As a swimming teacher for over 40 years, safety is the most important thing to be taught while in the water.
Personal Flotation Device
The function of a personal flotation device (PFD) is to keep your head above the water so you can breathe. When worn properly, this is accomplished. Be safe and prevent a water emergency, purchase and wear a US Coast Guard approved PFD.
Air Filled Devices
Your friends call to go boating, you are excited but remember you do not have any "floaties" for your 5-year old. You run into the discount store to purchase some arm band floaties, the kind you blow up, and maybe even a plastic ring for your child to "wear." They are cheap and readily available.
Please do not do this!
Approved Personal Flotation Devices
Instead, you take a few extra minutes and go to the pool section of the store and locate their flotation devices. Yes, the floaties are still there but you pass them up and go to the safer looking devices. These are devices that have printed inside them saying, "US Coast Guard Approved."
If the Coast Guard approves them, you know they are safe!
Proper Size Is Essential
When purchasing your device, pay attention to the weight limit printed on the inside back. The weight limits need to be adhered to because if you try and wear a device not in your size limit, the device will not perform properly.
For instance, a child weighing 25 pounds tries to wear a 30-50 lb. size device. It will not fit them properly and therefore the chance is high that it will not keep the child's head above the water properly, it may choke them, or it may even come off.
The same goes for squeezing into a size smaller. You will not be comfortable and you are too heavy for the weight limit. Again, the device will not perform properly.
The weight limits are spelled out expressly on each device. If you do not see this, keep looking until you find one.
These are extremely popular for young children in the weight range of 30-50 pounds. Age is not relevant. There are many brands available. They are US Coast Guard approved and since they have been in the marketplace, if worn properly, I have not seen any problems with children wearing them. They have the arm rings and a banded section across the front of the child's body with a clip-hook in the back. They have instructions on how to wear the device printed on the inside.
Again, worn within the proper weight range, they function as they are supposed to. It is very difficult to go underwater with one of these on, if not impossible by one's self.
These come in all sorts of designs, gender, and characters - great ways to entice kids to wear them!
There are similar devices being sold without the USCG approval for a little cheaper than the USCG approved brands. Please spend the extra few dollars for the right product.
Organizations Advocating Safe Swimming
The USA Swimming Federation now recommends all children take swimming lessons and has a lesson finder on their website. The American Red Cross has long been teaching lessons and has the triage of water smarts, swimming skills, and helping others as their focus.
A local organization I advocate here in Texas is working to make bodies of water safer as Texas has the highest child drowning rate in the country. Their mantra is "lifeguardyourchild."
Please research any of these organizations as they have much safety information on their websites that may help you gain knowledge and keep your family safe.
There Is No Guarantee - Constant Supervision is Necessary
On all of these PFDs, there is a lot of printed information. In that information there is no guarantee of protection of life. This depends on constant supervision (with adult eyes on the child and no phone in hands), proper use, good decision making, and wearing a PFD. These things combined give you a very good chance at being safe in a body of water.
Please consider arming your family with this layer of protection when you are around or in water.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Joanie Ruppel