8 Best Kids Life Jackets for 2022

Kids on the water - testing life vests

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Life jackets for kids are an essential part of all parents’ packing lists when heading out onto the water, and when on a moving boat. It’s the law, but it also means kids can have fun floating in the water too.

The water can be treacherous, and this is especially the case for children. Drowning is the leading cause–almost always because of no life jacket–of accidental death among children around the world.

A life jacket for your child gives you peace of mind that your infant is safe.

So get a life vest and make sure it’s a good one. We’ve curated a list of reliable models including: infant life jackets, life jackets for kids and youth life jackets.

The Top 5 Kids Life Jackets in 2022

All the Kids Life Vest We've tested:

Safe & Accessible

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If you are looking for a compact jacket for your toddler, that has an eye-catching design….

The Stohlquist is the ideal life jacket to keep your toddler safe and secure in the water. This life jacket has a double collar that offers excellent mobility and support in the water. The coat wraps around the body of the infant and pushes his face upward. You will also receive added security with a quick-release button over the entry zipper.

The infant jacket will let you rest assured that your baby is safe in the water. You will have a grab handle that you can use to pick up your infant any time when an emergency occurs. The jacket comes in a wide array of bright colors to easily spot your kids.

Specs & Features

  • It comes in vibrant colors.
  • Quick-release button.
  • A buoyancy of 7 lbs and 6 oz.
  • Has an adjustable crotch strap.
  • Double collar.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.7

Reasons to buy:

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    The infant life jacket has a double collar that cradles the child’s head but still allows for full movement.
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    The life jacket has an open back for more breathability and seat comfort.
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    There is a grab handle that makes the rescue process a breeze.

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markThe jacket does not come with reflectors.
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Where to buy:

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Stohlquist Toddler Life

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Life jackets have come a long way since their inception, they started off as cork blocks in canvas vests but companies like O’Neill have been paving the way at the forefront of innovation. The O’Neill infant superlite reflects this high-quality development in life jackets. This life jacket is lightweight, maneuverable, and stylish without cutting corners on safety.

Specs & Features

  • 30-50 pounds
  • Type III
  • Unixsex
  • 19.5 x 15 x 3.25

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.7

Reasons to buy:

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    Comfortable
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    Minimal bulk design allows full mobility and easy on and off.
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    The strong polyester coating is made soft by the polyethylene foam
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    Heavy duty quick release belts can adjust to different body shapes
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    Crotch Strap for extra safety

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markSize specifically recommended for approximate chest size up to 24 inches.
  • check-markRuns small and may not fit all children in the weight range; please measure children prior to purchase.
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Where to buy:

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O’Neill Infant Superlite

Watersports for Youth

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The Mustang Survival Rev Young Adult PFD is great for sailing, paddling and tubing. It’s for kids that are comfortable in the water to begin with, a springboard to adult vests. This is a comfortable life jacket, made by a trusted boating company that makes safety and survival gear.

Specs & Features

  • 88-110 pounds
  • Type III

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.8

Reasons to buy:

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    Adjustable side straps make this comfortable for different body types
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    Breathability is improved via a ventilated mesh in the back.
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    For easy rescue, it has a robust grab handle
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    The chest, back, and sides are divided with soft, flexible foam that moves with them and is angled at the edges to prevent digging in
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    In the water, the bright white-on-red material stands out, and it's robust enough to withstand constant use

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markCrotch straps aren't included for added security
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Where to buy:

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Mustang Survival

Good for Waterskiing

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This jacket is made for sports like water skiing. Though manufactured by Coleman, Stearns is a seriously reliable company producing life jackets for both military and government as well as recreation, they have been in the industry since the 1920s.

Specs & Features

  • 50-90 pounds
  • Type III
  • 17 x 17 x 2.5 inches

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.7

Reasons to buy:

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    US Coast Guard-approved life jacket
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    Antimicrobial protection inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria, mold, and mildew
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    Great for use on a boat, personal watercraft, or for tow sports
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    Stylish

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markThere is no crotch strap for extra security.
  • check-markNot very bright colors so bad visibility for search and rescue.
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Where to buy:

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Stearns Antimicrobial

Floating with Your Infant

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This vibrant Type II life jacket is aimed at infants, they love to wear it because it is fun and comfortable, parents love it because it’s safe and practical.

Specs & Features

  • Kids up to 30 pounds
  • Type II
  • Unixsex
  • 18.1 x 12.2 x 2.8 inches

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.5

Reasons to buy:

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    It has Coast Guard approval
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    Fun design to engage child and colorful for improved visibility
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    Large headpiece for head support
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    Soft Hydroprene shell is comfortable for kids
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    Durable materials keeps this inheritable to siblings as hand-me-down

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markThe neck is not adjustable
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Where to buy:

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Stearns Infant Puddle

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Seachoice is known for its reliability while keeping costs to a minimum. This life vest has the grab strap to secure a kid who’s fallen off a tube or out of a boat. Specifically for those who are less confident in the water.

Specs & Features

  • 50-90 pounds
  • Type II
  • Unisex
  • 14 x 2.75 x 25.5 inches

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.5

Reasons to buy:

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    USCG Type II Deluxe Children’s Vest fits securely and provides outstanding buoyancy
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    Grab strap on the collar to grab the child from the water.
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    Yellow and red colors help spotters keep eyes on kids in the water
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    3 adjustable belts in front.

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markNo antimicrobial protection will need proper drying after use, and is not ideal for storage on a damp boat.
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Where to buy:

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Seachoice 86120

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When designing the Infant with Collar, it was important to keep in mind the smallest swimmers. It’s designed with foam concentrated on the front to reliably flip an infant on its back, in the event they fall overboard.

Everyone in your family may now enjoy summer fun in the water, including your tiniest
members.

Specs & Features

  • Up to 30 pounds
  • Type III
  • Unixsex

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.1

Reasons to buy:

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    Securing a good fit is simple with soft, conforming foam and stretchy fabric
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    In seconds, the infant can be turned face-up in the water with the help of a supportive collar that acts as a headrest.
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    Recovering a youngster is quick and straightforward thanks to an easily accessible grasp hold.
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    Its adjustable crotch and belly straps ensure a comfortable and secure fit.

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markWith so much foam padding, it can be uncomfortable if not adjusted correctly
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Where to buy:

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MTI Infant PFD

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The Seachoice Type II design rings true with the classic retro lifeguard style, think Baywatch. Its bright colors make this jacket that extra bit safer. It comes with a full spectrum of grab handles, a double chest, and crotch straps for added security.

Specs & Features

  • 30-50 pounds
  • Type II
  • Unixsex

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.1

Reasons to buy:

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    USCG Type II Deluxe Children’s Vest fits securely and provides outstanding buoyancy
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    Grab handle at top of vest to lift child wearing this vest
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    200D is both robust and buoyant
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    Bright yellow and red shell helps spotters keep the kid in view
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    Front zipper, twin adjustable belts with buckles in front, and an adjustable crotch strap

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markProbably not going to be too comfortable for 45-50lbs kids.
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Where to buy:

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Seachoice 86110 Type II

Related Reviews

How to decide on your kids’ life jackets?

The most important thing to check when choosing your child’s life jacket is to make sure they are US Coast Guard approved. It’s essential that the vest or jacket fits correctly to your child’s weight.

Life jackets for children fall into three categories based on weight:

Infant Life Jacket: 0 – 30lbsChild Life Jackets: 30-50lbs andYouth Life Jacket: 50-90lbs.

Once you have decided the weight you need to decide on the type of life jacket. There are two different types of classification for both infant life vests and kids life jackets. They are: Type II or Type III.

It’s the United States Coast Guard that determines the classification of these models when they approve them. All models on this list are USCG-approved.

TYPE II

Provides head support to make sure the child is turned face up. It also has grab straps to hoist back out of the water and crotch straps to keep the life vest on.

The Stearns Puddle Jumper is a good example of this, intended as a baby life jacket. The wearer won’t generally be accustomed to the water and it’s meant to keep their head out of the water.

This is for those who have no or weak swimming skills. Infants between 0-30lbs always need a Type II.

TYPE III

Made for more confident swimmers who do not need to be turned the right way. They do not have grab straps, crotch straps, or neck support. They are less bulky and often more comfortable.

Type III life vests are the ones used for waterskiing, for swimming and for sailing or boating. They are not as cumbersome and provide more mobility.

The O’Neill Superlite and the Mustang Survival Rev are great examples of models that are intended for performance.

Type III have smaller profiles too, meaning they will likely be more comfortable.

No matter what the activity, it’s very important to have a life jacket. It’s also wise in seemingly calm and safe environments like at the beach by the shore. Undercurrents can be tricky here, for example.

Research has shown us that children are more likely to wear a life jacket if you are also wearing one. So head on over and check out our adult life vest article here.

FAQ

Frequently asked questions

What’s the best life jackets for kids?

There are different types of kids life jackets based on the size of the kid and the activity. The US Coast Guard classifies recreational life vests into Type II & Type III models based on how they support a child in the water. These are some of the best life jackets for kids:

Why invest in a life vest?

For peace of mind and a more relaxing water-based adventure with your kids make sure you get a life vest. Whether you are boating, kayaking, swimming, surfing, paddling, or just hanging out by the lake it’s always best to be safe.

Where to buy kids life jackets?

Amazon or Rei gives a wide range of life jackets for all ages and activities, just remember to always check that they are US lifeguard certified.

Check out some of the best kids life jackets by reading this article.

When do kids need to wear life jackets?

Even if your child knows how to swim, make sure they wear a life jacket while they are near natural bodies of water such as lakes or the ocean. Life jackets can also be used in and around pools by inexperienced swimmers.

Federal law in the United States requires children under the age of 13 to wear a life jacket when on a moving boat. This varies by state. More information can be found by clicking here.

Should kids wear life jackets when ice fishing?

If there is a chance the ice will crack, don’t go out! But yes floatation devices are recommended, but due to the cold nature of ice fishing a floating ice suit may be more appropriate.

Why are adult life jackets not good for kids?

For a life jacket to work correctly, it must fit tightly, and children’s life jackets will not work with adult life jackets.

Grab the youngster at the shoulders, grabbing the life jacket so that they dont slip through the openings in the life jacket’s shoulders.

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