5 Best Life Jackets for Toddlers & Infants in 2017
Going out on water is a lot of fun, but only when everyone is following proper safety procedures. This particularly true if you have your children with you, as they are far more likely to have an accident than you are.
According to the Cost Guard, out of the thousands of kids who drown every year, over 87% of them were not wearing a life jacket.
So, to help keep your little ones safe, we are going to look at some of the best life jackets for toddlers & infants, as well as go over the various features and components that you should watch out.
Table of Contents
- 5 Best Life Jackets for Toddlers - Comparison
- 5 Best Life Jackets for Toddlers - Reviews
- How to Choose a Life Jacket
- Final Verdict
5 Best Life Jackets for Toddlers - Comparison
30 - 50
Oxford shell and Liner
8 - 30
Stearns Infant Classic Series
5 Best Life Jackets for Toddlers - Reviews
1. O'Neill Wetsuits Wake Waterski Child USCG Life Vest
Starting us off is this super lightweight and easy to wear life vest from O’Neill Wetsuits. This model is classified as a Type III jacket from the US Coast Guard, meaning that it’s ideal for light water and shore activities.
It also means that your child must be able to swim somewhat, as it will not ensure that their head is face up.
Nonetheless, if your little one can swim and you aren’t going out in rough water, this jacket is perfect. It only weighs a pound, and it uses fluid foam so that it doesn’t feel too bulky or cumbersome.
It comes with belts across the stomach and between the legs so that it stays on in almost all conditions, and there is a safety loop on the back for quick and easy grabbing. Finally, this jacket is rated for kids between 30-50 pounds.
2. Stohlquist Unisex Infant/Toddler Nemo
Next, we have a life jacket that is intended for a much younger crowd. While the O’Neill model above is perfect for older children, this one is designed for both infants and toddlers.
As such, it is rated as a type 2 from the US Coast Guard, meaning that it will keep your little one’s head above water and should turn him or her around so that he or she is face up at all times.
The secret to this model’s design is the neck support collar that provides both comfort and safety. There is also a larger safety loop on the back of the neck for quick and easy grabbing.
Overall, this jacket is perfect for most water activities, but because it is not a Type 1, we recommend that you also make sure that your child can either swim or kick to stay afloat, just to be 100% safe.
3. Stearns Infant Classic Series Vest
Next, we have another type 2 infant vest, but this one is a bit different as it comes with a much larger neck support area.
This means that it will do a much better job at keeping your little one’s head above water, but it might also be a bit bulky and uncomfortable, depending on the size of your child.
This particular model is rated for kids between 8-30 pounds, but it seems to favor those on the larger side of that spectrum than the smaller.
Overall, this jacket is well made, with a thick nylon exterior and durable PE foam inside for extra buoyancy. It has all of the standard safety features, including a large neck loop for quick retrieval, leg straps to prevent it from sliding off, and a zipper enclosure for convenience.
4. O'Brien Child Nylon with Collar Toddler Life Vest
If you have an older kid and you’re looking for a vest that is higher rated than the one we saw above, you’ll love this version from O’Brien.
It is classified as a type 2 life jacket, meaning that it will keep your kid’s head above water and allow them to be rescued much easier.
Overall, the safety and performance of this vest are similar to the other type 2’s we’ve seen. It uses thick PE foam inside to add extra buoyancy, and it has a durable nylon shell to ensure that it won’t break down easily. Because it’s meant for bigger kids, it comes with three front straps in addition to the one between the legs, allowing for a better fit overall.
This jacket is rated for children between 30-50 pounds, and it comes with an extra-large neck support piece to ensure that they won’t go beneath the surface.
5. X2O Hello Kitty Infant Life Vest
Finishing off our list is this branded Hello Kitty Life Jacket from X20. This particular model is kind of a hybrid regarding child size because it will work for almost anyone up to 50 pounds, including infants.
That being said, it’s best to try it out on your little one first to make sure that it’s comfortable, as the neck support may be a bit too large for some children.
Overall, this vest has everything your kid needs to stay safe on the water. Being type 2, it will keep his or her head above the surface, and it comes with a large safety loop on the back for quick and easy retrieval if necessary. It has three waist straps and a leg strap so that you can make sure that it fits correctly, and it weighs less than a pound.
How to Choose a Life Jacket
First and foremost, you want to make sure that your life jacket is properly rated for your child. The US Coast Guard has five different classifications for flotation devices, but only 1 through 3 are good enough for children. Here is an overview of how they work.
Type 1: This is best if you are planning on going on the open ocean, as it will keep your child’s head above water at all times and will roll him or her to the back position so that his or her face is always up. Overall, type 1 jackets are perfect for rough waters.
Type 2: This is the most common classification as it provides excellent flotation without being too bulky, like a type 1. These will keep your little one’s head above water, but he or she may have to work to stay face up the whole time. These are ideal for most boating and shore activities.
Type 3: If your kid can already swim, then this is a good option. These jackets are perfect for beach activities and will keep your little one afloat, but it won’t necessarily keep his or her head above water without some assistance.
Once you’ve picked out the right type, you then have to make sure that it will fit correctly on your child. Overall, the head opening should be tight enough that the jacket can’t slip over his or her face, and it should be tight enough around the waist to keep it from slipping off on the sides.
Usually, life jackets will have a zipper and a couple of straps, with one of them going between the legs to ensure that the whole thing stays on at all times. Multiple straps mean a tighter fit, which is ideal if your kid is older.
After looking through each of these jackets, we have to say that our top pick has to be the Stohlquist Unisex Jacket. It is well built and rated as a type 2, making it ideal for almost any conditions. However, if you have an older child and need something a bit bigger, then the O’Neill Jacket is perfect, assuming that he or she can swim. Otherwise, the O’Brien will be a better option overall.