6. Make life jackets your child’s uniform in and near the water.
Even if your child is only canoeing in a still lake, don’t let her leave her life jacket onshore. Whether rowing, kayaking, waterskiing, jet-skiing, windsurfing, or tubing is on the schedule, you and your family should “buckle up” in a life jacket (technically, a personal flotation device approved by the U.S. Coast Guard). “More than 77 percent of all fatalities on the water involve people who don’t wear their life jackets,” says Rear Admiral James D. Hull, director of operations policy for the U.S. Coast Guard in Washington, D.C. Indeed, the Coast Guard recommends that all children age 5 and under wear life jackets on beaches, docks, and in boats–they’re still young enough to be tempted to wade or cannonball into the water without warning. Weigh your child and measure his chest size before purchasing a life jacket, as most are not sized by age. Make sure it fits properly with this test: Try to pick your kid up by the shoulders of the life jacket. If his chin and ears slip through the head opening, the life jacket is too big.