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The Truth About Kids Swim Vests

By: Christi Brown

Christi Brown
Christi Brown

The toddler swim vest….the flotation device moms love. They are cute. They look fun and inviting and they give our kids independence in the water…..we think they keep our kids safe….but do they?

Toddler jumpin in pool

I learned after my beautiful baby boy drowned that this device was a major factor in his accident. 

This is why…

This post is extremely hard for me. I was that mom who put my beautiful 3 year old baby boy in one of these devices. The packaging told me it would help him stay safe. Other moms told me it would help him stay safe. All I wanted to do was keep him safe. That’s it. That was my sole reason for buying and using this device. 

Underwater view of child in flotation device

1) Toddler swim vests automatically put children in a vertical position in the water… and that is the drowning position. Toddler swim vests teach children muscle memory for that position so that when they get in water, they will automatically go vertical, whether they have the device on or not. This makes drowning faster!!!

2) Toddler swim vests teach children to bicycle their arms and legs in order to propel through the water. This expends huge amounts of energy and contributes significantly to drowning incidents because it cannot be sustained for very long.

3) Toddler swim vests prevent kids from learning to reach their arms out in front of them for any swimming stroke and from putting their heads in the water to help get into a horizontal (swimming and breathing position) in the water. 

4) Toddler swim vests contribute to water phobia because they don’t allow water on the face and therefore don’t allow children to become used to the water being on their faces. If the water does hit their face in an emergency situation, the child is more likely to panic and freeze and then not be able to help themselves.

5) Toddler swim vests create a false sense of safety for the child. The child thinks they can swim because they have built confidence in the water with the device, using it during swim times. They don’t know how their own bodies react in the water without a flotation device on and then they don’t make the connection that the device is what keeps them floating and not themselves. So, when the opportunity arises for them to get into water (even when they aren’t supposed to be in it), they are much more likely to do so without the device, thinking they can swim on their own, when they really can’t. 

6) Toddler swim vests create a false sense of safety for adults. Adults tend to not be as vigilant around the water when they put their kids in these devices. So, as an example, during a break when a parent might be attending to another child, their little one may have their swim vest off temporarily and because the parent has trained themselves not to have to be as vigilant, they have a lapse in supervision for a few seconds. In that time, the little one can end up in the pool without the device that holds them up in the water and can drown! It only takes 20 seconds!!!

7) Toddler swim vests are coast guard approved but at the lowest level possible-below life buoys. They are not reliable as a safety measure in any water that is not completely calm. They are marketed as a swim aid. But flotation devices of any kind should never be used as a swim aid because of reasons number  1-6 above. Children should learn survival swim and have one on one touch supervision (a parent or adult never being outside of an arm’s reach of a non-swimmer) in and around the water instead. 

My son thought he could swim, because I put this device on him during swim times and he learned and adopted the 6 points above. He went to the water without his toddler swim vest…he drowned…he died. He was only gone from my sight for a minute or two. 

It only takes 20 seconds. 

Why not toddler swim vests? Because your child’s life is not worth the risk that using these devices can and do pose. 

For more information, watch this video:


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