Thursday, June 30, 2011

Swim vests

Last summer, Chickie took swimming lessons at a nearby park. She didn't learn to swim, but she did get over a lot of her fear in the pool, which, in my book, spelled success.

During some of the lessons, the pool put swim vests on the kids. Seeing how much more freedom and safety that offered Chickie, I wanted to get vests for both kids. I did some research on Amazon and ended up getting them each an Original Konfidence Jacket. They weren't cheap, but they were highly-reviewed on Amazon, and I bought gender-neutral colors so that Zoodle can use Chickie's when she doesn't need it anymore and he's a little bigger.

We seem to be swimming more this summer, so the vests are getting good use.

I've gotten questions online and in person about these vests, so I wanted to write a brief review.

The most important thing to realize about The Original Konfidence Jacket is that it is a swim vest, not a life vest. Honestly, I was surprised and disappointed that they were not ultra-buoyant. To compare, here is the type of vest that Chickie used at lessons:

Image source: Amazon. Click on image for purchasing information.

That vest really kept her head completely out of the water with no effort on her part.

The Konfidence vests are different. They don't hold a child's head high out of the water. If Chickie stayed stationary and relaxed in the deep end, wearing the vest (which she doesn't unless I'm holding her), part of her head would be under water. This vest requires Chickie to tread water in order to completely stay up. (By the way, the reviews on the Amazon site don't indicate that all kids have this issue.)

So last year, the vests really weren't that useful to us. Neither Chickie nor Zoodle had the confidence (or Konfidence?) to be in deep water without a parent to hold on to. Zoodle is still that way this summer.

However, something has "clicked" in Chickie's head this summer, and she is enjoying "swimming" (dog paddling) in her vest. She has to move her limbs to keep her head completely above water. She's learning some basic water-treading skills, and I love that. If she had a vest that was totally buoyant, she wouldn't be as motivated to figure out what it takes to tread water.

Another thing I love about this vest (and the most important selling factor to me) is that the eight "floaties" inside the vest are removeable. So as a child becomes more confident in the water, the parent can gradually remove the floaties (two at a time, in a particular order) to give the child less and less assistance.

I think before too long, we'll probably be able to remove the first two floaties from Chickie's vest. And while I'm tired of holding Zoodle so much in the pool, he seems to be getting a little more comfortable, so I hope that by the end of the summer, he'll experiment with treading water and dog-paddling too. We'll see!

The last thing I appreciate about these vests is they seem to be very comfortable. The kids don't complain about wearing them at all. And the vests don't float way up (with the shoulders of the vest level with the kids' ears) like many life vests do.

Before long, we plan to get Chickie into an acclaimed swim program near us. We'd like her to have at least a couple of months of quality swim lessons soon so that she can learn the basics of swimming when she's young. But as a family who doesn't swim that often, swimming lessons haven't been our top priority. The Original Konfidence Jacket vests are a nice way for our non-swimming kids to have some extra safety and assistance in the water, until they learn to swim.

However, if you are looking specifically for a vest that keeps a child's head out of the water, check out the other one I linked to above. It's an "all-or-nothing" vest (no removeable floaties) but really does help a child to have fun in the pool without worrying about getting water in their nose and mouth.

Disclosure: This is not a paid review; we bought the vests ourselves.

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