Practice in Calm Waters
Have your child wear and practice swimming with the life jacket so that he can see how it will feel and act in the water. Make sure the jacket fits correctly and adequately supports him. Always test the life jacket in a shallow and controlled environment like a public or private pool or, in calm water like a lake cove, under an adult's close supervision.
Teach your child how to relax her arms and legs. Falling into the water or getting knocked over by a wave can be a frightening experience for a child. It's a natural response to flail one's arms, but "arm movements cause the body to move up and down, and the victim unintentionally splashes water onto her own face," says Jim Reiser, aka "The Swim Professor," the founder of Swim Lessons University. "From a survival standpoint it's mainly about balance," Reiser counsels. "If the body can be balanced so that the mouth is above the water and the child can breathe comfortably, the most important objective has been accomplished."