Boating Safety for Your Children Includes a Life Jacket
In 2008, eleven children under the age of 13 died while boating, more than half of those because of drowning. (American Boating Association) Eleven children may not seem like much in the grand scheme of fatalities, but any parent who has lost a child can tell you that one child fatality is one too many.
Before you take to the water this summer, please remember and follow the below boating safety tips.
Boating Safety Means Being Prepared!
When you plan to take your child to the park, or on a car ride, or to grandma’s house, there are steps you take to make sure everyone involved is ready for the trip. The same diligence needs to happen when planning a boating trip.
I don’t know about you but even being in the same proximity as water with my preschooler is nerve-wracking and keeps me on hyper-vigilant mode the entire time.
You may feel that your child may be safe on a boat. After all, there are walls and railings and you’re close by. Still, you can’t ignore the possibility that with one quick turn of the head something could happen.
So follow these boating safety tips:
1) Childproof your boat – Everything that is breakable or dangerous or could cause a child to trip needs to be stowed or battened or otherwise secured.
A Life Jacket: A Boating Safety Essential
2) Buy a life jacket (Personal Floatation Device or PFD) – Look for a life jacket that has a collar that keeps the child face-up in the water. It should have strong waist and crotch straps and a handle on the collar. Add a safety whistle and practice with your toddler before actually getting onto a boat. The best way to size a life jacket is to take your toddler with you.
“Nine out of 10 drownings occur in inland waters, most within a few feet of safety…. Most drowning victims had access to a Personal Floatation Device, but did not wear it.” (SavvyBoater.com)
By law, children under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket. PFD’s must be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, be the appropriate size according to the weight of the wearer, be in good condition, and properly stowed so that they are readily accessible. When the vessel is moving, children under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket unless they are below deck or in an enclosed cabin. (U.S. Coast Guard) Check with your state about the specific age requirements as they can vary.
If you already have life jackets, examine it before you go boating to make sure that there is no air leakage, mildew or rot. If there is, replace it. If it’s too small for your child, or a hand-me-down jacket is too big, replace it. “[T]he life jacket should not slip over your [child’s] head or cover your [child’s] eyes.” (American Boating Association)
To make sure the jacket fits properly, have your child hold his arms up over his head, then pull up on the life jacket at the arm openings. If there is excess room above the arm openings or the jacket covers his chin or face, then the life jacket is not a proper fit.
There are a variety of manual and automatically-inflatable life jackets on the market. See the U.S. Coast Guard link at the end of this article to educate yourself as to what’s out there.
3) Pack lots of Fluids and Snacks – Fluids should include water and fruit juice. Since we’re talking about toddlers, be sure to include sippy cups and bottles as necessary. Snacks shouldn’t be too salty or too sweet. Ginger snaps and ginger ale are good choices to help settle little tummies.
4) Stock your Diaper Bag or Daypack – The general recommendation is whatever you normally pack, pack double. Also, remember to pack plastic bags in which to keep wet clothes. Sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and a light jacket are also essentials.
5) Boating activities – Children can easily become bored, so make sure you pack some activities. See this video for ideas: Boat Safety Tips and Fun Activities for Kids.
Boating Safety Tips for Families with Special Needs Children
Obviously, boating trips and water activities present a unique and sometimes challenging set of circumstances when it comes to trying to involve children with special needs. Because special needs children can often have difficulty controlling their arms and legs and keeping their heads above water, parents must take extra measures to keep their children safe while allowing them to have fun at the same time.
Safekids.org recommends the following:
1) Buy a life jacket that is specifically made to address your child’s particular needs. Life Jacket-Adapted Inc. has a great selection of life jackets designed for children with special needs.
2) Always remain within arm’s reach of your child whether in or around water.
3) Take Adaptive Aquatics Classes as a family to help your child learn swim skills, water safety principles, and security with the water environment.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
Traveling toddlers: Keeping your children safe on a boat. Discoverboating.com. Web. June 13, 2012.
Choosing the Right Life Jacket. SavvyBoater.com. Web. June 13, 2012.
How to Choose the Right Life Jacket. The United States Coast Guard. Web. June 13, 2012.
Water Safety for Families with Children with Special Needs. SafeKidsUSA. Web. June 13, 2012.
Boating Fatality Facts. American Boating Association. Web. June 13, 2012.
Boating Safety – It Could Mean Your Life. American Boating Association. Web. June 13, 2012.
Boat Life Jacket Requirements and Fitting Children for Boat Life Jackets. American Boating Association. Web. June 13, 2012.
Drowning. Smith, Nathalie.
Pool safety for young kids and toddlers. Beaver, Alison.
Summer Fun Adds Responsibility for Safety. Jeffries, Christine.