A Safe Summer Boating Season for the Kids
6 Tips to Make Sure Your Child’s Life Jacket Fits Properly
Boating Safety Tips
Here are 6 tips from the Sea Tow Foundation, a non-profit organization formed to promote boating safety and life jacket use, on how to make sure your child has the right life jacket to help keep him or her safe on
the water this summer.
Essential outfit. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, all children under 13 years of age must wear a life jacket when a boat is under way, unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin. (Note: State regulations may vary; visit ). The Sea Tow Foundation takes this a step further by recommending that children wear a life jacket at all timeswhen they are aboard a boat or even on the dock. This will keep them safe in case they unexpectedly should slip into the water. Anyone of any age should wear a PFD when operating a personal watercraft.
Let’s go shopping. While adults may wear the same life jacket for several years as long as it’s in good condition, children can outgrow their PFD (Personal Flotation Device) in the course of a single summer. Before boating season starts, take the kids to your local marine store and help them to pick out new life jackets. If you plan to let them take a friend along on your boat, it’s advisable to have an extra child’s life jacket or two onboard as well.
Be size-wise. Don’t make the mistake of putting your child in an adult life jacket or inflatable belt-type PFD. Look for the models that are labeled Youth, Child or Infant, and be sure to select one that is designed for your child’s weight category. Infant PFDs are designed with a high collar to keep the baby face up and head supported; they also have a strap between the legs for added security.
Heads Up. Life jackets are designated Type I, II, III or V, depending on the amount of buoyancy they provide andthe water conditions they are designed to perform in. Look for a child’s life jacket that suits your boating style and locations. Type I Offshore PFDs offer the most buoyancy, but they also can be bulky and restrict the wearer’s movements, prompting kids to want to take them off. Type II Near-Shore PFDs, Type III PFD Flotation Aids, and Type V Special Use Devices (designed for wakeboarding and other water sports) are often more comfortable, but don’t always provide as much buoyancy or stability in the water
Snug as a bug. Be sure your child’s life jacket fits snugly. Too big, and it will ride up over his or her head in the water; too small, and it won’t provide enough buoyancy. To properly fit a child, put the life jacket on her or him and fasten it properly. Ask the child to raise his or her arms overhead, grasp the tops of the jacket’s arm openings and gently pull up. If you can pull the jacket up too high, creating excess space above the arms, or it rides up over the child’s chin or face, put it back on the rack and try the procedure again with a smaller size.
Everybody into the pool. A good way to get your child used to the feel of wearing a life jacket is by letting them use it in the pool or shallow lake or river before going boating. Tell them its essential boater’s gear, just like a scuba diver’s BC vest or a fireman’s helmet.
Once your child has a properly fitting life jacket to wear whenever you go boating, Mom – and the whole family – can relax and enjoy the whole day out on the water!
Do you have any boating safety tips?