A significant proportion of canoeing accidents and deaths occur on lakes and grade I-II rivers and there are two quite common contributory elements: alcohol and lack of an appropriate personal flotation device (PFD). I am going to assume that alcohol isn’t going to be an issue for toddlers… but appropriate flotation is vital, after all, I remember in our early baby swimming lessons finding out that some babies float, others sink when you let go in a safe pool environment…
What is the difference between a buoyancy aid and a life jacket?
Everyone canoeing should be wearing a buoyancy aid or life jacket, which are the two main types of PFD. For teenagers and adults who are water confident a buoyancy aid is normally the best choice – these add flotation, keeping you on the surface, but it is up to you to keep yourself upright and head above water. The benefit of a buoyancy aid is that they can be pretty slim-line and compact. A life jacket on the other hand adds flotation to keep you at the surface but also has the flotation located on your front and round your neck. This has the effect of ensuring that you will always float face up, with your head above water.
FOR BABIES, TODDLERS AND YOUNG CHILDREN A LIFE JACKET IS ESSENTIAL.
Here’s my review of the Baltic toddler lifejacket that we use for our son.
The Baltic toddler life jacket is designed for a weight range from birth to 15 kg, with the next size up covering 15-30 kg. These size ranges refer most to child size rather than weight, and the amount of buoyancy is identical in both sizes (100 N) so try them out and get whichever one fits best.
Fixed foam means you never need to worry about inflation:
The lifejacket is a fixed foam variety, meaning that it is always ready to go with no need to inflate. The design is quite simple, with large chunks of foam either side of the central sip on the front, and no foam on the rear, aside from a very small amount near the shoulders. There is also a collar of foam, which is split into three sections and is flexible.
Always make sure your child can’t slip out – the crotch strap is vital:
The lifejacket is done up using several points: there is a zip up the front, a chest belt to ensure tight fits and ties top and bottom of the zip. Additionally there is a beaver tail of fabric which goes between your child’s legs and is fastened using a plastic clip. There are two positions for the clip, a high one and a lower one, giving lots of growing space, and ensuring that you can securely fasten even pretty small babies in firmly. The beavertail crotch strap is really important is it stops the lifejacket from riding up, or your child from slipping out when in the water. We particularly like the wide fabric beavertail and solid fabric back on the Baltic as it is softer than the strap only affairs on some other lifejackets.
There is a large grab handle behind the neck, which you can lift your child by – great for a quick work-out or more importantly to check they can’t slip out and to make them easier to rescue out of the water.
Compared to some of the competitor lifejackets we particularly like the flexible collar of the Baltic – many others have solid foam going all round the neck and behind the head, making them significantly more bulky and uncomfortable.
The Baltic lifejacket is relatively low cost, around £25-30 and comes with a 5 year guarantee, so I would highly recommend it for value.
Remember for toddlers and children it is a LIFEJACKET you are after as only these ensure that your child will float face up, with their head out of the water.
Finally, on top of having the right flotation for everyone (that includes you adults as well!) the other important part is to have a plan. We know exactly what each of us is doing in the event we do end up in the water, from me getting our son, to how we empty the boat and get back to shore, to what to do after. More on this to follow…