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Monday, February 25, 2013

Top 10 Things Parents Get Wrong About Kids' Life Vests

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Top 10 Things Parents Get Wrong
When Buying Kids’ Life Vests (PFDs)

by Janet Groene

Disclaimer: PFD’s pictured or linked here are solely for illustration. No endorsement is implied by this blog or blogger.

1.  Getting no PFD at all. Even if a child swims like a fish, there's no substitute for the added floatation a life vest provides. The vest also guards against hypothermia by allowing a victim to assume the "huddle" position rather than losing heat by swimming. It’s also a harness that can help a rescuer to get a grip when pulling a child out of the water. 

2. Buying a buoyancy device that is not USCG or UL approved. Some gimmicky swim aids made for children actually force a child’s face into the water.   

3. No head support. The heavy head-to-body weight ratio of tykes requires greater flotation for the head.  Life vests made for babies under 30 pounds have added support for the head. 

4.  Loose fit around the chest. When the child stands up straight, try lifting the PFD. If it comes up over the child’s ears, it’s too loose and will ride up around the face when in the water.  

5. Discomfort in the crotch. If leg straps give a child a wedgie, the PFD is too short. Half the battle is to find a stylish, comfortable PFD that the child will wear willingly. 

6. Zippers versus buckles is a personal decision but children who reach the “let me do it” age want fasteners that work for them. Enlist the child in style choices. 

7. Not enough flotation. Children’s life vests come in three sizes: for those under 30 pounds, 30 to 50 pounds and 50 to 90 pounds. Children who weigh more than 90 pounds need an adult life jacket.

8. Failing to replace last year’s life vests. Start each season with a weigh-in and a refit to see if a new size is needed or straps need adjusting for growth. 

9. Not knowing when a PFD should be discarded. Sun, heat, constant wetting, mildew and ordinary wear cause a PFD to lose its buoyancy over time. Keep life vests handy but out of the sun. Rinse out salt water. Dry thoroughly before stowing. 

10. While not every situation calls for a Class 1 (offshore) life vest, it does provide extra security because it is rated to bring the head above water and keep it there even if a person hits the water head first and unconscious.

    Lastly, use the life vest as an essential part of family fun on or near the water. One boating family says, “We keep our children’s life vests in the trunk of the car.  We don’t leave the car until everyone is fitted out and life vests don’t come off until we’re safely back at the car again.”

Janet Groene develops galley-easy recipes for boating families at BoatCook. 

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