5 Best Life Jackets For Kids Of All Ages (Keep Them Safe)

It doesn’t matter if you’re going swimming or sailing, if your kid is a non-swimmer and there’s a chance they could end up in the water, a life jacket is absolutely necessary.  

However much you feel like you have your eye on them, it only takes a split second.

Even if the children in question have had some swimming experience, a strong sea or a rough day weather-wise can make things far more difficult to navigate.

Ensuring you prioritize your child’s safety and get them the correct life jacket is more than just important, it’s life-saving.

Here are several jackets designed for kids, approved by the US Coast Guard and most likely to keep them safe in the event you capsize, they fall overboard or anything else unexpected occurs.

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BEST LIFE JACKET FOR 1 YEAR OLDS

Perfect for infants between 8 and 30 pounds, the Oceans7 Infant life jacket is ideal for one year olds.

Though if you have an older kid, they offer two other sizes too.

And also approved for use by the US coast guard at their highest standards.

Retaining a full range of motion, durable nylon and thick flotation foam made using EPE ensure that when the vest is securely fastened, it won’t ever rise above their head.

This is great for when you’re taking boat trips so they can still see the views!

The three adjustable straps and an open-sided design allow for the most comfortable fit possible, so baby doesn’t try and wriggle out of the jacket!

In 2020, they also lengthened those straps, to allow for the best possible range of fit and size.

This can serve as a universal life jacket - it’s great for general boating and other water activities, as well as for swimming.

It should fit them a good few years, as well - if not, it will still be in fantastic condition for any siblings or cousins!

BEST LIFE JACKET FOR 2 YEAR OLDS

STEARNS Original Puddle Jumper Kids Life Jacket | Deluxe Life Vest for Children, Blue Flower, 30-50 pounds

Tested and approved by the US Coast Guard to be used as flotation devices whether near to, in, or on the water.

The Puddle Jumper life jacket is fantastic for two year olds, especially if they’re currently in their terrible phase!

Thanks to a superior woven polyester construction, the jacket is made from a much softer fabric with less chafing compared with competing products.

This can help to give new swimmers confidence when they first enter the water.

A comfortable and less restrictive design allows toddlers to play in the water or move freely when near it, without getting frustrated or feeling discomfort.

It meets the very rigorous requirements for being in water parks, on boats and at public pools.

Choose between several different colorful designs to please your child.

This can be one trick to get them to wear the flotation device if they are reluctant or don’t like holding still so you can put it on for them.

BEST KIDS LIFE JACKET

Stearns Youth Classic Series Life Vest, Red, 50-90lb.

Perfect for your children to wear when by, on, or near a body of water, the STEARNS youth boating vest is best worn by kids weighing 50-90 pounds.

Approved as a Type III life jacket by the United States Coast Guard, it is sure to keep them well protected.

Made using superior nylon, combined with durable and hard-wearing PE flotation foam, it lasts for years, staying wearable even as your child grows.

Open-sided with three buckles, it’s adjustable and comfortable to wear, never restricting.

One way to make sure it will fit properly is to measure your child’s chest at its widest point.

According to the manufacturer, between 26 and 29 inches is the required size in order to guarantee security.

BEST LIFE JACKET FOR TODDLERS

STEARNS Child Classic Series Life Vest, Blue, Weight- 30-50 Lbs

When it comes to toddlers, life jackets tend to be best measured in weight, and this classic design from Stearns is ideal for your little ones weighing between 30 and 50 pounds.

It works great for boating, swimming and tubing!

Three adjustable buckles work alongside a leg strap to offer a secure fit without being too tight.

This customization is helpful to avoid the problem of your toddler “hating” the feel of their life jacket because it is restrictive.

Constructed using durable nylon for the external shell, paired with PE flotation foam to keep kids safely afloat.

It is approved by the US Coast Guard for recreational use, so there’s no need to worry about whether it’s going to protect them or not.

Durable and rugged, you’ll be able to reuse this vest for several seasons, even save it for any future children - if not yours, a friend, or relative!

Versatile in its uses, it’s great for a day at the beach, by the lake or in the pool.

Best Life Jackets For Kids Of All Ages Buying Guide

Choosing Your Child’s PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

Size/Weight

Most life jackets, also known as PFDs, are designed to fit according to weight, the measurement guideline usually clearly highlighted by the manufacturer in pounds.

Try not to ignore this, as it exists for their safety and not to discriminate!

Some more considerate manufacturers will also offer chest measurements in inches to make your life easier.

This can help you be more certain that your child will fit into the vest comfortably and without being restricted, as weight is distributed differently.

Best Life Jackets For Kids Of All Ages

Secure Fit

You’re going to want to get a vest with adjustable buckles, as this will help you ensure that your child is properly secured by the life vest without feeling too restricted.

A proper fit is imperative for a guarantee of flotation in the water!

Don’t ignore the measurements given as a guideline for fit as explained above - these are also important for a secure fit.

If your child exceeds or doesn’t meet them, it may impair the vest’s ability to float them in water, so take this seriously.

Try to find a jacket with a leg or crotch strap too!

This ensures that your child won’t slide out of the bottom of it during the activities - they shouldn’t anyway without one, of course, but this is just an additional safety precaution.

Quality Materials

As with anything your kids wear, you want it to last for a good long time and be resistant to their rough and tumble ways.

Therefore, ensuring you pick out a vest made using nylon, polyester or another durable material is within your best interest.

Trying to find the jacket with the best flotation foam is also worthwhile for you in two ways: not only will this be best for ensuring they stay bobbing on the surface of the water, but it will also last longer, so you can pass it down to siblings or other family.

This might involve spending a bit more money, but at the end of the day, can you really put a price on your child’s safety?

And anyway, you’ll end up spending money on a replacement regardless if you plump for the cheapest possible vest!

Coast Guard Recommendation

Whilst this isn’t strictly necessary, it’s highly recommended you stick to personal flotation devices that have been tested and approved by the US Coast Guard for use in whatever activity you’re planning on using them for.

This will have entailed lifesaving professionals putting the vest through its paces in several different scenarios to make sure it would offer suitable protection and flotation to the suggested demographic advertised.

Some water-based activities will even require that your child’s personal flotation device has been approved by the Coast Guard before they are allowed to participate, such as at water parks or on public boat trips.

Best Life Jackets For Kids Of All Ages - FAQ's

How should you size a life jacket for a child?

Primarily, by their weight.

Though this might feel uncomfortable to do the older they get, it’s important to get this measurement right as it’s the one manufacturers use to recommend the right sized vest to protect your child.

Infant/baby life jackets are typically under 30lbs, whilst toddler/child life jackets are approximately 30-50lbs.

Youth life jackets are aimed at adolescents between 50 and 90lbs; once this weight is surpassed, they will require an adult-sized vest.

It can often feel difficult to find a jacket that fits your child “perfectly”, especially when it comes to younger kids.

Sometimes they can be directly between one size and another, which makes deciding which one is appropriate very difficult.

When it comes to babies, one characteristic to bear in mind is that the jacket should be supportive enough that it keeps its head positioned upright at all times.

Generally speaking, you want the jacket to be as snug as possible without hurting your child.

What is the difference between Type 2 and Type 3 life jackets?

Their purposes! A Type 2 / II jacket has been constructed so that it can ensure an unconscious person stays face up whilst in water.

Offering 15.5 pounds in buoyancy at least, they’re best used for shorter swims and boat trips nearer the shore.

These are best if you need the jacket to be approved in accordance with US Coast Guard guidelines in order for your child to participate, like on boat trips or at water parks, though they aren’t as expensive as you might think.

Similarly, Type 3 / III jackets also provide 15.5 pounds buoyancy minimum, but they are less bulky than their Type 2 counterparts, with a more comfortable and fitted design that works well in water sports.

Unfortunately, the distinct slimness of a Type 3 jacket means they are only designed to keep you floating and face up if you are conscious!

They’ll keep your kid afloat for sure, but if they pass out, it won’t stop them from falling face-first into the water.

For maximum buoyancy, you want a Type 1 jacket, typically over 20 pounds, but these are only really used offshore when you’re especially far away from land.

Although they are the bulkiest, your child will be grateful if it keeps them alive!

What flotation device is best for toddlers?

That depends where you’re going and what you’re doing!

Where toddlers are concerned, they should be able to hold their head up without additional support, so it’s not imperative that their personal flotation device prop it up at all.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re going in the water or sitting on it - swimming or boating, you want them to be completely secure.

An adjustable life jacket is always best, the more changes there are to be made, the better! 

Sure, it might sound more complicated, but if you’ve got a fussy toddler who won’t wear clothes that are too tight, this is a godsend.

You can make sure they are securely in the jacket, but alter the buckles or straps so it won’t restrict movement.

Others have leg or crotch straps, which are there to ensure your child doesn’t slip out of the jacket from underneath.

Again, these are best when you can adjust them, as all kids are different sizes and shapes and require different alterations.

Also recommended is getting a jacket that’s open on either side, allowing them the freedom to move their arms around.

This is especially important when learning to swim, but on a boat too so they don’t feel their ability to see the sights is impaired.

Remember, most of the best life jackets are designed to be sized according to weight.

Flotation devices for toddlers are usually designed to be worn by kids between 30 and 50 pounds, but one or two extra shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

That said, remember that a universal toddler’s jacket isn’t going to suit every child.

You might have to go through some trial and error before you find one that suits their shape, size and personal requirements altogether.

Last update on 2021-09-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API