‘You’ll grow into it’ doesn’t fit with life jackets

March 5, 2013 

— Kids grow fast. That’s why frugal parents often buy their children’s shoes a little bigger than the actual size.

However, when buying a child a life jacket that’s too large – a common mistake – the results can be heartbreaking.

“If a too-big life jacket slips off a child when their arms go above their head, there could be tragic results,” said BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety President Chris Edmonston, father of five.

“Every season I have my kids put on their life jackets to check for comfort and the proper size,” said Edmonston. If you boat year-round, it may be good to do this a couple times a year.

Here are tips to find the right-sized children’s life jacket:

• Children’s life jackets come in three sizes: infant (under 30 lbs.), which offer greater floatation for the head; child (30-50 lbs.) and youth (50-90 lbs.). Any child more than 90 lbs. should wear an adult life jacket. Only purchase life jackets that are US Coast Guard approved.

• To check for proper fit: Have the child stand with the jacket on and all buckles, zippers, crotch straps fastened. Grab the life jacket’s shoulder area and pull straight up. The jacket should not move up to (or over) the child’s ears. If it does, it’s likely to be too big, and find another one. The best fit for a kid’s life jacket is one that fits snugly yet comfortably. If all of the fasteners cannot be attached, it’s likely too small.

“If a child has a good-fitting life jacket, they won’t complain about wearing it,” Edmonston said.

“Better yet is to set the example and wear one yourself.”

A short video on how to pick a right-sized child’s life jacket is available at BoatUS.com/Foundation/LJLP/fit_video.asp.

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