* Prices may differ from that shown
Two year old Freddy absolutely loves the water, but he is not yet able to swim and hates being confined by "swim seats", so before going on holiday I spent time looking for ways to give him some buoyancy while in the swimming pool. From my research swim jackets seemed to be the way forward and I ended up buying the Slazenger Swim Vest, which cost me a very reasonable £12 including delivery from Amazon. Whether or not this was a good buy is something I'm in two minds about as it has both good and bad points, but I'm glad that I didn't pay any more for it.
The Slazenger Swim Vest is available in two colours (pink and blue) and two sizes (2/3 and 4/5), with Freddy being a two year old boy I, obviously, bought him the 2/3 in blue. The jacket itself is made of a polyester elastin mix, with a polyester webbing waist strap and EPE foam inserts. The exterior of the jacket features a bright yellow back panel and two blue front panels that do up with a sturdy zip, while the interior is completely yellow. All the seams are very securely stitched and the foam inserts are not removable. Talking of inserts, there are a total of four sets, two at the front and two at the back and when feeling through the material it is possible to make out that each set consists of a total of four inserts. The material the vest is made of is very soft to the touch, which means it is less likely to irritate, but there is a very large care label inside that I would recommend removing before putting the vest on a child as it would irritate even the least sensitive of children. The belt is fully adjustable, clips together via one of the clips similar to what you would find on a buggy (so little fingers need to be kept out of the way) and is held in place via a pair of webbing loops. What I will say about these loops is that they don't hold the belt all that securely and you may find as I did that the belt escapes when washing the vest.
Before using this vest in an actual swimming pool, I thought it was a good idea to get Freddy used to wearing it as he has some sensory issues. The vest fits Freddy fairly well, it's snug without being tight and the slight stretch in the material means that it should continue to fit well for the next year or so. But Freddy is a fairly large, chunky, (but not overweight) two year old, so it would most probably be far too loose on a more petite child. The zip is chunky and easy for both big and little hands to operate and so far has proved tough enough to survive being used by clumsy hands. It's quite hard to tighten the belt, in fact far too hard and I'm not convinced I ever got it quite tight enough. Once on the vest is bulky, very bulky and it looks as if Freddy is wearing a life-jacket of some sort, but it's not so bulky as to hamper movement. While I was worried that Freddy wouldn't tolerate the vest, he did and was happy enough to run round the house, wearing it over a T-shirt and then over bare skin. I will say though that the over-large care label did indeed prove to be an irritation and so was quickly cut out.
After spending this time familiarising Freddy with the vest, we moved on to using it in the paddling pool (where the water came up above Freddy's waist). I won't say that the vest overly hampered Freddy's movement in the paddling pool, but it did ride up a little and slow him down. Where the vest really proved itself in this situation, was when Freddy slipped. While he did still fall the vest proved extremely buoyant and held him out of the water. This gave me the confidence to take it away with us to use in the pool of holiday.
Once used in a "proper" swimming pool the vest proved to have some really good points and some not so good. The foam floats are well placed and able to hold Freddy out of the water, leaving both his arms and legs free to try and swim. No matter how much Freddy splashed and fidgeted, his head did not once go under the water, which means that it gives him the confidence to let go of Mummy and Daddy. But the floats with the vest are so buoyant that no matter how tightly the belt is done up it rides up and after five minutes or so it almost looks as if Freddy has no neck as the shoulders of the vest end up above his ears. While this doesn't seem to bother Freddy that much, it doesn't look very comfortable. I've not yet found a solution to this problem, but wearing a T-shirt under the vest does seem to alleviate it a little. The other problem with the vest, that hasn't affected us yet, is that the floats cannot be removed as Freddy gained confidence and improves his swimming. This means that the vest has a far more limited life than if they could be removed and I cannot imagine buying the next size up as hopefully Freddy will be a little more confident in the water by then.
After use the vest needs to be rinsed out/washed to remove any chlorine, pool chemicals and sweat. It cannot be machine washed or dried, but can be hand washed using a mild detergent (we use Fairy). As the materials used are not absorbent, any detergent rinses out really easily and then the vest dries within a couple of hours when hung up indoors. With regular use in a swimming pool and regular hand-washing, there has been no shrinkage, colour fading, bobbling or a sign of chemical rotting. The colours are still as bright as the first day and there doesn't appear to be a residual chlorine odour. Being made of chunky plastic, the zip, has also held up well and obviously has not rusted in the way a metal one would have.
Making a purchasing recommendation for this vest leaves me a in a bit of a quandary. On the one hand it does what it is supposed to, that is provides buoyancy for a child and help to build their confidence in the water and it is hard-wearing and able to cope with the harsh chemicals in swimming pools. But on the other-hand, it seems to have been designed to be worn by "chunkier" toddlers (that is it will be too be for more petite children), it rides up when in the water and the buoyancy cannot be adjusted by removing/adding floats. I think I'll give the Slazenger Swim Vest three stars out of five and recommend it to those parents of larger children who are looking for a cheaper alternative to the Zogg versions. Just make sure you remove the care label before use, put it on over a T-shirt and tighten the belt as much as possible.