Kid takes swim vest off while in the pool?

Amazon: Speedo Kid's UV Neoprene Swim VestSafety update: Within minutes of posting, several folks in the comments and on Twitter pointed out potential safety hazards with this hack. Apparently some modern swim vests are designed to automatically flip kids face-up, so wearing them backwards could push their faces into the water.

Much as I appreciate Jennifer sending this in (I've experienced the panic of turning away for a moment only to see your kid go under the water), I don't recommend doing this.

I'm going to leave this hack up because there are some great ideas in the comments. Thanks for the quick response, folks. Really appreciate the reality check. — Asha

What happens when you combine the stubbornness of a toddler with the increased manual dexterity of a preschooler, then add water? You have a kid who can undo the buckles on his floaty swim vest.

Here's how Jennifer staved off the problem (for the next few pool visits at least):

We had quite a scare with my 3 year old in the pool.  In the minute or so I was distracted by my other child, he took off his trusty swim vest and submerged under water. 

I now put his swim vest on BACKWARDS to prevent this from happening again (and of course I am careful that he is never more than an arm's length away).

Same thinking behind putting disposable diapers on backwards…to keep grabby kids from pulling open the tape straps.

Safety note: ONLY consider doing this with swim vests if adults are nearby and paying attention, NOT with official flotation devices (such as lifejackets).

Some swim vests, like the Speedo version pictured here, have a zipper with the pull protected by a snap. May be harder for some kids to undo.

Anyone else have this problem? What did you do about it?

More: Hacks for swimming


  1. Brenda says

    I would be concerned about the high back (when turned to the front) cutting off air for a child.

  2. Jean says

    This doesn’t seem safe or smart to me. They are designed higher in the back and could choke a child. If your child is too young to understand the vest is for their safety, it’s possible they are to young to be in it. They do make toddler-friendly swim vests that don’t have zippers. My son uses one.

  3. Beth says

    I’d always heard that swim vests are unsafe, period, as they lull parents into moving more than an arm’s length away from their child. I know the poster said she kept that distance, but then why use a vest?

  4. says

    So three safety comments within minutes of posting tells me I didn’t think this through well enough. (Thank you, Brenda, Jean and Beth. This is why I love this community…together, we’re smarter than alone.) The few times I’ve used a swim vest with my kid, it was the same shape back-to-front so I wouldn’t think it would make a difference. But you’re right — not all vests are shaped that way and could pose a problem.

    I think vests are fine when you’re IN the pool with your kid, but I also think they probably delay learning by taking away the opportunity for a kid to get familiar with how their bodies work in water. That said, I’ve also experienced the panic of looking away and watching your kid go under the water, so I appreciate that Jennifer sent this in as her temporary solution.

    I’m going to beef up the safety warning in the post, and would love to hear what others’ have to say.

  5. says

    Personally if my child is not acting safe, regardless of the age, they are not allowed to partake in the activity. So in this situation I would have removed my child from the pool and made them sit in time out. Only after them promising to behave better would they be allowed back in. For many years now I have emphasized that there are certain things that are not negotiable (like car seatbelts) and that they will be in big trouble if they break safety rules.

  6. Kristie says

    I use a swim vest on my daughters when I’m in the pool with both my girls as their only caretaker…it gives a little more reaction time. but I still keep them at arms lenghth. May I suggest my favorite hack… Duct tape. It works in water, you can use it on zippers or on the buckles.

  7. says

    Our town’s public pool doesn’t allow any of these sorts of things because it gives kids (and parents) a false sense of security. Kids don’t know the difference between having this on and not having it on. Thanks for posting edits and updates.

  8. Kelly LaRaia says

    Sorry for the previous typo. My netbook dislikes me! :D

    Anyhow, check out Puddle Jumpers by Stearns. Tons of them on Amazon. Cost guard approved! They buckle in the back! They keep the kids afloat!

    No, I wouldn’t leave my kids to fend for themselves in the water wearing them, but as a mom of three kids under the age of five I’m sure you can imagine how mind boggling it is to take them all to the pool or the beach (and we are currently stationed on a small subtropical that’s status quo here) without feeling like I’m losing my sanity. Especially since I’m almost always there without the hubby. They make it possible for me to take them and know that while I’m hauling one away from the inevitable safety risk (a crab, the life guard stand, the sand fight, etc.) the other two won’t find themselves at the bottom of the pool (which just happens to be where I found my brother just in the nick of time eons ago…).

    I even make the kids wear them when we aren’t going to be in the water but are anywhere near it! :D

  9. says

    In my opinion, flotation devices are just unsafe. They give kids a false sense of security. There were two drownings in our community that were attributed to this false sense of security. Why not give your child the gift of swim lessons instead?

  10. Nicole K says

    Swimming lessons are the best option! I would never put something on my child that gives them a false sense of security in the water. I know lessons can be expensive but it’s well worth the splurge. Both my boys took part in the ISR lessons and my five year old has been swimming interdependently (we’re still at the poolside) since he was just a little over two years old. My almost two year old is due for his refresher next month as soon as the pool is warm enough and I expect by July he’ll be a little fish like his brother. Keep in mind…the child will probably scream, beg, cry, and make themselves throw up to avoid these lessons. Just close your eyes, envision your child drowning and then resolve to make them take the lessons. Here’s a link to the ISR national website I do not work for them – I just have two children who have participated in these lessons and am happy with the outcome. Many of my friends have done them as well and are very pleased. They usually have a scholarship program to help out families who cannot afford the lessons.

  11. LF says

    I second Nicole’s post. Both of my kids have taken ISR swimming lessons– they are fantastic. It is an investment in time and money, but well worth the safety it provides.

  12. sfdean99 says

    I remember wanting a pair of water wings when I was a child and my mother explaining why that was never going to happen — they’re just dangerous (as are these floaty vests). I learned to swim at a young age in the freezing waters of Maine and have always loved the water. I am looking forward to my 2 year old taking swimming lessons this summer!