On hot summer days we all want to be outdoors with our children and making the most of the sun. So what better way of cooling off than getting involved in a water activity. This may be water sports, a boat trip, swimming or just splashing around in a pool, but you want to make sure that your children stay as safe as possible. The best safety device that can be used is a childrens life jacket, also known as a personal flotation device or life preserver, and these range from infant life jackets suitable for young toddlers up to youth life jackets suitable for older children. This ensures that your whole family can stay safe when around water.
Modern life jackets can be very appealing to children with kid friendly colors and graphics to help encourage your child to wear the jacket, sometimes for prolonged periods of time. There are many features that these jackets include so that they are as safe and as comfortable as possible to wear so you are sure to find one that meet both your safety requirements and the approval of your child. This article looks at the best childrens life preserver options available, to help you to choose the right one for your child.
Considerations When Choosing a Kids Life Jacket
The type of life jacket that will be most suitable for your child will depend on the age and weight of your child. The sizes of most jackets are determined by a weight range. This is because to be as safe as possible each jacket needs to be fitted correctly. It is important that the jacket fits your child’s current size and isn’t brought to grow into, as an incorrectly fitting jacket will not be safe and could even put your child in danger. The age of your child is also important as a younger child will require greater neck support than an older child, so the different jacket sizes reflect this.
The participation in many water activities, including boating, requires the use of a personal flotation device that meets certain safety standards. Most commonly these are United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved standards. It is important to check what standards your chosen jacket has and to make sure that it is appropriate for your chosen water activity. If unsure what standards are required it is important to find out from a suitably qualified person before purchasing your jacket.
There are a variety of different styles of life jacket available. It is important that you pick a jacket that is comfortable for your child. Some jackets have different neck support and other have a unique shape to the back of the jacket. Some may have closed sides while others have open sides. These features may affect the movement and flexibility that your child has while wearing the jacket. Many jackets are made from lightweight and flexible materials and are designed to be as comfortable as possible, but it is important that your child is able to perform the activity required while wearing the jacket.
Best Life Jackets for Children in 2023
1. Airhead Infant Life Jacket
This Infant Life Jacket that has a fun kid friendly design has been produced by Airhead, a company with over 25 years of experience in water sports products. This jacket has been designed with maximum safety features in place to give peace of mind when your child is wearing it. The jacket has closed sides and is fastened with a front zipper and secured with a waist belt. For added security there is also a crotch strap to keep the jacket in place. All the buckles on the jacket are quick release making it easy to get the jacket on and off. There is also a grab handle to gain a quick hold when needed.
The outer part of the jacket has UV protection and is made from a 200 denier polyester shell. The jacket is also stain resistant so is easy to keep clean. The inside of the jacket uses a lightweight poly-E flotation device. The infant life jacket is the smallest size which fits up to 30lbs. Airhead also do a childrens version which fits from 30 to 50lbs. The infant version is Unites States Coast Guard (USCG) approved type II, whereas the childrens version is type III. This Airhead life jacket has many safety features to make it a good option for keeping your child safe around water.
2. Dark Lightning Baby Floats
This Dark Lightning Baby Floats swim vest with arm wings is designed to help your child learn to swim by providing confidence in the water. It will appeal to your child with its bright colors and child friendly designs, so they will enjoy wearing this vest. There is also a choice of designs including; yellow submarine, crab, flamingo, the jungle bus and many more. This flotation device gives stability to your child whilst in the water but has been designed to also give freedom of movement and allow them to move their arms freely.
The vest can be adjusted with a buckle strap on the back to ensure a good fit for your child. This vest fits children between 30 to 50lbs but is also compatible for infants between 20 to 30lbs, meaning that the vest will fit the majority of children between the ages 1 and 6 years old. The outer part of this vest is made from durable nylon making it a long lasting option. This life vest has a safety standard of EN 13138 which makes it suitable as a buoyancy aid so is a good option for children for learning to swim.
3. Sea Squirts Fin Friends
The Sea Squirts Fin Friends Life Preserver produced by SwimWays is a good quality and fun kids life jacket that all children will love to wear. With a flexible blue shark fin on the back, this jacket will really appeal to children. The arm holes on the jacket are designed to be comfortable for your child and with the 2 adjustable buckle waist straps it provides a custom fit for children between 30 to 50lbs. There is also a crotch strap to ensure that the jacket stays in place while your child is wearing it.
The front of the jacket has a zip and all of the buckles are easy to clip and unclip for safety and ease of use. The outside of this SwimWays jacket is made from quality nylon for durability and there is a comfortable inner fabric liner. This jacket is a USCG approved Type III personal flotation device so can be used on boats and for water sports. This is a good value child friendly life jacket suitable for a wide range of uses.
4. O’Neill Superlite Life Vest
This O’Neill Superlite Life Vest for kids is brightly colored with turquoise, berry, lime and white making it easily visible, as well as fun and exciting for children. The vest is made with an outer nylon shell with the inner layer made from closed cell PVC marine foam, making it lightweight and comfortable to wear. This life vest has a heavy duty zipper on the front and 3 adjustable quick release buckle straps around the waist and chest for a good fit. There is a crotch strap to keep the vest in place during use. The vest also has a head panel to keep your child’s head above the water.
This USCG approved Type III vest fits children from 30 to 50lbs. The vest is easy to clean as it can only be hand washed in cold water and then it will need to drip dry. This easy to put on lightweight life vest is a good option for families with a keen interest in water activities.
5. Airhead Kwik-Dry Neolite Vest
This Kwik-Dry Neolite Vest is another good quality life preserver from the popular company Airhead. With 3 different sizes there is a vest to fit every child. The smallest infant size fits from 15-30lbs and it has a head rest, crotch strap and one buckled waist strap to give a comfortable fit for your child with maximum security. The infant size also comes with a grab handle for easy retrieval. The child size ranges from 30 to 50lbs with a grab handle, 2 buckled waist straps and a crotch strap for a good custom fit. The largest size is the youth size, which ranges from 50 to 90lbs and has 2 buckled waist straps.
The vests have a zip on the front and quick release buckles on the straps for safety. This vest is made from soft closed-cell PVC foam on the front and Poly-E foam on the back making it lightweight and comfortable. There are segmented hinges within the vest making it easy for your child to move whilst wearing it. The outer shell is made with Neolite so it is breathable, lightweight and quick drying. These vests are USCG approved type III, except the infant vest is type II approved. This is a good all round life vest for all water activities with an option suitable for every age.
6. Stearns Puddle Jumper
Stearns Puddle Jumper Deluxe Child Life Preserver is a USCG approved type III and V personal flotation device. This means it is suitable for use on boats as well as being a good product for children to use when learning to swim, as the design of this jacket will allow your child to move freely and play without restriction. The jacket fits children between 30 and 50lbs and the adjustable strap on the back gives it a secure custom fit. It is made from premium soft woven polyester so it is comfortable for your child to wear for long periods of time.
This childrens jacket has a bright and colorful design that will be appealing to your child and there are multiple designs to choose from including; purple giraffe, red crab, blue bird and pineapple, turtle and many more. This fun styled life preserver is very kid friendly and versatile so your child will be happy to wear it for many different water activities.
7. Stearns Hydroprene Vest
This Stearns Hydroprene Vest is a life preserver that is designed for comfort with its soft Hydroprene shell and inner Crosstech polyethylene foam, which makes it lightweight and flexible, giving your child the freedom to move whilst being comfortable to wear. This vest will fit children between 30 and 50lbs. The vest has a front zipper and 2 adjustable buckle waist straps to give a good secure fit. There is also a crotch strap to keep the vest fitted correctly when in use.
This vest is a USCG approved type III life preserver, making it suitable for many different water activities, including boating. The color of the vest is bright and appealing with the blue and black paneling but there is also the option of a pink and purple colored vest. This life preserver vest is a good value option that will be comfortable for your child to wear while participating in a range of water activities.
8. Full Throttle Water Buddies Vest
This Full Throttle Water Buddies Vest has an exciting kid friendly design, with its bright color and appealing graphics this vest is sure to catch the eye of your child. There are many different designs for your child to pick from including; Dinosaur, Ladybug, Astronaut, Princess and Turtle. This vest fits children from 30 to 50lbs and it has a specific rounded shape to the foam back that is unique to this product.
The vest has a front zip and 2 adjustable waist straps to make sure that this vest will securely fit your child. There is also a crotch strap that keeps the vest in place while being worn, giving added security. This is a USCG Type III approved life vest that is suitable for many different water activities making this vest very versatile. This is a very fun but practical life vest that your child will be happy to wear during any water activity.
9. Oceans 7 Coast Guard Approved Vest
The Oceans 7 Coast Guard Approved Vest has a USCG type III rating throughout its different sized life vests, which include infant, child and youth sizes. The infant vest is suitable for children between 8 to 30lbs and it has 3 adjustable straps, including a crotch strap for a good secure fit. The child’s size ranges from 30 to 50lbs and has 3 adjustable waist and chest straps, along with a crotch strap for a secure custom fit. The youth size fits from 50 to 90lbs and has 3 adjustable waist and chest straps.
This vest has been designed to be easy to take on and off and has an open-sided design for maximum comfort. The outer part of this vest is made from nylon and the inner part has been made from expanded polyethylene foam for durability and maximum performance. This vest comes in many different color options including; blue, blue/white, pink/berry and pink, so there is color suitable for every child. This is good all round life vest that has been designed to give a secure fit, and is suitable for children of all ages.
10. Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket
This Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket has been designed with infants in mind and fits from 8 to 30lbs. This jacket has many safety features including, quick release buckles, so it is easy to get the jacket on and off and an adjustable crotch strap to give a secure fit while being worn. The jacket is double collared to support the head and provide comfort, but it will still allow movement. There is also a grab handle for a quick retrieval. The front of the jacket has zipper access and there an adjustable buckle waist strap for a secure fit.
This jacket will also keep your child comfortable with its large armholes to stop chaffing and give full arm movement. The back of the jacket is open allowing the jacket to be breathable. This jacket is USCG approved and Transport Canada approved as a type II personal flotation device. It has a sea level buoyancy of 7lbs 6oz and is designed to turn the child to a face up position. This jacket is designed in highly visible colors and comes in a range of options including; aqua/pink, blue/black, blue/green, orange/yellow, red/yellow and yellow/blue. This infant life jacket has been specifically designed for small children making it a good quality option for the younger child.
Overall Best Buy
The Airhead Kwik-Dry Neolite Vest is the overall best buy for a life preserver. It is available in 3 different sizes so it is suitable for children of every age. It has been designed with quality and safety in mind and provides a good secure fit, giving peace of mind that this vest will perform if needed. This vest has also given consideration to your child’s comfort and is lightweight and flexible giving you child freedom to move. The USCG approval rating means that this life preserver is suitable for many water activities making it a good quality versatile option.
What are the Different Types of Life Vest and Which Do I Need?
There are 5 different United States Coast Guard approved ratings for personal flotation devices.
Type I life preservers are for offshore actives and are not available to the general public.
Type II life preservers are for nearshore use in calm waters. They are designed to turn some people face up who are unable to do it themselves.
Type III is a flotation device, so the user has to turn themselves face up. They can be used for most water activities.
Type IV is a throwable device that can be used alongside a personal flotation device.
Type V is a special use life jacket that are used for specific activities.
For a childs life vest you should be looking for either a type II or type III approved personal flotation device and this would be suitable for most water activities, including boating.
Additional Water Safety Tips for Children
It is important that children understand that water can be very dangerous and unpredictable and that they are taught how to keep safe when in and around water. This may mean talking to your child about sea tides and the current of the sea, as well as pool safety. It can be useful to teach your child to swim from a young age to give them confidence around water and to try and prevent them from getting into difficulty when in water. Ensure that your child wears an appropriate, well fitted life vest when around water, to keep them as safe as possible if they should happen to get into difficulty. It can be difficult to get young children to wear their life vest so it can be useful to get them used to wearing it before it is required for a water activity. Most importantly, constant close supervision of your child is essential so you can prevent them from getting into difficulty and can stop any dangerous situations from occurring.
How to Ensure the Perfect Fit and Optimum Comfort
It is really important that any life preserver used fits correctly to enable the device to perform and do its job if your child gets into difficultly. Before buying an item make sure that any size guides provided are followed and that you measure your child accurately so that you purchase the correct size. Once you have received the jacket, make sure you carefully read any instructions before using the device. These should tell you how it should fit and how you can adjust the jacket for the optimum fit. When wearing the jacket make sure that your child is comfortable and that it does not raise above their head. To check this does not happen you can try and lift the shoulder of the jacket upward while your child is wearing it, to make sure does not lift above your child’s head. If you have any doubts about the fit then make sure a qualified professional checks the fitting before your child uses it.