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Best Life Jacket for Toddlers

Best Life Jacket for Toddlers

A few years ago, we were anchored on our boat when a coast guard distress call came through notifying all nearby mariners of a capsized boat. It was July 4th weekend, and it was supposed to be a time for celebration. Unfortunately, for one boat, it turned out to be a very real emergency. The boat was overloaded with too many people, and took on water when it tried to make a turn into a wave. In the end, the boat was lost. Luckily for everyone on board, all people were safe, including all the children. It made us think about being safe on the water, but more so, taking care of the little ones. We decided to look into the best life jacket for toddlers and infants.

The safety of our kids, whether they’re our sons, daughters, grandkids, nieces or nephews is very important. In particular, parents want to protect their toddlers and infants. Those pesky 2 year olds can get into a lot of trouble, but that doesn’t mean they need to be un-safe. There are a lot of statistics out there that show just how common it is for toddlers to get into trouble around the water. Almost 70% of child fatalities near water were kids under 5 years old. (See more info on CPSP website) That is an astonishing high proportion. In our search for the best life jacket for toddlers, we noticed there are a lot of different types of child flotation device out there.

Read more in our series of the best life jackets for kids:
best life jacket for toddlers
best life jacket for toddlers

Based on the stats above, water safety for children is no joking matter. As a best practice, always make sure infants and toddlers are wearing a child flotation device when they’re near the water. A split second of inattention and your 2 year old can be in the water. Kids are not thinking about their safety when they’re focused on having fun around the pool, beach or while on a boat. And, as adults, we get distracted too. One moment you’re watching your toddler play near the water, the next they’re splashing around trying to stay afloat. Having the best life jacket for toddlers on them, makes sure they don’t panic and start gulping water. Of course, while swimming lessons can help tremendously, there’s no substitute for having the proper safety gear.

Considerations for the best life jacket for toddlers

Best Life Jackets for ToddlersLet’s consider a few things when picking the best baby life jacket for your toddler. We previously covered USCG life jacket types, so we won’t go into depth here. In summary, any us coast guard approved life jacket will have the approval number on the tag. If you don’t see it, it usually means that the baby life jacket wasn’t approved. Here’s a quick checklist of things you should consider when looking for a child flotation device:

USCG Approval: Check the label for us coast guard approved labeling
Grab Handle: A grab handle is necessary if you need to pull your child out of the water quickly
Crotch Strap: The crotch straps on a child flotation device prevent it from riding up. Keeps the best baby life jacket from slipping over the head.
Flotation Collar: The flotation collar will keep your child’s head up above the water. The best life jackets for youth will help position the head above water.
Correct Weight Range: Pay special attention to the weight range the best baby life jacket is designed for. A child wearing a life jacket designed for lighter kids may not have the full flotation capabilities.
State Requirements: Each state has different requirements for wearing life jackets. For each activity and your specific state requirements, check out the BoatUS life jacket requirements page.
Float Test: When it comes to your kids’ safety, there’s no better way than trying it out. Use a bathtub or somewhere safe and controlled to test your child flotation device. Once your toddler is comfortable, they will feel better when you do take them out on the water.

Reviews for the best life jacket for toddlers:

Wow, that was a lot of information. I hope you kept track of all the info. Armed with the knowledge above, we can start looking at the variety of child flotation devices available and pick the one best for you! Below are our top picks for the best life jacket for toddlers:

1. Stearns Infant Classic Series Vest

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best life jacket for toddlersIf you have been searching for the best life vest for infants, Stearns brings us a classic vest for your little one. To start, this is an excellent life jacket to introduce your infant to the water. The vest comes in two colors to choose from: Red or Blue. Specifically, this model from Stears is designed for infants that weigh under 30 lbs. Additionally, you will be delighted to know that it is U.S. Coast Guard approved. This way, you don’t have to worry that your little one will be wearing an unsafe life vest. It is important to determine that the best life jacket for toddlers are U.S. Coast Guard approved.

Safety & Security

There is nothing more important to parents than keeping their infants safe. This is especially true when around the water. To ensure you are buying the best life vest for toddlers, keep safety as a top priority. The Stearns Infant Classic Series Vest is U.S. Coast Guard approved. Also, it is designed for infants under 30 lbs. Additionally, it comes with adjustable straps. These straps are located on the chest and legs. This will give your infant a better, more comfortable fit. What makes this life jacket stand out is the inclusion of a rescue handle. This way, adults can move their infant with ease in and out of the water.

  • U.S. Coast Guard Approved
  • Rescue Handle/Strap
  • Affordable Price
  • Multiple points of adjustments
  • The fit may not be just right if your infant is smaller than average

2. Stearns Child Classic Series Vest

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best life jacket for toddlersStearns brings us the Child Classic Series Vest in this article for the best life jacket for toddlers. Similar to the best baby life jacket infant version by Stearns, this one is mean for the older or heavier child. To start, this vest is designed for toddlers in the weight range of 30-50 lbs. Additionally, it is U.S. Coast Guard approved, just like its infant counterpart. If your toddler enjoys boating, tubing or swimming then Stearns has created a good life vest for those activities.

Option & Features

The Stearns Child Classic Series Vest comes in red or blue varieties. Not to mention, it comes equipped with 3 straps that are fully adjustable. When hunting for the best life jacket for 2 year old toddlers, you can give the Stearns brand a good look. Equally important, is the durable nylon shell that this child flotation device is made from. On the other hand, if the best life jacket for 1 year old toddlers is what you are after, this can definitely be the one for your little one. Finally, one of the features that helps this life jacket stand above the rest, is the durable construction. Equipped with a nylon shell, PE foam and webbed straps — this one is built to last.

  • Adjustable buckles
  • Designed for toddlers weighing between 30-50 lbs
  • U.S. Coast Guard Approved
  • Durable design
  • Can feel tight if your child is closer to the maximum weight capacity

3. Stearns Puddle Jumper Basic Life Jacket

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best life jacket for toddlersIf you’ve been on the hunt for the perfect child flotation device take a look at this puddle jumper by Stearns. This toddler life jacket is great for basic needs. Your little one will love the different colors and designs that Stearns provides. Moreover, there is something for everyone with this best toddler life jacket. Whether it be a blue shark design or a pink smile, there is a design to reflect your little one’s personality.

Features And Specs

First off, you don’t have to worry about safety when using this toddler life jacket. In the first place, Stearns has ensured this best life jacket for toddlers is U.S. Coast Guard Approved. With this in mind, the life jacket is rated as a Type V/III life jacket for kids by the U.S. Coast Guard.

To be sure, giving your toddler the right fit is important. Stearns designed the puddle jumper for kids weighing between 30-50 lbs. Another key point, there is an adjustable buckle in the rear of the puddle jumper. This ensures a comfortable, but most importantly, a secure fitting life vest.

Fun In The Water

So what makes puddle jumpers so popular? First of all, they are affordable. If you are looking for the best baby life jacket at a good price then a puddle jumper is your friend. Notably, this is a great child flotation device for toddlers just learning how to swim. If you are heading out to swimming lessons, a puddle jumper would be a great safety device. Finally, there are a variety of colors to choose and it is made from a softer fabric. This helps to prevent chafing.

  • Affordable Price Point
  • U.S. Coast Guard Approved
  • For toddlers between 30-50 lbs
  • Variety of fun designs and colors
  • May not be an ideal choice for more advanced activities in the water

4. Speedo Kids’ UPF 50+ Begin to Swim Classic Swim Vest

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best life jacket for toddlersAn entry level swim vest, Speedo brings us their take on a classic look. First of all, this is not a life saving jacket. Also, this is not to be considered a life saving device. If you are just looking for a child flotation device, then the Speedo Swim Vest could be for you. We took some time and headed to the Speedo USA website and they specifically say “These products provide the tools to build confidence for a child already familiar with the waterand learning to swim.” In terms of a child flotation device, this can be a great choice. But if you are looking for the best life jacket for toddlers, take this one off your list.

Great For Toddlers Learning To Swim

First of all, if you have a toddler that is comfortable in the water, this product could be for you. If you want to push your toddler to the next level for swimming confidence, this can be a good transition between a bulky life vest and eventually, no life jacket at all. Although, this swim vest is not a U.S. Coast Guard approved flotation device. Alternatively, the swim vest is in fact licensed by the American Red Cross.

What Stands Out?

Here at WaterDudes, this swim vest stands out to us as a confidence builder. Not everyone swims with life jackets into their teen and adult years. At some point, a transition between the best life jacket for toddlers and none at all will be important. Especially, when building the confidence of your little one in the water. This swim vest is a great teaching tool. Furthermore, it has a number of safety and bonus features. Built right into the swim vest is UV50+ sun protection to help prevent sunburns. Additionally, there are safety closures and a full front zipper for security. Finally, when speaking of comfort there is an adjustable strap at the bottom. Also, this swim vest is built from neoprene construction to aid with buoyancy.

  • Transitional Swim Vest to build confidence
  • Good safety and comfort features
  • UV50+ sun protection
  • Great teaching tool
  • Not U.S. Coast Guard Approved (Technically speaking it is a child swim vest)

5. Hardcore Water Sports US Coast Guard Type III Life Jacket

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best life jacket for toddlersHardcore Water Sports brings us their USCG approved Type III Life Jacket. This jacket comes in multiple sizes for the whole family. From child to youth, and also adult universal and super large. With this in mind, the whole family can look great on the water! First off, this child flotation device is U.S. Coast Guard approved Type III. Moreover, the best life jacket for toddlers is constructed from a durable polyester. Not to mention, there is a leg strap built in to this life vest for additional security. Also, if you are in the market for the best life jackets for youth, this product comes with an option. Not only does the best life jacket for 2 year old provide a good size, but it also comes in a youth size for more versatility.

Highlights and Notable Mentions

Uniquely, this best lfe jacket for toddlers comes with a child and youth size option. The child sized is designed for toddlers between 30 – 50 lbs. By the same token, the youth version is designed for kids between 50 – 90 lbs. Although the youth version doesn’t necessarily qualify as the best life vest for toddlers, it could definitely be one of the best life jackets for youth. Additionally, the best baby life jacket should have secure webbing. Fortunately, this model has secure 1″ webbing. Moreover, the vest comes with open sides for more flexibility for your toddlers. Finally, what stood out to me was that the life jacket only weighs 11.2 ounces. For a light, durable, secure and safe life jacket, consider the Hardcore Water Sports Type III life vest.

  • U.S. Coast Guard Approved
  • Very affordable
  • Durable construction
  • Leg strap
  • Open sides may not be for everyone

6. Stohlquist Child Personal Floatation Device

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best life jacket for toddlersCould you have suffered disappointments with poor quality life vests and jackets? Then, it’s time you purchased a durable and ultra-safe option.  The Stohlquist Child Personal Floatation Device is designed to offer nothing but optimal performance to infants regarding water safety. It measures 4″H*19″ W and suits use by children weighing between 30-50lbs.

We were impressed by the quick release buckle that goes over the entry zipper to provide improved security. The fastener prevents this life jacket from riding up or down even when worn by the tiny infants.

Also, this buoyancy device is US Coast guard approved type III PFD with a sea level buoyancy rating of 8lbs. 6oz. Even more, this life jacket comes with a convenient grab handle for secure and timely emergency evacuation of your little one from the waters. The durability of this buoyancy device is guaranteed by its shell and liner’s construction from 200 denier Oxford material. Only the best life jacket for toddlers would be capable of that.

Additional Features

The featured dual support collars are there to facilitate face up floatation while cradling your infant’s head for a serious and upright swimming session. This life jacket is available in various color blend options including blue and black, red and yellow as well as yellow and blue.

Go for the color combination that suits your infant’s preferences in the best way. Also, with the color variation comes a cost difference. Therefore, you will need to consider your budget before deciding on the most appropriate life vest color for your infant.

  • USCG approved type III PFD
  • Convenient grab handle for emergency
  • Ultra-durable
  • Ultra-safe
  • Quite bulky and therefore suits older toddlers

7. O’Neill Child Reactor USCG Life Vest

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best life jacket for toddlersWhen all you seek is a high-grade life vest, then considering the O’Neill Life Vest will always be worth considering.  It’s a buoyancy device designed with your little one’s needs in mind.

The O’Neill Wetsuits Wake Waterski Child USCG Life Vest boasts ranking among the US coast guard approved life devices. Therefore, you should buy it with utmost confidence. It will always be there to keep your child safe even in the deep waters. We were impressed by its flexible multi-density design that allows it to offer varying buoyancy to your little one. Keep this in mind when browsing for the best life jacket for toddlers.

Again, your child will always be safe from neck pain and twists thanks to the featured neck safety loop on the rear side of this life vest. Its durability is unquestionable and guaranteed as this vest features super strong seams and a convenient mesh design for excellent drainage. This vest is available on the market in only one size. It suits use with children weighing between 30 to 50lbs.

We highly recommend this life vest by the O’Neill Company. It’s bound to serve your little one for decades without depreciating.

  • Ultra-durable
  • US Coast guard approved
  • Soft and comfortable fabric
  • Dries quickly
  • Ultra-safe with rear-neck safety loop
  • Available in a vast range of color combination options
  • None identified

8. Mustang Survival Lil’ Legends 100 Flotation Vest

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best life jacket for toddlersThe Mustang Survival Company is hard to beat on matters provision of high-quality buoyancy devices. Over the past decades, the market has seen several superior grade flotation vests and jackets by this reputable Company.

First off, this is just one of their vests that boast high approval by consumers across the globe. Also, it provides the best-in-class safety performance for toddlers.  Again, your little one will not have trouble swimming or moving around while wearing this life vest as it features mobility-shaped panels.

Moreover, the featured head-support pillow is there to facilitate face-up flotation to keep your little one’s head above the water effortlessly for perfect and safe swimming. Even more, the featured heavy-duty grab strap will always be there to facilitate quick and safe evacuation in the case of an emergency.

Comfort Is Key

Beyond safety, this unit is ultra-comfortable thanks to its ventilated mesh back as well as the cooling-channeled interior back panel. What’s more, it’s available in various size options including one for infants (0-30lbs), one for toddlers (30-50lbs) and another for the youth weighing between 50 to 90 lbs. Is this the best life jacket for toddlers? You decide!

You will always be free to choose from the available color combination options including gray/fluorescent yellow-green, gray/red, among others. Finally, we highly recommend this life vest. It has all it takes to provide optimum value for the money.

  • Best-in-class safety provision
  • Ultra-durable heavy duty construction
  • Heavy duty grab strap for emergency
  • Head support pillow for face-up flotation
  • Soft and comfortable material
  • Higher price than competition

9. Flowt Type III All Purpose Life Vest

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best life jacket for toddlersYour safety and comfort, or that of your infant, are the top considerations made by the Flowt Company when coming up with this life vest. It’s their dedication to providing high-grade products that has led to the ranking of this product among the top 25 best life vests and jackets in 2017. So, what does it have offer? If you have come across other life vests and jackets by different manufacturers, then you are bound to notice a significant difference in this option.

First, this life jacket comes in various size options including universal adult, child size (30-50lbs), infant type II PFD, youth (50-90lbs) and an oversized choice for adults.  Also, the infant option features entirely closed sides that help eliminate any possibility of strap chafing. Also, it comes along with leg and grab straps for a perfect fit and quick retrieval respectively and a heads-up pillow for face-up floatation.

What’s more, it is a type III US Coast Guard Approved life jacket.  Additionally, you will be free to select your preferred color option as it’s available in red or blue. Moreover, you can purchase a 4-pack of this life vests for commercial use. Finally, the 4-pack comes along with a storage bag to maintain your vest in a convenient location and for easy transport.

  • US Coast Guard Approved life vest
  • Infant life vest features closed sides for added safety
  • Ultra-durable
  • Heads up pillow facilitates face-up floatation
  • It’s on the higher price end

10. Stearns Child Hydroprene Vest

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best life jacket for toddlersThe Stearns Company is here again with this high-quality hydropene life vest for children. First, this is one of the ultra-safe and convenient buoyancy devices that comes to you at an affordable price. It’s a US Coast Guard approved unit. Therefore, you should utilize it with utmost confidence expecting no disappointment whatsoever throughout its lifetime.  Also, it suits fitting on children weighing between 30 and 50 lbs.

You are bound to appreciate the heavy-duty zipper and two buckle straps that ensure a perfect fit without riding up or snuggling your little one. Moreover, even while your little one is kept safe by wearing this life vest, it will not hinder his/her movement. Thankfully, this is to the ergonomic design utilized in its construction for improved user movement.

Beyond water safety, this life vest provides ultra-comfort to the wearer owing to its soft, flexible but cross-tech PE foam and durable hydropene shell. Even more, this unit is available in various color options and prices to suit your preferences and budget in the best way. Also, you will be free to choose between color blue and the pink and purple combination.

Finally, we highly recommend this life vest by Stearns manufacturing.

  • US Coast Guard approved
  • Heavy-duty zipper leg strap and two buckled waist straps for a secure fit
  • Ultra-durable
  • Affordable
  • Limited color options

Choose the best life jacket for toddlers

Child Flotation DeviceWe wanted to provide a very thorough review of many of the choices for your child flotation device. We’re all about safety and when it comes to the young ones, we feel that it’s very important to keep them safe. One final piece of advice that comes from the US Coast Guard. The USCG does not recommend taking infants onboard a recreational boat.

The life vests currently available for newborns up to 18 pounds may not provide the proper fit to perform as expected. You really need to perform the float test and make sure that the life jacket performs as you expect. The warning from USCG further reinforces the need to verify and test everything especially when it comes to the best life jacket for toddlers. There are huge differences being in a pool versus out on the open water in a powerboat or sailboat. Much more can go wrong, much more quickly.

We hope all the information we gathered for you has given you a new sense of understanding for the importance of life jackets for toddlers and infants. Happy times for your kids and peace of mind for you!