While most adults understand the importance of a good life jacket and how wearing one can literally safe your life, young children don’t quite see it the same way. All they want to do is go out and have fun in the water whether it be in the backyard pool or the beach. If on a boat, children are required to wear life jackets according to various state laws.
To avoid the all to common scenario of your child fighting you every time you ask them to put their life jacket on or simply refusing, here are some tips to make even the most stubborn child completely change their attitude towards wearing one.
With some kids, it’s simply a matter of telling them they can’t do a fun activity (example: jumping on a water trampoline) without a life jacket. With some kids, you may need to get a bit more creative.
1. Make the Life Jacket, the Fun Jacket!
Why wear a life jacket? “It’s good for you,” is not a compelling call to action for a child. Adults know that the fun is about to begin, but children don’t want to wait. The important habit of putting on a live vest can become a struggle that can ruin the good vibe of the day. Slow down! These activities will make resistance or refusal to wear a life jacket a thing of the past!
2. Hidden Treasure
Who doesn’t love a surprise? Before your next water adventure, buy one or two small treasures from the dollar store. Put these in a waterproof bag. Right before it is time to put on your child’s life jacket, duct tape the treasure to the outside back surface of your child’s vest. “Surprise! Look what you can open at the end of the day,” you say– as you casually slip on your child’s life jacket.
3. Say Cheese
Hand your child an inexpensive waterproof camera right before your next adventure. They have now become the family historian. Their responsibility: to record the important events of the day. This starts, of course, with a shot of each person in a life vest. Time for a selfie! Everyone will enjoy the picture book you and your child make.
4. One of Us
Tear a bandana into narrow strips. Tie a piece of the bandana to each family member’s life jacket as they put them on. This, you explain, is your family flag. You can be pirates, or superheroes. As you attach the material to your child’s life vest you say, “Yep, you’re one of us now!” Its a small initiation and great time for a family portrait.
5. It’s a Race
Divide into teams of two: a child and an adult. The winning team is the team who is properly vested first.
- Separate teammates. The adult stays at the starting line with the child’s life vest at his feet.
- The child walks about 25 yards away and places the adult’s life vest on the ground.
- At the starting signal, the adult races to the child and the child puts the adult’s life vest on the adult.
- Then both race, hand and hand, back to the starting point. The adult puts the life jacket on the child.
Water safety is non-negotiable, but it can still be fun. Take your time! Make the act of putting on a life jacket, a cool, amusing start to an enjoyable and safe water experience.