Introducing your little one to water can be daunting. Luckily, there are plenty of pool floats or floaties for toddlers that are well-designed, cater for pool time fun, and act as an aid to get them used to the water. When determining which type to go with, you’ll need to consider things like practicality, safety, and what product your toddler is most comfortable using.
In this article, we’ll review the five best pool floats for toddlers on the market to give you an idea of what’s available in terms of features and quality. Our buyer’s guide will discuss the variables involved to help you make an informed choice.
OUR TOP PICK
The Punada baby pool float is an inflatable swimming float with a canopy. It is shaped like a baby canoe for one, and it’s brightly colored in aqua blue, yellow, and pink.
Your toddler will feel like the captain of their boat with the cute steering wheel and beeping horn. Beneath the float are holes to allow your baby to kick their legs. There are two handles on either side for support and a large detachable canopy for sun protection.
The Punada has been designed for a maximum weight of approximately 44 pounds. Its size is 10 x 9.76 x 3.39 inches and weighs 1.2 pounds. It’s made out of eco-friendly solid, toxic-free, waterproof PVC for safety and endurance.
- Interactive steering wheel
- Protects your child from the sun
- Easy to inflate
- Doesn’t stay inflated for long
- Sunshade does not stay upright
This is a baby pool float with interactive toys. Each tentacle on this rotating green octopus holds a toy for your baby to interact with, like a squeaking fish, stacking rings, a rattle, or fish teether. The adjustable and removable sun canopy provides sunshade and UPF 50 plus sun protection. The mesh sides allow for constant eye contact with your baby from all angles of the float.
The float’s innerspring has been sewn along the edge of the furthest inflation chamber to offer a secure and comfortable introduction to water for your baby. Its fabric-covered inflation chamber is durable, and security is ensured with the broad base, safety valves, and dual air chambers.
It can be easily transported and stored away as it folds flat and goes into the supplied carrying bag. The dimensions are: 34 (L) x 30 (W) x 20.5 (H) inches. This floating activity center is recommended for babies of 9-24 months.
- Innerspring for better stability
- Canopy offers sun protection
- Foldable with easy storage carrying bag
- Toys often end up in the pool since they are not securely attached to the tentacles
This cute inflatable unicorn swimming ring makes pool time safe and fun for your toddler. It’s made from waterproof, durable, and extra-thick PVC material with a thick and cushioned seat, designed to protect your child’s skin while playing and moving around.
It has four independent airbags with separate valves on each side, offering leak-proof protection. It includes two airbags on either side of the ring for extra balance and stability to prevent it from rolling over. The safety string allows you to keep your child close while in the water. In addition, the two handles on the unicorn offer further support.
This baby pool float weighs 1.5 pounds and measures 29.13 x 28.35 x 27.56 inches. Recommended for children between the ages of 1-6, and shallow water use only.
- Includes four airbags with separate valves for extra protection
- Thick-cushioned inflatable seat
- Safety ring to keep your child close
- To be used in shallow water only
Paddle Pals are unique graphic-designed life jackets available in 12 child-friendly designs that your toddler will love to wear.
It is made out of durable polyester for comfort, with a sturdy exterior and a multi-panel soft material design to prevent the under-chin chaffing experienced with some vests. In addition, the integrated armbands will not restrict your toddler from enjoying water play.
These vests are U.S. Coast Guard Approved, making them a safe ‘Learn to Swim’ life jacket. The product comes with attached armbands to help children learn how to swim. In addition, its safety shoulder harness prevents it from slipping off during use or your child removing it without help.
It’s suitable for children weighing 30-50 pounds, with an adjustable chest strap for a customized fit and a rear quick-release safety buckle. It’s a Type III PFD for recreational boating consent.
- Durable and comfortable
- Dries fast in the sun
- USCG Approved Type III
- Safety shoulder harness for enhanced safety
- Offers little UV protection
- Can be bulky
This learn-to-swim baby pool float is great for helping your toddler get comfortable in the water. It’s an adorable duck rider in a sailor suit, encouraging your child to go for a ride. It features a comfortable drop seat, secure leg holes, and a retractable and removable canopy that offers sun protection.
It measures 31 x 29 x 23 inches and weighs 1 pound. Recommended ages are 12 months to 2 years.
- Adjustable canopy for sun protection
- Available in different shapes, sizes, and toys
- May deflate easily
The safety of a pool float depends on its design. First, choose a high-quality pool float to keep your toddler afloat and prevent capsizing. Ideally, a product like this should be constructed with suitable material to ensure buoyancy and leak and puncture prevention.
Also, look for other safety features like internal springs for stability, dual inflation chambers, seat straps, safety valves, and sturdy frames, where applicable.
When learning how to swim, a pool float needs to support a child’s transition into feeling safe and comfortable in the water. Weight and age limits should always be checked before using a floatation device, and constant supervision while your toddler is in the water, is essential.
Best Pool Floats for Toddlers Safety?
Life jackets, often referred to as personal flotation devices (PFD’s), are made from waterproof material to offer head support to your child and keep them facing upwards in the water. They are available in various sizes and are strongly recommended for babies, toddlers, and children.
The best type of life jackets are those approved by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). This proves that the jacket has been tested extensively to ensure it performs as expected.
There are different types of life jackets:
- Type II are not the most comfortable type to wear but have more buoyancy. These are recommended for non-swimmers or children not wholly comfortable in the water
- Type III are more comfortable and easier to wear, though less buoyant than Type II. These are often worn in situations where multiple people are boating together
If deciding on a life jacket for your toddler, ensure that it’s adjustable to fit their fast-growing body (most USCG types are), is secure enough to prevent them from wiggling free, and offers good neck support.
Puddle jumpers are one of the most popular swimming floaties. They are a combination of a life jacket, swim vest, and swim aid. The design concept is based on ‘water wings’ or ‘arm floaties,’ and improved it by including a vest that’s strapped around your toddler’s chest for a secure fit. To put them on, simply slip your toddler’s arms through the arm floats and then secure the buckle at the back.
Constructed with material to make them comfortable and prevent chafing, they’re suitable for children typically between 30 and 50 pounds and learning to swim. In addition, they encourage a natural swimming position by keeping your toddler’s chest and arms afloat.
Puddle jumpers are a Type III PFD and are USCG-approved. The Body Glove Puddle Pals line has improved on the puddle jumper design by including a shoulder harness for securing the swim support in position.
Pool Floats for Toddlers to Avoid
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) – for water safety and drowning prevention – cautions against using these types of swimming aids for babies as deflation removes buoyancy immediately.
Swim float rings, also known as a swim ring or swim tube, are doughnut-shaped inflatable toys. They can be used to introduce your baby to the water and get them used to wearing swim aids. In a swim ring, your toddler’s face will be kept clear of the water as their body is kept at a safe level above the water’s surface.
However, the centers of some swim rings are not small enough to securely hold a baby or toddler. As a result, they can restrict arm movement and prevent the development of a natural feel for the water.
Water wings or arm floats are essentially inflatable armbands designed to help keep the wearer afloat. There are typically cylindrical and worn on the upper arms. The material used to make them can easily puncture and deflate or loosen and slip off the arms.
Water wings are deemed unsafe, especially for those unable to swim, and are not approved by the USCG.
Swim vests are more of a swimming aid than a personal flotation device. They restrict leg and arm movement as they’re less buoyant than life jackets. They’re suitable for getting your toddler comfortable in the water and come in several different sizes. They’re made from neoprene for warmth and buoyancy.
Typically, they have a front zip and a strap that goes between their legs then buckles to the vest for a secure fit. But, again, these types of floats are not approved by the USCG.
Baby Neck Floats
A baby neck float is another doughnut-shaped flotation device that goes over the toddler’s head, allowing them to tread water. They are commonly used in ‘baby spas’ for toddlers.
While experts say that the neck float may increase the toddler’s range of motion by promoting motor development, they don’t recommend them due to an increased risk of suffocation and drowning.
The Swimming Teachers’ Association has also warned against the ‘routine use‘ of these floats due to evidence of a negative effect on spine development, nervous systems, and the brain.
Floats are designed according to age groups. Since every toddler is unique, it is vitally important to consider your toddler’s actual size and weight when choosing a pool float.
It is recommended to get a life jacket that fits your toddler right now instead of one they can grow into. If the life jacket is too big, it can potentially slip over their head and not offer sufficient buoyancy or support to keep their head above water.
To check whether your toddler’s life jacket is a good fit, have them try it on and then try and lift it from the top. If you can lift it more than 2.5 centimeters from their shoulders, then it’s the wrong size.
When using ring-based floats, your toddler will need to be large enough, so they don’t slip through the float and strong enough to support themselves in it.
Your toddler’s skin is highly delicate, and sun exposure can easily cause sunburn damage. The AAP recommends babies under six months should be kept away from direct sunlight, and sun exposure for older babies should be limited.
While vitamin D is essential, bearing these facts in mind, pool floats, including UV-blocking shade canopies or sun-protecting roofs, appear to be the way forward. In addition, some float vests include an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) for sun protection, and some are made from neoprene for warmth in cooler water.
Alternatively, you can fully dress your toddler in lightweight attire and a wide-brimmed hat. Whether you go for one that includes a sunshade or not, you should consider applying some sunscreen containing SPF 15. Bear in mind that sunscreen takes half an hour to take effect.
Fibers such as polyethylene, high-performance polyethylene, polypropylene, milkweed, and kapok create buoyance in float products. However, note that some materials can cause skin irritations.
The best pool floats for toddlers are made from durable and waterproof materials like extra-thick PVC for buoyancy to help your toddler stay upright and reduce puncture chances.
Pool floats and pool toys are typically made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Therefore, they are occasionally identified as ‘vinyl.’ Polyvinyl chloride is a synthetic plastic polymer softened with additional plasticizers like phthalates. Typically, inflatable pool floats will include PVC in their construction. However, some pool floats are made with a nylon covering or made entirely from foam.
If you are concerned about PVC touching your toddler’s skin, consider a pool float covered in nylon. It’s quick-drying and will protect their skin from the PVC.
Others may have rubber linings or strips. With these types, there could be latex in some parts of the float. Latex is a plant material found in rubber trees; if ‘rubber’ is listed as part of the materials used to construct the float, it may have latex.
Dual Air Chambers
Some pool float products are inflated via air chambers. Essentially, their purpose is to keep the toddler afloat and continue keeping them afloat in case of an accidental puncture. In addition, they offer stability in the water. Dual air chambers are considered the best for safety. Some float products have even more air chambers for superior safety. The more air chambers a float has, the better.
Each air chamber needs to be fully inflated to work as designed. Therefore, some floaties come with an air pump.
Are Arm Floaties Safe?
Arm Floaties or water wings are great for offering float support as a toddler learns how to swim. However, there are not recognized as safe personal flotation devices (PFD) because they’re easy to remove and susceptible to punctures and air leaks. Plus, they offer no sun protection.
The Centers for Disease Control does not recommend that toddlers use water wings as a safe pool float product.
Are Baby Neck Floats Safe?
Experts advise against the use of neck floats. They’re typically made using one seam, and if that seam fails, the float will deflate and potentially lead to drowning.
Toddler Pool Time Fun With the Best Pool Float
When deciding on a suitable pool float for your toddler, the safety aspect is of paramount importance. But, the float should also help create the relaxed and comfortable pool experience you’re looking for, no matter how colorful or entertaining it is.
In this article, we’ve described some of the best pool floats for toddlers, discussed the types to avoid, and what makes a pool float safe. Hopefully, you have all the information you require to make the right decision for your toddler.