There are so many wonderful toys and floatation devices on the market to enhance your time at the pool. You can buy armbands, little floating seats, floating swimsuits, rubber rings...the list is endless! As a swimming teacher I've seen most things in action. Here are a few tips on what's on the market.
Arm bands: You can buy tiny arm bands, which are fantastic for babies who have plenty of experience in the water. My older daughter loves being in arm bands at 18 months because she enjoys the freedom and independence it gives her. However, if your little one is a bit nervous it is best to build water confidence before trying arm bands out - they might feel anxious without your physical support. Arm bands are good for helping a water confident baby learn how to move themselves in the water - when you are holding them and moving around there's no need for them to kick their legs! I like to put arm bands on my daughter for part of a session, alongside plenty of jumping in and play, plus a few submersions without them on. Just make sure you blow the arm bands up well so they don't slip off in the water. A rubber ring is an option to keep your little one's mouth clear of the water, although they will be in a more upright position.
Swim belts and learn to swim jackets: Some teachers and parents swear by these! I can see how useful they would be for a holiday if your little one was paddling (supervised of course!) and you wanted extra piece of mind. During a lesson however, they can hold a child in an unnatural position and give a false sense of security. In my opinion, they aren't necessarily the best choice to develop a good body position in the water.
Swim seats: These are great in a warm pool if you would like your baby to have a good view of what's going on and some fun first experiences in the water. It doesn't help their swimming as such because they're in such an upright position and can't usually move their legs - and their arms are clear of the water, but it can be great if you are feeling nervous about your first trips to the pool. They do prevent you from getting close to your baby, so they limit the reassuring cuddles you can offer if your baby feels nervous.
In my opinion, it is best to take your baby swimming without a floating device, but they definitely can be useful in public sessions or on holidays to help parents relax. You want your baby to get used to the feel of the water as much as possible, and floats can get in the way. If you want to invest in anything to take to the pool, try bath toys like water squirters, pouring scoops and brightly coloured balls so your little one can have some fun in the water!