When it comes to finding the best life jackets for kids, it boils down to three key factors; safety, comfort, andBest-Life-Jackets-for-Kids affordability.

Let’s explore…

  • The best life jacket options for an infant, toddler, and youth
  • How to choose the best life jacket
  • Safety features to know
  • Commonly asked questions and answers

Here is what you need to know in this ultimate buyers guide to know to make the most informed purchasing decision.

Without further ado, let’s dive in!

Be sure to stick around from start to finish to access helpful links throughout along with your bonus resource!

O’Neill Wetsuits Child Reactor Life Vest


For Ages: 2-6 years (30 to 50 pounds)kids-life-vests-reviews

Best For: Wake Sports, Water Skiing, Kayaking, Tubing, Swimming

Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars


What to Know

If your kiddo is into water sports, this life vest’s versatile design makes moving in the water a breeze.

The relaxed fit provides unrestricted movement.

An added bonus?

It is not bulky to wear which makes moving around that much easier!

Safety Features

  • Quick-release safety buckles
  • Easily adjustable crotch strap for snug fitting
  • Coast guard approved

Final Verdict: For kids actively into water sports, this is one of the most comfortable and best-fitting life jackets to use.

►► View Now: O’Neill Wetsuits Child Reactor Life Vest ◄◄

ONeill-Wetsuits-Child-Reactor-Life-Ves

TRC Recreation Kids Super Soft USCG Vest


For Ages: 3 to 6 years (under 50 pounds)TRC-Recreation-Kids-Super-Soft-USCG-Vest

Best For: Boats, Swimming

Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars


What to Know

When you look at this life jacket think of “comfort”.

It’s super soft, durable, and lightweight to wear.

Due to the vinyl foam material, there is no chaffing or rubbing on your child’s skin like some cloth life jackets do.

Safety Features

  • Coast guard approved
  • Adjustable leg strap
  • Two easy-snap buckles

Final Verdict: This life vest is perfect for kids with sensory challenges or who are picky about what they wear.

►► View Now: TRC Recreation Kids Super Soft USCG Vest ◄◄

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Stearns Heads-Up Child Vest


For Ages: 2-6 years (30 to 50 pounds)TRC-Recreation-Kids-Super-Soft-USCG-Vest

Best For: Swimming

Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars


What to Know

Two words ring true with the Stearns Heads-Up Child Vest…safety first!

It encourages “face-up” flotation.

Simply adjust the vest with the two adjustable straps.

Safety Features

  • Extra contoured float above the neck (acts like a pillow)
  • Rescue handle to easily move your kid out of the water
  • Material is bright and reflective to spot your little one in a flash
  • Crotch strap ensures a snug fit

Final Verdict: If you need a safe life vest to hold your child upright in the water while at the pool, beach, or lake, this is the one.

►► View Now: Stearns Heads-Up Child Vest ◄◄

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Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket


For Ages: Infant to 3 years (8 to 30 pounds)TRC-Recreation-Kids-Super-Soft-USCG-Vest

Best For: Boats, Swimming

Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars


What to Know

When you have a baby, supporting their head is a must.

This life vest makes a great buoyancy aid for infants while keeping their heads upright.

The wonderful design provides added comfort to wiggle and squirm!

Safety Features

  • Cozy dual support collar to cradle an infants head
  • Front zipper and adjustable crotch strap to secure the jacket in place
  • Grab handle to hold onto your kiddo from behind
  • Coast guard approved

Final Verdict: This is one of the best life jackets to support a baby’s head.

►► View Now: Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket◄◄

Absolute Outdoor Onyx Inflatable Life Jacket


For Ages: Youth (kids over 80 pounds)TRC-Recreation-Kids-Super-Soft-USCG-Vest

Best For: Boats, Kayaking, Canoeing

Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars


What to Know

One of the standout features of this life vest is it automatically inflates when you fall into the water.

The tough fabric prevents puncture holes and tears.

But don’t let the fabric fool you into thinking its’ not comfortable to wear.

It’s super comfy and convenient to keep on for several reasons…

  • Lightweight
  • The open design keeps you cool in hot weather
  • The soft neoprene material around the neckline is made for all-day wear

Safety Features

  • Inflates with manual movement of T-cord
  • Inflates automatically when immersed into water

Final Verdict: If you are fishing or boating all day, this is a comfy life vest to wear for hours on end and keeps you safe if you happened to fall overboard.

►► View Now: Absolute Outdoor Onyx Inflatable Life Jacket ◄◄

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Stearns Original Puddle Jumper Kids Life Jacket


For Ages: 2 to 6 years (30 to 50 pounds)
TRC-Recreation-Kids-Super-Soft-USCG-Vest

Best For: Boats, Swimming

Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars


What to Know

This is an excellent life vest to give kids the confidence boost they need to be in the water.

The design makes you feel independent while providing maximum support.

Plus, it’s comfy to swim in.

Safety Features

  • Safety buckle snap-in back (makes it difficult for a child to remove)
  • Adjustable strap for a secure fit
  • Coast guard approved

Final Verdict: This is a wonderful life jacket for early swimmers or beginners.

►► View Now: Stearns Original Puddle Jumper Kids Life Jacket ◄◄

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Airhead Wicked Kwik-Dry Neolite Flex Life Vest


For Ages: Infant to 6 years (15 to 60 pounds) TRC-Recreation-Kids-Super-Soft-USCG-Vest

Best For: Active Water Sports

Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars


What to Know

This bold and brightly colored jacket is a coast guard safety-approved type III vest.

Type III means the floating aid is actually “marked” for specialized water activities like…

  • Boating
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing

It’s lightweight and enjoyable to wear due to the soft foam polyester material.

Safety Features

  • Coast guard approved (level III)
  • Adjustable body strap
  • Quick-release buckles

Final Verdict: This is an excellent life vest for kids actively into water sports.

►► View Now: Airhead Wicked Kwik-Dry Neolite Flex Life Vest ◄◄

Airhead-WICKED-Kwik-Dry-Neolite-Flex-Life-Vest

Body Glove Paddle Pals Learn to Swim Life Jacket


For Ages: 2 to 6 years (30 to 50 pounds) TRC-Recreation-Kids-Super-Soft-USCG-Vest

Best For: Boats, Swimming

Overall Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars


What to Know

The life jacket design (attached flotation arms and shoulder harness) helps kids learn to swim in the water safely.

An added bonus feature is the shoulder harness which does a couple of things…

  • Prevents it from sliding off during use
  • Discourages a child from removing the vest on their own

Plus, the polyester material makes this life jacket soothing to wear.

Safety Features

  • Shoulder harness
  • Adjustable chest strap
  • Quick-release rear safety buckle
  • Coast guard safety-approved type III vest

Final Verdict:  For toddlers learning to swim, this makes a great first jacket to get.

►► View Now: Body Glove Paddle Pals Learn to Swim Life Jacket ◄◄

Body-Glove-Paddle-Pals-Learn-to-Swim-Life-Jacket

Salus Bijoux Baby Vest


For Ages: Infant (9 to 25 pounds)best-life-vests-reviews-for-kids

Best For: Swimming

Overall Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars


What to Know

Simply place your little one inside the comfy mesh harness to sit.

For added safety, there is a soft collar to cradle your baby’s head in the middle of the harness.

The breathable mesh design provides temperature control.

This jacket won the “Canadian Safe Boating Award” for the best new safety product for infants.

Safety Features

  • Adjustable mesh webbing harness
  • Three-piece collar design with flotations on each side to support a baby’s head
  • Four adjustment straps for maximum comfort and fit

Final Verdict: To avoid the hassle of “putting on and taking off” your baby’s life vest each time you hop in the water, the breathable open-back keeps your kid cool while lying on a towel or in a baby carrier.  

►► View Now: Salus Bijoux Baby Vest ◄◄

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Oceans7 US Coast Guard Approved Child Life Jacket


For Ages: Infant to Youth (8 to 90 pounds)best-life-vests-reviews-for-kids

Best For: Boats, Swimming

Overall Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars


What to Know

When securely fastened, the vest’s durable nylon design keeps it from rising above a child’s head.

The three adjustable straps in front provide maximum comfort and fit.

Safety Features

  • Coast guard safety-approved type III vest
  • Adjustable chest straps
  • Thick flotation foam

Final Verdict: If you need a safe and budget-friendly life vest for general boating activities, this one fits kids of all ages.

►► View Now: Oceans7 US Coast Guard Approved Child Life Jacket ◄◄

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Speedo Unisex Kids Float Vest


For Ages: 2 to 6 years (33 to 60 pounds)best-life-vests-reviews-for-kids

Best For: Swimming

Overall Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars


What to Know

For early swimmers used to the water, this life vest inspires courage to swim.

The cozy design is made with soft, durable neoprene to provide…

  • Comfort
  • Warmth
  • Buoyancy

With the vests, UV50 sunblock protection, your kiddo is protected from harsh rays!

Safety Features

  • Secure front zipper
  • Adjustable buckle strap

Final Verdict: For toddlers and older, this makes an excellent float vest to swim comfortably in the pool.  

►► View Now: Speedo Unisex Kids Float Vest ◄◄

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Stearns Youth Boating Vest


For Ages: 6-16 years (50 to 90 pounds)stearns-Youth-Boating-Vest

Best For: Boats, Swimming, Kayaking, Tubing

Overall Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars


What to Know

This life vest naturally fitted design makes it great to wear during water adventures like boating, swimming, kayaking, or tubing.

Again, Stearns brand is known for its added “safety” elements.

Its open-sided design allows you to easily perform water activities.

Safety Features

  • Adjustable buckles for secure fitting
  • Durable flotation foam
  • Coast guard approved

Final Verdict: If your kiddo needs a comfy and secure-fitting life vest to wear during various water adventures, this one has you covered.  Plus, it doesn’t break the bank. 🙂

►► View Now: Stearns Youth Boating Vest ◄◄

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How to Choose a Kids Life Vest


Finding the right size life vest is super important for safety reasons.

How do you know what to choose?

Here are helpful tips to know when searching for the right one…

  • Read the manufacture’s recommendations on sizing based upon your child’s weight
  • The life vest needs to fit snug but not overly tight
  • All fasteners should be able to close
  • The life jacket should be worn for the appropriate water activity

These tips are a good rule of thumb to keep in mind when buying a life jacket for your kiddo.

Common Questions and Answers


What should I look for in a kid’s life jacket?

For infants and small kids, padded head support is crucial to keeping a child’s head above water.

You also want an accessible grab handle to pull your little one out of the water.

Why do life jackets have crotch straps?

Crotch straps are an important feature to prevent the vest from riding up over a child’s head.

How do I size a life jacket for my child?best-life-jackets-for-kids

A general rule is to follow the manufacture’s recommendations on sizing based upon your child’s weight.

You want the life vest to be “snug” but still comfortable to keep on.

If you can’t make the life vest fit snuggly, then it too big in size.

What life vest should kids wear when boating?

Make sure the life vest is Coast Guard approved.

This ensures you are wearing a jacket that’s safe for boating.

What does Coast Guard approved life jacket mean?

These life vests are designed to keep you safe in a couple of ways…

  • Keep your head above water
  • Remain in an upright position to allow you to breathe

What’s the difference between a life jacket and a personal flotation device (PFD)?

PFDs are comfier to wear because they are designed to swim in or to wear for longer periods.

However, PFDs do not have the same level of protection as life jackets do.

Life jackets are made to keep you afloat or to turn an unconscious person onto their back to properly breathe.

Thank You!


I want to wrap up by extending my gratitude to thank you for stopping by today!

If you have questions or anything to add that I did not cover, please comment below.

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→ BONUS RESOURCE: The BoatUS Foundation is dedicated to keeping kids safe in the water. Check out this Life Jacket Loaner Program to rent a life jacket for your kiddo.


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