*From Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Seattle
Once children learn to swim, they don't need life vests.
At swimming pools and supervised swimming areas, an older child who swims well may not need to wear a life vest. That's where judgment comes in. Many public or resort pools have swimming test, but often, it's up to you.
Around steep banks, rivers or docks, where the water is swift, dark, and cold, the drowning risk increases and rescue becomes much harder. With those factors working against us, we need to use more caution.
When boating, rafting or inner-tubing, or while swimming in open water like a lake or a river, adults and children should always wear properly fitted life vests. Water conditions change, boats capsize, and cold water makes life-saving and swimming skills difficult. Life vests improve chances of survival and rescue. But they ONLY work if they are worn. You need to wear a life-vest too, so you are prepared to help a child or yourself.
Kids won't wear life vests.
They'll wear them if the expectation is clear and consistent. It helps to start young. Make life vests a part of all water activities, just like bringing sunscreen if you're going to be in the sun. Coast Guard-approved life vests come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Let your children pick their favorite, as long as it is the right size and type for what you need. As children grow older, keep insisting on life vest use. Check their life vests each year for fit, wear and tear and style.