Most kids love the water. One of the best ways to get a cranky child out of a funk is to take them swimming or even put them in the bathtub. Body fat makes human beings naturally buoyant but for safety reasons, it’s always a good idea to give any child who’s in the water a buoyancy aid to keep them afloat and reduce the risk of drowning.
There’s no shortage of potential buoyancy aids for kids to use, but what is the best one? Some parents prefer buoyant clothing while others may prefer inflatable devices that look like toys. Here are the most important things to know about the best kids’ buoyancy aids.
Why is Buoyancy in Swimming Important?
Swimming is terrific exercise and a lot of fun but it’s not without its risks. Even experienced swimmers can get into trouble if they get overly tired or get caught in a strong current or tide.
Archimedes defined buoyancy like this:
Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object.
In other words, buoyancy is a force where the pressure of a fluid below a person or object offsets gravity, thus keeping things afloat in liquid.
To calculate buoyancy of a child, the formula requires the volume of the child (the child’s size), the density of the liquid they’re in, and the gravitational force where they are swimming. The buoyancy calculation reveals how much fluid the child displaces.
What Options Can Be Used as Kids Buoyancy Aids?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that children wear buoyancy aids even if they are experienced swimmers. They do so because drowning accounts for 4,000 deaths every year in the United States and is the leading cause of death for children between one and four years of age.
Kids buoyancy aids come in a variety of forms and shapes. Some may be better than others and it’s important for parents to consider what will work for their child. Here are several options to consider.
Buoyancy swim shorts are typically made of neoprene, the same material used in wet suits. Neoprene has natural buoyancy and can provide flotation in water.
Wearing buoyancy shorts can help professional athletes, including triathletes, train for big events. The buoyancy provided can help kids who struggle with swimming to improve their position.
It is important to note that buoyancy shorts—and neoprene in general—are not ideal for use in swimming pools since kids who wear them may overheat.
Buoyancy vests are sometimes known as life vests and may be used to provide flotation in swimming pools, ponds, lakes, and the ocean.
The best bet is to look for a buoyancy vest that meets the following criteria from the CDC:
- Has been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. (Look for USCG Type 3 flotation devices.)
- Fits the child snugly but not tightly. (A too-loose vest may slip off and a too-tight vest may restrict the child’s movement in the water.)
- Choose the right size based on the child’s weight. (Typical sizes are for kids for kids under 30 pounds, between 30 and 50 pounds, and between 50 and 90 pounds.)
- Measure the child’s chest circumference to ensure the best fit.
- Choose a vest suited to the child’s swimming ability. A child who is just learning how to swim will require more support and more buoyancy than one who has been swimming regularly.
You should make sure the child knows how to put on and remove the vest and practice in a controlled environment before using it in open water.
Arm Bands or Water Wings
Arm bands or water wings are buoyancy aids that kids wear on their upper arms or shoulders to help keep them afloat in the water.
They are most appropriate for children over the age of four and are best suited for use in a controlled environment such as a pool. In open water, kids should wear something more robust such as a buoyancy vest.
It’s important to be ensure that a child wears floaties properly and that they fit and stay where they belong.
How to Choose the Right Buoyancy Aid for a Child
Providing children in the water with the right buoyancy aids is necessary. Even kids who have been swimming for a while may be at risk of drowning if they get tired or caught in a current.
You should consider the following things when choosing a buoyancy aid:
- Your child’s age
- Your child’s size (height and weight)
- Your child’s swimming ability
- Your child’s personality (some kids do better with adhering to rules, including wearing buoyancy aids, than others)
- Where your child will be swimming (pool, pond, ocean)
Taking these things into account will ensure that you select the right buoyancy aid for your child, keeping them safe in the water. Always do a buoyancy test before allowing your child to swim with a buoyancy aid.
Kids Buoyancy Aids Save Lives
There’s nothing better than watching happy kids splash around in the water on a warm day. To protect kids—even those who are experienced swimmers—it’s essential to provide them with a buoyancy aid that will reduce the risk of injury or drowning.