When the warmer weather rolls around, it’s nice to take the little ones out to the water. If you give them some floaties and a pool, then the kids under the age of 5 are prepared for an afternoon of fun. If you’re planning on hitting the local lake or river with the kids, however, then floaties might not be good enough. If you’re going boating, then the various state and federal Life Jacket laws will require anyone under 13 to be wearing a life jacket. Accidental drowning is one of the leading causes of death in children under the age of 14. Having one of the best life jackets for toddlers is critical to a safe time.
Here Is the Best Chart for Toddler Life Jackets
From infants to preschoolers, these little ones need to have a safe, reliable life jacket that will keep their heads above water in an emergency. By using this helpful chart below, you can see which vests have already made the grade.
|Stearns Kids Puddle Jumper Deluxe Life Jacket||4.8||$$|
|Stearns Infant Classic Boating Vest||4.4||$$|
|Swimways Sea Squirts Life Jacket||4.6||$$$$$|
|O'Neill Wake Waterski Infant USCG Vest||4.4||$$$|
|Stohlquist Unisex Infant/Toddler Nemo Infant Life Jacket||4.6||$$$|
|Stohlquist Unisex Child Nemo Child Life Jacket||4.6||$$$$|
|Stearns Youth Boating Vest||4.0||$$|
|TRC Recreation Kids Super Soft USCG Vest||5.0||$$$$|
|Speedo Kid's Begin to Swim Classic Vest||4.6||$$|
|Speedo Kid's Begin to Swim UV Printed Neoprene Vest||4.3||$$|
Which Is the Best Infant Life Jacket (Or Other Age) For You?
There are three basic life vest types that are available right now. The one you choose for your child must be based on the water conditions that are expected.
- Type I life vests are designed for offshore conditions that may be considered rough and require a prolonged wait for rescue.
- Type II life vests are designed for rescues that happen near the shore or in a public pool.
- Type III life vests are basic floatation aids, like some arm floaties, that aren’t designed to keep a child’s head above water, but will provide added buoyancy.
Many parents invest in the Type II PFDs for toddlers because there is added head and neck support within their design. They can be a bit bulky, but they will right an inverted small child when worn so that their heads stay above water.
Once you get above the infant stage, almost every life vest that you’ll find on the market today for toddlers and preschoolers will be a Type III device. If you’re on a boat, however, a Type II at minimum is a better solution.
How Do I Find the Best Infant Life Jacket Right Now?
The first step is to look at some of these reviews to determine which ones are going to provide your family with the right value. Some life jackets look great, but don’t perform as well. Those are the life jackets to avoid.
You should never assume that a life jacket is going to work for a child that weighs less than 18 pounds. Here’s a Salty Dog pro tip for you: test your infant life jacket in a local pool before taking the little one out onto the boat. This will let you know if the personal floatation device will keep their heads out of the water.
Expect to find life jackets priced in the $20-$50 range for children under the age 5.
Here Are the Salty Dog’s Favorite Kid’s Life Jackets
Although it is a non-traditional design for a life jacket, this one gets the job done effectively and in a fun way. With a number of kid-friendly colors and animal designs, your little ones will love being able to show off their new accessory when you head out to the pool. The child’s arms fit into the sides of the life jacket like a set of floaties, but there’s also a chest wrap-around portion that will help keep the child up high in the water. It’s more for toddlers and infants, but smaller preschoolers might fit into them as well.
This is a Type III toddler life jacket, so be aware that your child will need to have at lest some basic swimming knowledge to take full advantage of what this device can do. What is cool about this jacket is the shark fin that’s on the back of it. It folds over when leaning back and parents can grab the fin to stabilize the child who is learning how to swim. As long as you’re not using this life vest for an offshore excursion, most parents will find a lot of value in this awesome life vest.
There are some different versions of the Nemo that you’ll find online, so it is important to find the right one. The red version is a Type II life jacket, while the yellow version is a Type III floatation device. It’s one of the best toddler life jackets, however, because the fit is snug, tight, but still comfortable. The grab loop with the included floating beads is nice because it stays open while in the water. There’s a quick release buckle entry over the zipper for better security, but smarter kids might try to play with it and that could cause a problem in specific situation.
Why is this one of the best preschooler life jackets? The materials of this life jacket are a lot softer than the typical ones on the market today, so the little ones have less of a risk to have some chafing happen – especially under the arms. It’s more for the water park or the swimming pool, but it could be used in a calm lake fairly easily as well. The leg straps are fully adjustable for an extra level of safety and everything is vinyl coated so it dries fast and is really easy to clean.
This neoprene life vest as a leg strap for extra safety, but what makes this one of the best kid’s life jackets is the fact that it has UV protection included with it. Kids wearing this vest will have 50+ protection against UVA and UVB. There’s a soft polyester lining and a Velcro tab closure goes over the zippered front so that the vest is easy to take on and off. It’s the perfect preschooler life vest for going outside to learn how to swim.
By knowing which type of vest to purchase, you’ll be able to get the best toddler life jacket, the best infant life jacket, or the best preschooler life jacket that meets your needs. You might even get all three so your child can age into each different type! Always remember to test your life jacket first and then you’ll be ready to hit the waves.