Most parents understand (or they should understand, since about 250 kids under age 5 drown in swimming pools each year) that their kids need some sort of floatation device until they are older and have learned how to swim well, but which is best?
Do you need a life jacket?
Will 'floaties', an inner tube, swimsuit, or a swim vest provide enough protection from drowning?
Things get even more confusing when you go to a water park and they won't let you use your own floatation device.
To be safe, you want a floatation device that:
- keeps your child from going under the water, and
- keeps his his face out of the water and his head upright
And essentially, that means using a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket or personal floatation device.
It should be obvious that simple arm 'floaties' don't count as an approved personal floatation device. Instead, look for one that is labeled as being U.S. Coast Guard approved.
You should also make sure that younger kids, even those who can swim well, are always supervised by an adult when they are in or around water.
And even older children and teens shouldn't swim alone, but should instead use a 'buddy' system and always swim with a friend, preferably in areas that are supervised by a lifeguard.