" from Kids In Danger for his commitment to reporting on children’s product safety.