Next to running, swimming is one of the most natural (and healthiest) ways to get around. In contrast to running, which every little person can do at some point without major difficulties or even training, swimming has to be learned. And this is exactly where there is currently a huge problem in Germany. Fewer than 15,000 seahorses were sewn onto swimming trunks and swimsuits in 2020. A colossal burglary. In 2019, almost 50,000 girls and boys managed to get the important swimming badge. The German Life Saving Society (DLRG) drew this sobering conclusion after the second Corona summer of 2021. Germany is increasingly becoming the country of non-swimmers.

“Around 70,000 children were unable to learn to swim in 2020,” stated Frank Villmow from the DLRG Presidium. The swimming pools and with them the swimming instructors are slowly starting their work again. But the demand for swimming courses exceeds the supply many times over. It makes all the more sense for parents to introduce their children to the wet element themselves. Because the safer they are, the easier it will be later on for the swimming course with the professional instructors. A recent survey by Statista showed that 20 percent of the parents surveyed would describe their child as a non-swimmer. About as many rated the offspring as “uncertain”. The focus was on the swimming skills of children between the ages of six and ten.

Various swimming aids make it easier to jump into the unknown. In this article you will learn which tools are suitable for which age and how to use them correctly.

As with many other things, babies and toddlers develop very differently when it comes to bathing and swimming. As fearless as many a few months are raging in the tub or crawling or storming into the paddling pool in the outdoor pool, some children are still as anxious as primary school age when they come near a swimming pool. In official courses, babies and infants can familiarize themselves with the sparkling element of water from the age of four months. Here it is all about introducing the little ones to cool water and taking away their fear. As “swimming aids” in the broadest sense, swimming rings, small mats and the swimming seat are the most popular. They belong to class A and are supposed to do nothing but keep the babies afloat. The little ones are pulled or pushed through the water with it. Depending on their size, these tools accompany children up to the age of three. When buying, in addition to the CE mark, you should also pay attention to the weight for which the swimming aid is approved.

Class A

class B

Class C


0 to 36 months

(Swimming disks, water wings)

(life belt, life jacket)

from 4 to 5 years (depending on swimming ability)


bus ca. 16 kgs

up to 60 kg

not specified


water habituation

Assistance in moving independently in the water

training and exercise equipment, toys


floating seat

swimming ring


swimming discs

life jacket

life belt

swimming pillow

swimming board

pool noodle

In class B, things are slowly getting down to business. Swimming aids in this category definitely deserve their name. Because instead of being chauffeured across the water, swimming beginners have to do something themselves to keep themselves above it. The classic and favorite of many parents are the good old arm bands. The inflatable cushions (here a model from SwimSafe) are slipped over the arms of the little ones. There are now models on the market where the wings are connected in front of the chest. This provides even more lift (and ideally, less anxiety). They usually consist of a light, filled polyester fabric and don’t even have to be blown up. Just like the turtle model from Sevylor. With both variants, the child’s head area remains safely above water. Nevertheless, you can move around and try things out quite freely. The principle is similar for the other class B swimming aids. With one exception.

So-called swimming cushions, such as the original Schlori, are attached with a kind of strap under the arms or on the torso. The actual cushions, in this case made of cotton, are filled with air and bring the little swimmers into the right position in the water. In order to gradually wean them off the swimming aid, some pressure is gradually released from the cushion.

Swim discs are made of lightweight EVA foam. Similar to weightlifting, more or fewer discs can be clicked together and put over the arms together with a flexible cuff. The principle: The safer the little swimmer is in the water, the fewer discs have to be “installed”. Because the following applies: the fewer discs, the less lift. A small advantage over the inflatable variant: According to the manufacturer, the swimming discs are also suitable for children and young people who want to learn to swim a little later. The maximum load limit is therefore 60 kilograms.

Children who explore the water with a life belt have a little more legroom. Otherwise, the popular swimming aids that are strapped around the stomach (important: not around the waist!) work like swimming discs. Depending on how confident the child is in the water, individual styrofoam or foam elements can be threaded on or removed. When buying a swimming belt, make sure that the swimming aid is equipped with buckles and a safety lock. The length of the belt should also be variable and adjustable in a few simple steps. Life jackets also belong in class B of the swimming aids. The swimming aids are recommended for children from the age of two who can keep their head above the water surface unaided, have some swimming experience and are already able to do their first swimming movements. They should not be confused with life jackets, as life jackets are not designed to keep helpless and unconscious people afloat. Vests for learning to swim are available as an inflatable variant or with flexible and exchangeable buoyancy bodies.

Class C is less about safety and more about tools that support small (and large) swimmers with training and certain movement sequences. One of the most important aids in this category is the swimming board, also known as the kickboard, which lies at the edge of the pool even for high-performance athletes during training. This also makes it clear: Class C swimming aids only belong in the hands of confident swimmers who can hold the board or pool noodle themselves. As with all other swimming aids, the so-called pool noodles should only be used by children under supervision. Swimming boards are used, among other things, to learn the correct leg kick, to train and improve it. Similarly, when the board is tucked between the legs, the focus is on arm strength and technique.

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