Determine the Proper Fit
To meet the U.S. Coast Guard requirements for recreational boating, all life jackets must be U.S. Coast Guard-approved, the appropriate weight range for the child, and maintained and in good condition. Check individual state laws for age wear requirements. Be aware, though, that having a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket isn't enough to guarantee that you have the best life jacket for your child. "Proper fit is imperative," says Bernice McArdle, Executive Director of the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association. "Improper fit is the most common mistake parents make when buying a life jacket," McArdle says: "Parents will often purchase for their child a life jacket that's too big (and could easily slide off) on the assumption that the child 'will grow into it.' A life jacket won't provide adequate protection if it doesn't fit your child properly." Involving your child in the purchase process is also an important factor in getting them to want to wear their life jacket, as opposed to having to wear one.