Pool season is just around the corner, and you’re wondering whether you should get a life jacket for your kids. Even if your child already knows how to swim, life jackets are an essential safety consideration. Your children can also use them at the beach or on a family trip to a lake, river, or waterpark.
Thankfully, there is a wide variety of life jackets to choose from. The product you buy for your child should be the right size and durable so that they can use it for more than one summer.
In this article, we will go through the best life jackets for pool use. Our buyer’s guide section is here to help you decide and answer any possible questions you might have about life jackets for kids.
OUR TOP PICK
The life jacket you end up choosing should provide the perfect blend of safety and comfort. That’s exactly what the Stearns Original Puddle Jumper is all about.
This life jacket is ideal for babies and younger children who are slowly being introduced to pools and learning how to swim. In fact, it’s best suited for children who weigh from 30 to 50 pounds.
The reason why it’s an excellent option for younger kids because it’s not bulky, like many other life jackets for children. On the contrary, it only weighs 0.2 pounds, so your child will forget that they are wearing it in the first place.
The Stearns Original Puddle Jumper is designed to provide maximum comfort for your child. It keeps toddlers safe with an adjustable back buckle created so that kids can’t reach and unbuckle by themselves. As mentioned, the design isn’t bulky like more traditional life jackets, allowing kids to play and run freely around the pool.
It comes in different colors and designs (lobster, blackbird, mermaid, pineapple, pink crab, parrot, blue flower, red crab, etc.). Therefore, every child will find one that they like. What’s more, the life jacket is made from soft materials that won’t bother your kids or irritate their skin.
Most importantly, this life jacket is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard as Type V and Type III personal flotation devices in, on, or near water. It provides maximum safety as it goes around the torso and upper arms while keeping their head above water.
- Approved by the U.S. Coast Guard
- Soft fabric
- Playful designs
- Adjustable straps
- Only for infants and younger children
Unlike the previous life jacket, which is best suited for children just learning how to swim, the Speedo Swim Flotation Classic Life Vest is intended for children who already know how.
It comes in two sizes: medium and large. The medium size is made for children aged two to four, who weigh from 33 to 44 pounds. On the other hand, the large size is more appropriate for children from four to six years old and weigh from 45 to 60 pounds.
Even though this life jacket is larger than the Stearns Puddle Jumper, it’s made from UV50+ materials that protect children from the sun, making it ideal for a hot summer day spent by the pool. Not only does the Speedo Classic Life Vest shield children from getting burned and from suffering sunstroke, but it protects them from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
This life vest also provides safety features, such as an adjustable buckle strap and a front zipper. In addition, you can buy them in different color combinations, such as berry/grape, bright pink, lime/orange, purple, and sapphire.
The zipper is easily secured, and it’s attached to a safety closure that doesn’t allow the zipper to move. It will only take you a couple of seconds to put the life vest on your child, and it can be removed very quickly as well. Since it’s made from comfortable, soft materials, your child will be able to play in the pool freely while floating in the water.
If you purchase this life vest for your children, you won’t have any concerns about their safety.
- Materials offer UV protection
- Easy to put on and take off
- Not bulky
- Not suitable for kids who don’t know how to swim
If your child’s safety is your number one priority, then look no further. The Body Glove Dinosaur Swim Life Jacket was approved by the U.S. Coast Guard as the safest patented life vest. You can’t find a safer option on the market.
Just like the Sterns Puddle Jumper, this life jacket is ideal for children who don’t know how to swim yet. It consists of several safety features, such as the Puddle Palls armbands, a safety shoulder harness, and an adjustable strap buckle that goes around the child’s torso.
Similar to the Sterns Puddle Jumper, it’s designed in a way that doesn’t allow toddlers to remove it by themselves. However, it fits your child perfectly due to the adjustable strap buckle, so you don’t have to worry about them slipping through it.
It best fits children weighing from 30 to 50 pounds. Furthermore, there are plenty of fun designs to choose from for both boys and girls, such as aquatic monster, hula girl, ladybug, multicolor, surfer turtle, surfer van, pink, and many more options. You can even find designs with holograms, which is a fun feature any toddler will love.
The polyester armbands and pads that go around the child’s torso are filled with foam, allowing your child to float in the water while learning how to swim.
Even though it can sometimes be a hassle to put a life jacket on your child, the Body Glove Life Jacket can be secured and taken off in a matter of moments. In addition, you don’t need to inflate or deflate the life jacket every time your child uses it, as it’s always ready for action.
- Approved by the U.S. Coast Guard as the safest patented life vest
- Very comfortable
- Safety shoulder harness
- Various fun designs
- Only for younger children
- Bulky arm sleeves
This life jacket has a unique design, as it consists of 16 removable pieces that help the child float in the water. What sets this life jacket apart from other models is that the interesting design allows your child to learn how to swim gradually and at their own pace. You can choose the number of floating pieces, and as they get better at swimming, you can remove the floats one by one.
The way it works is that it helps retain your child’s balance while they’re in the water. The 16 pieces of removable float help them stay on the surface. So if you notice that your child is tipping over while they are wearing this life jacket, it probably means that you should remove one or two floats from the suit.
The Splash About Collection is available for girls who are from 1 to 6 years old. This collection offers beautiful designs, including pink blossom, apple daisy, pink classic, and tutti frutti. There is a similar Splash About Collection for boys, which is called Short John Swimsuit.
Unlike other products, which go over the child’s swimsuit, the Splash About Collection Float Suit combines a swimsuit and a life jacket. In addition, it comes with a back zipper, which allows for easy changing. Not only is this option safe and comfortable, but it also offers up to UPF50+ sun protection. The materials are also resistant to chlorine.
The fact that it’s adjustable means that you can use it for several years, even when your child starts to grow. You can also take it with you to the seaside, a waterpark, or any other place where your child can swim.
- 100% sun protection
- 16-piece suit
- Various beautiful fabric designs
- High-quality materials
- Only for children who can’t swim
- Only for girls
The Zerlar Flotation Swimsuit is an alternative to the Splash About Collection Float Suit. They have a similar design, the only difference being that there are only eight removable floats. Therefore, it’s also best suited for children who are still learning how to swim. The floating pads can be removed one at a time as the child gradually gets better at swimming.
Just like the previous model, this one is a two-in-one life jacket and swimsuit. However, unlike traditional life jackets, which come with bulky arms sleeves, the Zerlar Flotation Swimsuit is very simple, and it weighs only 0.22 pounds.
The only potentially problematic aspect of this life jacket is that it doesn’t come with any kind of zippers or snaps, so it might take a bit more time to put it on your child. But, on the other hand, there is no possible way for your child to remove it by themselves.
Keep in mind that this collection is only available for girls from 1 to 10 years old. Some of the available design options include red, red cat, red heart, swan, rose red, yellow, and zebra. This life jacket is made from comfortable materials, but they are also durable and resistant to punctures.
Another significant aspect of this life jacket is that it can be used for several summer seasons. If your child learns to swim in the meantime, you can remove all the floating pieces so that they can wear it like a regular swimsuit. Furthermore, it’s a fantastic option for pools, waterparks, and the seaside.
- Eight removable floats
- Comfortable materials
- Provides maximum safety
- Various designs
- Only for baby girls
- No zippers or snaps
If you are wondering what features the best life jackets for pool use need to have, you’ve come to the right place. There are several factors you need to consider before you purchase a life jacket for your child. An ideal life jacket should provide the perfect blend of safety and comfort.
Before we go into the details, let’s go over the different types of life jackets. Life jackets, or PFDs (personal floatation devices), can be divided into five categories: Type I, Type II, Type III, Type IV, and Type V. Here’s what each classification means.
Types of Life Jackets
These life jackets are intended for ocean offshore use for more potentially dangerous settings. It’s best to buy a Type I life jacket for your child if you are going on a cruise or a boat trip. Remember that these life jackets are often oversized and bulky since safety is their number one priority. Also, note that it’s often challenging to find Type I life jackets for children.
This type is for near-shore use where immediate rescue is most likely. Type II life jackets are best used in calmer, shallow waters, like inland waters and pools. They are also a good option if your family goes on fishing trips. They are much more comfortable and lightweight than Type I life jackets, and they are also more readily available for purchase.
This category comprises flotation aids rather than life jackets. Since they are much less buoyant, they are more appropriate for calm waters in the presence of adult supervision. However, they can be used for pool season as well. Considering that they are the most comfortable and lightweight type, they are very easy to put on and wear.
These are not intended for children. Type IV life jackets comprise life rings and life preservers, and they are thrown in the water in the case of an emergency.
This category is also not suited for kids. Type V life jackets are specialized suits used for specific purposes.
Type II and Type III life jackets are usually made for children, and it’s easier to find one that caters to your child’s needs.
One of the most important aspects of life jackets is that they fit perfectly. It could be equally dangerous to buy an oversized life jacket for your child, as it is to get a smaller size, which your child will outgrow quickly. Buying life jackets that don’t fit is the number one mistake that parents make.
Life jackets usually come with instructions and the recommended age for that life jacket. Taking into consideration that children grow rapidly, some life jackets can only be used for one summer. However, if you find a life jacket with adjustable features, your child could easily wear it for more than one year.
The most crucial purpose of a life jacket is to keep your child’s head above the water. When you first put on the life jacket on your child, monitor them closely to see if the size fits while you’re both in the water.
There are three universal sizes that life jackets are made for: infant PFD (for babies weighing from 8 to 30 pounds), child PFD (for kids weighing from 30 to 50 pounds), and youth PFD (for older children weighing from 50 to 90 pounds).
Every life jacket is made for a specific weight, and you can either find out the weight capacity in the product description or in the instructions that usually come with the life jacket. If you are worried about whether the life jacket fits your child, always test it out before you let them go in the water alone.
Parents often make the mistake of buying a life jacket of a larger size for their child, hoping they will soon grow into it. Doing this is never a good idea. Instead, make sure to find a life jacket that fits the child’s current weight.
Life jackets for children typically come in three different designs: inherently buoyant, inflatable, and hybrid.
This design is most popular for young children out of all the flotation device types. Inherently buoyant life jackets are filled with foam, so your child will always float when they’re in the pool. They are best suited for children who still don’t know how to swim. Furthermore, these types of life jackets are highly durable and require minimal maintenance.
Inflatable life jackets either need to be manually inflated or are automatically inflated once submerged in water. This type of flotation device is more appropriate for children who have already learned how to swim, and they are not recommended for children younger than 16 years old. Also, as opposed to inherently buoyant life jackets, inflatable models require a little more maintenance.
Hybrid life jackets combine the characteristics of inherently buoyant and inflatable flotation devices. Out of all three design types, the hybrid type requires the most maintenance. You can usually find these types of life jackets in children’s sizes. They are not as bulky as other designs, so kids prefer to wear them. However, keep in mind that hybrid life jackets aren’t recommended for all water activities.
The materials used to make life jackets should always be soft and comfortable, as children usually refuse to wear bulky life jackets, which have harsh materials that irritate their skin. While the outer layers are generally polyester, the inside of the shoulder pads and armbands are filled with foam that allows your child to float.
The color of the life jacket is also an essential aspect that many people forget about. Life jackets usually come in bright colors, such as yellow, orange, and red, so they could be easily spotted in the water. This is of paramount importance when your child is swimming in open waters. In addition, your child’s life jacket needs to be visible, so avoid dull colors that blend with the water, like blue and gray.
The materials should also provide thermal protection. Finally, look for a life jacket that allows your child to move freely without feeling suffocated or restricted by the life jacket.
By far, the most significant factor you should look for in a life jacket is its safety features. Life jackets come with different safety features depending on the design, such as grab handles, straps, zippers, etc. Type II life jackets can even flip a child over on their back if they lose their balance in the water.
The safety features should be designed in a way that doesn’t allow the child to escape or unbuckle the straps by themselves. Grab handles are also very convenient, as they will enable you to grab the child by the life vest and pull them out of the water. Zippers are also an excellent way to go, but it’s better if they are placed on the backside of the life jacket.
You should also look for life jackets that offer sun protection. Babies and young children usually have very sensitive skin. A high-quality life vest can protect them from sunburns and harmful UVA and UVB rays.
At this point, it’s important to mention that life jackets only serve as one layer of protection for children. Just because your child is equipped with a life jacket doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep an eye on them while they are in the water. In addition, no matter what life jacket you end up buying for your child, constant adult supervision is always mandatory.
Can You Drown With a Life Jacket?
Even though wearing a life jacket decreases the chances of drowning by 80%, it’s still possible to drown even if you are wearing a life jacket. However, most people who drowned in life jackets were involved in a boating accident of some description, whether it was a canoeing, paddling, or kayaking accident. In addition, other external circumstances caused these drowning cases, such as hypothermia and alcohol consumption.
Therefore, personal flotation devices are still the best way to prevent drowning. Unfortunately, according to the World Health Organization, drowning is one of the most common causes of accidental death in the United States. What’s more, on average, up to 10 people die from drowning every day in the United States.
That’s why the U.S. Coast Guard requires children under the age of 13 to always wear life jackets when they are boating. Even if they know how to swim, they are still required to wear life jackets. Therefore, it’s best to buy a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure maximum safety.
What Is the Difference Between a Swim Vest and Life Jacket?
The main difference between a swim vest and a life jacket is the amount of buoyancy they offer. Swim vests are not considered personal flotation devices like life jackets since they aren’t approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Instead, they are a type of swim aid that helps children navigate in the water. In other words, they do not contain a large amount of buoyancy.
Furthermore, they are best suited for pools and waterparks, along with adult supervision. The purpose of a swim vest is to help a child who is only learning how to swim. They are also an excellent choice for children who still aren’t comfortable in the water.
On the other hand, life vests are approved by the U.S. Coast Guard as valid personal flotation devices. They contain much more buoyancy than swim vests, and they tend to be made from thicker waterproof materials. They are specifically designed to keep your child’s head above water. Life jackets can be found in a variety of sizes and designs, and they are widely available.
Life jackets are of great benefit to both children who can and can’t swim. In most states, wearing a life jacket during boating is mandatory for children under the age of 13, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. It’s also highly recommended for your children to wear life jackets when swimming in any type of open water.
Will a Life Jacket Keep You Afloat if You Can't Swim?
For this very reason, life jackets are made to keep you afloat even if you can’t swim. They are ideal for children who are just learning how to swim, as they provide maximum safety. In addition, life jackets made for children are filled with foam, which keeps their heads above water.
While swim aids help you stay afloat, life jackets have much more buoyancy. You can find life jackets for infants, toddlers, and older children. Various types of life jackets can help your child become comfortable in the water as they slowly learn to swim.