Kids' Life Jackets--a No-Brainer
It is well known not to turn one’s back on a child when there is water around. Children are unable to help themselves when a puddle of water is laying there, attempting to look innocent yet when adult backs are turned, slyly beckoning the kids to jump in. It has been contemplated that either children must have some Golden Retriever in their systems or the other way around.
What are the Munchkins Up To?
Unfortunately, very young children don't see much, if any, more danger in an ocean than a mud puddle, and while older children certainly do, they tend to be risk-takers. But even with perfectly dry, well-tended, and well-behaved kids of any age who remain on the boat, accidents can happen. That is why the importance of kids' life jackets cannot be expressed strongly enough!
Before investing in life jackets for kids, it's important to consider the type of water activity they will be doing. Not all life jackets are suited for the same activity; the best kids' life jacket for boating on the bay may not be a good choice for tubing on the lake. Life jackets for kids are also made for other types of fun on the water, whether floating around like jellyfish or more vigorous activity such as surfing, waterskiing, or paddling; and some even offer heat loss prevention.
Life Jackets for Kids are Not for Adults!
Kids' life jackets have different design features than those for adults. The best life jackets for kids are ones that both fit correctly and are comfortable to wear--after all, straps that chafe little legs and designs that impede free movement will only produce whining at best and chafe burns and shrieks at worst, even with a perfect fit. What a way to ruin what would have otherwise been a great day on the water!
A quality kids' life jacket may be one of the most important investments you ever make, so if you're not going to skimp on quality and fit, then don't skimp when it comes to comfort, either. And, you absolutely must not skimp when it comes to fit! Even the best life jackets for kids can be easily slipped out of by those little wiggle worms once they're wet and playing if they don't fit correctly.
Even with the right fit, the life jacket must be donned and all straps attached correctly and pulled tight enough for it to work, so be sure to carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions. Those made for babies and small children feature crotch straps and grab handles to easily pull the child out of the water. But if the life jacket is not pre-fit, adjusted, and worn correctly then there is the horrifying possibility of the kid sliding out of the jacket in front of one’s very eyes when hoisted out of the water.
Children's Life Jackets are sized according to weight range and chest size. Weigh your child and measure their chest under the arms before you go to pick one out. Be sure it fits snugly. To test it, lift the child up by the shoulders of the life jacket to make sure it will not slip over the chin or ears.
It can be difficult for a child to float in a face up position because of the distribution of the body weight and a child's tendency to struggle or attempt to climb out of the water. If one does not work well, try another style. Straps around the legs are particularly important on children's life jackets, as they keep the device in place. They should be used whenever the life jacket is on. If the child does not swim, a Type II device is recommended to help keep the child face up in the water. Even though a life jacket is designed to keep a child afloat, it does not substitute for supervision. Never leave a child unattended.
Many of these life jackets have head pillows to keep the child face-up while in the water, and the most comfortable ones have lined crotch straps to reduce chafing, ventilation for cooling, panels that encourage mobility, and a soft fabric lining.
Are Life Jackets for Kids Mandatory?
In short, yes, no, and it depends. If you think that's confusing, how about the Coast Guard's interim rule that says in states where there is no children's life jacket law in place, USCG-approved life jackets for kids under 13 is the law? And yet every state has some type of life jacket, or PFD law in place.
At least one state requires PFDs only for personal watercraft, and several that require a PFD for children on boats do so for kids under 8, or 10, or 12, and at least two require them for those under age 7. So, does that mean that for these states, the Feds step in and apply their interim rule? We're not lawyers here, so it's always best to check with those in your own state capitol who are qualified to solve these mysteries and be sure.
Annoyingly fuzzy and confusing rules and laws aside, it's hard to imagine why anyone would place a child on any type of watercraft without the proper type of life jacket, even if the child is a good swimmer. Wind and waves happen. Even the strongest little limbs get tired...and then what's to hold them up?
You Can Have Variety AND Safety
Many companies produce fine wearable floatation devices that look good and function as intended such as Airhead,Cal-June,Coleman,Mustang Survival, and Absolute Outdoors (the parent company of both Kent and Onyx), but not all are Coast Guard-approved types, so read descriptions carefully. We carry both types here at Go2marine, from fun water wings for splashing around in shallow water (under close supervision of course!) to the no-nonsense Type I commercial life jackets that are stocked aboard ferries, cruise ships, and other commercial vessels, and everything in between.
And remember, adults are not immune to drowning, and when out on the water and things can and often do go wrong, and quickly. It's not uncommon for adults to have the kids and even the family dog all wearing life jackets, and not be wearing them themselves. Should you be among the jacketless and find yourself reconsidering this shocking wardrobe malfunction, take a look at our large collection of life jackets, life vests, float coats, and PFDs. You just may decide to fix that wardrobe.