But it's one thing to know in theory how to swim if you get caught in a rip; it's an entirely different thing to remember what to do in the panic of the moment if you actually do get caught in one. Even as a strong swimmer at 13 years old (2 yrs before becoming a certified lifeguard myself), I knew, in principle, what to do if I got caught in a river current, but when I found myself actually caught in one, I almost didn't have the presence of mind to draw upon that knowledge and act on it, and only very narrowly escaped disaster. I think it's a pretty tall order to expect a preschooler to have that capacity. As I said before, mother nature has no regard for us. She can be cruel and couldn't care less that it's just a little kid's life she takes... Nothing to "play" with IMO. There are plenty of "unnatural" things we do all the time and take for granted. Being land creatures who breathe air, we absolutely need to be able to surface to survive, just as whales and dolphins do. That is what a lifejacket does for us if all other things fail. Just like moving at a speed that vehicles take us is "unnatural" and thus we need protection (seatbelts, car seats, airbags, etc.) just in case that momentum meets a stopped object. I don't see what could possibly be bad about having that failsafe in place.
"Life Jacket" on a kid playing in the waves? - Page 3
I guess the difference is in how we "play" at the beach.
I am always talking to them about what we're doing and why, they know what a rip looks like, what drowning looks (and sounds) like, where to go to get help.
I approach going to the beach in the same way as I do teaching them to cross roads; I carry them and talk to them about what's going on, ask questions to make sure they understand. Then they walk holding my hand, still lots of communication, eventually they brake away from me with all the information I have (and hopefully some of their own too!).
For me, a life-jacket would really hinder the whole prcess.
I wouldn't let a 3 year old be near the water on their own!
My children know how to swim across a rip, they know that if it gets too strong they should float on their backs. I think a 3 year old should understand that.
My 2 year old doesn't really understand yet but by the time she's 3, I'd anticipate that she would.
I guess if I didn't know this information myself I'd probably just be too terrified to take them near the water!
We go to the beach several times a week year round, and read the "rip current" sign every time we go down there, look at whatever flag the lifeguard has up to show the conditions, watch the water before going in... but I wouldn't trust a child to know which way to swim, to be able to judge which direction the rip is going AND remember which way they need to go in comparison to that, all while being dragged along in the water, with a disoriented view of shore and by themselves? And even kids that can swim quite well have a hard time floating on their backs in the waves.
Can your 2/3yr olds swim? As in strongly swim long distances with no adult help, know how to hold their breath for a period of time, know how to handle waves if they crash them down, and can swim without holding onto anything? My 4.5yr old can, but he took infant survival swim classes. He was evaluated at a year old by having him float on his back for almost 30min in full winter clothing, and he has been recertified every year sense. He also swims almost every day. Most kids I know who are his age are no where close to being able to do that. And at 2yrs old, I 100% trusted ds to swim in a pool on his own while I just watched from the side, but not the ocean, the ocean is unpredictable, and for a toddler to anticipate what its doing AND concentrate on their swimming skills is a lot to ask.
And its a different situation when you are talking a kid in the water with an adult, adult directly, physically in charge of that kids safety - thats the time you teach safety skills. But if they are a non-swimmer or not a great swimmer and playing in the waves while mom watches from the beach towel? They aren't learning the survival skills then, they are just playing, and an adult needs time to react if something happens, so thats when a lifejacket makes sense.
And like I said, not for all kids, my ds I trust to handle the ocean, but I don't know any other kids under the age of 6 that I would. My ds terrifies people with his ability to hold his breath and swim under waves for a long time, and in pools because of this lifeguards have gone in after him several times (each time he was embrarrased because he had no idea he was freaking them out by doing what he always does, its not normal for a kid to hold their breath that long, I can't even do it and I'm a strong swimmer!)
Ds knows how to cross a street properly, we've talked about it hundreds of times, and he can cross one safely most of the time, yet I always hold his hand going across busy roads with lots of cars.
Young children and non-swimmers should, in my opinion, wear life jackets. And everyone should be supervised like a hawk, and attention paid to beach warnings (here there is a flag system that indicates if its safe to go in). A beach with waves and tide like that is NOT a good place to learn to swim, or for a beginner to practice. I also think an adult should always be in the water with the child. Sure, it looks odd, but the kid is safer with one on than without one.
I'd congratulate this parent on choosing to have a life jacket on his child.
Personally, I think swimming lessons and very very closely supervised water play (arms reach at all times) are the only times when it should be removed. I had a scary experience in a swimming pool with my 4 yr old dd...she was in arms reach and on a flutter board. I turned my head away for one second, and next thing you know she was under water. I plucked her out right away (she was used to putting her head underwater and holding her breath, otherwise, I wouldn't have let her play on the flutter board in water that was just over her head). Had I not been right next to her, I wouldn't have known where she was. Would have been far worse in a lake or ocean setting. I'm super vigilant usually....so this little slip up was a shocker, and reminded me how easily it can happen to even the most safety conscious among us. I also think it's important for kids to learn how the water feels with or without a life jacket - and the supervision MUST be arms reach and constant visual contact.
The only concern I would have is, like any safety device, that it fits properly and is secured properly. a life jacket that is too loose will ride up. It must be snug with a crotch strap in order to ensure the child's head stays above water.
I know this is an old thread, but I came across it while researching lifejackets for my kiddo (we're thinking of buying a boat).
I realize there are a lot of different opinions but I thought I'd share the CDC's take on it:
I think it's silly to expect a very young child, even one who is a strong swimmer, to be able to keep a level head and swim across a rip tide or figure out which way was up if the child was accidentally swept out by a sneaker wave. Yes, there are some ocean situations where I might not make my child use a life jacket. I have been on calm/sheltered enough beaches in Hawaii that I think it would be OK. I know a family who lost a toddler to drowning when the parents were carrying the child across a river. The parent lost his footing and slipped and lost his grip on the child. There were four adults and one child present, and none of the adults were able to find the child who was sucked under the water. The child was found down river days later. A life jacket would have most likely saved the child. Supervision and even holding on to your child are not adequate substitutes for a PFD in all situations, just as wearing a PFD is no substitute for adequate supervision. BOTH need to be used in order to protect our children. Drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death for children between the ages of 1 and 4 (with car accidents coming in a close second). There is no such thing as too much caution (not to say there's no such thing as paranoia; keeping children away from water entirely is excessive and counter-productive).
Of course I'm not saying every child needs to wear a life jacket for every visit to the beach. Children are different, circumstances are different, beaches are different. But I would never ever second guess a parent who was being cautious and using a life jacket in a situation like that. Using a life jacket near open water does not mean the parent isn't also teaching the child to swim without one. And there is no doubt at all that a life jacket is safer than no life jacket. Yeah, it's harder to swim with a life jacket, but it's easier to find and stay at the surface and be rescued. Suggesting that it's somehow safer to be without the life jacket is like saying it's safer to not wear a seat belt and be thrown from the car. Sure there are a few freak accidents where seat belts cause injury or death, but statistically it's much more common that they save lives. Same thing with life jackets.
Wow. I am going to be the dissenter here, but there is no way I would put a life jacket on my kid for the beach. The ocean is dangerous. I want my kids to grow up knowing this without the false sense of security a life jacket gives. Basically, until my child is an excellent swimmer they go into the water with me within arms reach.
I grew up in Australia and it's totally unheard of to swim in a life jacket.
I am not sure I understand that argument at all. Surely you're not suggesting that parents who put life jackets on their kids for splashing in the water are failing to properly supervise their children and keep them within arm's reach. If you are, that's rather insulting to be honest.
Using a life jacket near the water is no more instilling a false sense of security than using a helmet on a bicycle or a seat belt in a car. These are safety devices that we use because an activity is dangerous, and they help increase the chance that an accident can be survived without injury. As the story I wrote in my last post illustrates, having the child in arm's reach - or even in your arms - does not guarantee that the child won't drown. Neither does a life jacket, but it helps increase the odds of survival. If my child is knocked out of my arms by a wave or in a river, I want the child to bob back up to the top where I can find her right away, rather than calling divers to spend the next week looking for her body.
Swimming in a life jacket is a totally different thing from using a life jacket while a child plays near the water or on a dock or a boat. Of course children should be taught to swim without a life jacket. But if you're playing on the beach with your child and splashing in the waves, and a sneaker wave comes up and sweeps you both out into the water, swimming alone may not save either of you. More likely than not, if the family I know had been using a life jacket for their toddler when they were playing in the river together, their child would be alive today.
We do the same because I think that in an emergency, they are safer that way. There is no way to closely watch three children all at once, most of the kids are fairly young and inexperienced swimmers, and they tend to get knocked down in the waves. Most kids do not have swimming pools and frequent access to the water and there is summer learning curve for everyone.
In addition, we have the kids take swimming lessons, provide close supervision, talk about water safety and none of that does much in preventing a tragic accident. We have never told them that a life jacket will keep them safe and I don't think it will. But I do think it enhances the safety of the situation.
I don't understand your implication that they are somehow less safe?
We actually know a family (with terrific water skills and great parenting) who lost one of their children during wave play. Huge wage came, mom grabs the youngest, oldests surfaces okay but takes in a lot of water, dad is on beach and also watching and runs to the waves and by the time he gets there the middle she is under, cannot be immediately be found, and is dead when they find her. Mom had attended CPR class two weeks before.
And yeah, I love safety jackets. My uncle saw a boat capsize a few years and went in to rescue. Three children wearing life vests survivied. Neither parent was wearing a life vest and he was only able to save one of them. He is a big man but he couldn't rescue both people.