best life vest for toddlers

How to Choose the Best Life Vest for Toddlers 2023

Your little cutie may not be ready for swimming lessons yet; that does not mean he can’t enjoy an exhilarating sail on open waters – subject to wearing safety gear.

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According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, your baby should be rightfully kitted with a life jacket when near a river, ocean, lake, or other water bodies, even if you do not intend for them to actually step in the water. This is important as natural water bodies are dangerous for young kids and babies who can’t swim.

Fatal drowning has been identified by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as being a leading cause of unintentional injury that leads to death for kids between the age of 1 to 14years. As such, choosing the best life vest for toddlers is one vital way to keep your little ones safe when sailing, boating, or canoeing. Here are the 7 best life vests for toddlers that we found on the market today.

Best life vest for toddlers for 2023 Review: Key Features, Pros, and Cons

Aside from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warnings, parents know drowning is dangerous to young children. But again, we don’t want to deprive our young ones of the joy of fun water activities. One effective way to keep them safe is by wearing a life vest for your little cuties. The table below contains our pick of the best life vest for toddlers. They are affordable, effective, and safe for toddlers.

ImageBrandMaterialVest WeightBaby WeightDetails
O'Neill WetsuitsNylon1.27lbsUp to 30lbsCheck price
O'Neill WetsuitsNylon12.8 Ounces30 - 50lbsCheck price
AirheadPolyester1.05lbsUp to 30lbsCheck price
Stohlquist WaterwareNylon0.84lbs30 - 50lbsCheck price
Full ThrottleNylon9.59 Ounces30-50lbsCheck price
StearnsBlend0.55lbs30 to 50lbsCheck price
SalusNylon0.75 lbs9 to 25lbsCheck price

1. O’Neill Waterski Infant USCG Vest 

Highlighted Features
  • Nylon material
  • U.V. protection
  • One size fits all

Do you need a life vest that can auto-flip babies on their back when they fall face-first on the water? Then the O’Neill Waterski is what you seek. It is safe, comfortable, and sturdy. Crafted from a top-quality nylon shell, the exterior is sturdy. In addition, a closed-cell marine PVC foam ensures it is comfortable to wear.

As a waterski vest, this vest will easily withstand use in the pool and other calm water bodies for years with zero damage. We found four small draining holes on the vest that ensures it does not become soggy while also keeping it lightweight. Other prominent features are easily adjustable straps and a zipper on the front that keeps your baby safe all the time.

This vest will fit your toddler as they age. There is a rescue handle at the top that is super-easy to grab, while a top-quality buoyant foam means this vest is suitable for water sports like kayaking, boating, etc.

The O’Neill Wake Waterski Infant USCG Vest is designed to carry toddlers up to 30lbs. We especially love the buoyancy on this vest, which makes it perfect for non-swimmers. And well-made V-neck tackles that eliminate chafe problems observed in other life vests that we tested.

  • This life vest will protect your toddler from harmful UVB and UVA rays.
  • It is designed to turn babies on their backs.
  • U.S. Coast Guard approves it.
  • It has excellent buoyancy and is perfect for non-swimmers.
  • Seven highly visible colors are available.
  • It might ride on the face of your toddler.

2. O’Neill Wetsuits Infant Superlite USCG Life Vest 

Highlighted Features
  • Mesh for Drainage
  • Overlock Stitched
  • Strategic Seam Placement

The unique combination of premium design and visible colors makes this buoyant life vest one of the best on the market today. Fortified with top-quality buoyancy, this vest is perfect for water sports like Paddleboarding, Kayak, boating, and many more.

Since this vest is suitable for water sports, you can expect that it is perfect for use in calm waters. Not only high-level buoyancy, but it is also incredibly safe. Made from polyester shells, the exterior is extremely durable, and a lightweight polyethylene foam ensures it remains soft and comfortable.

We spotted padding on the neck and front that is designed to keep toddlers afloat and face-up. No matter the conditions, when your kids fall into the water, this vest will flip them on their backs. Since this life vest tightly hugs the chin/neck area, mobility may be impeded. As such, your baby may have slight difficulty in moving his head around. But this is not definite.

Located on the front are Derlin belly buckles, zipper, and a crotch strap to ensure your baby is safe all the time. The crotch strap has a perfect length, not too short or long. What’s more? It is U.S. Coast Guard Approved and one of the best life vest for toddlers 2023.

  • This life vest comes with a zipper and 3 buckles for extra safety.
  • Highly visible color combinations are available.
  • It is comfortable and highly durable.
  • It is U.S. Coast Guard Approved.
  • This vest is bit heavy.

3. Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest 

Highlighted Features
  • Polyester
  • Head pillow
  • Built-in crotch strap

Need a budget-friendly and high-quality life vest for your little cutie? You’ve found one! The Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest offers excellent comfort and safety even at a pocket-friendly price. We love the two-color combos it comes with and the plenty of room that allows toddlers the needed mobility to enjoy fun water activities.

Also, it comes with a large collar that provides a cushion and superb buoyancy to keep your child safe inside. We also observed an additional strap instead of a zipper, as seen in some models that we tested. Although a zipper offers a form of relief knowing that your kid will be held in place, the straps are equally secure. And for the price, it is perfect.

The highly visible grab on the top helps make rescue super-fast during emergencies.  It is a Type11 infant vest, meaning it is designed for toddlers less than 30lbs.

  • It is certified safe by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • It is roomy, adjustable, and safe.
  • You can choose between two varieties of highly visible colors.
  • It may chafe the chin.

4. Stohlquist Waterware Life Jacket

Highlighted Features
  • Nylon
  • Double collar
  • Entry front zipper

Planning to head off to a lakeshore next summer? Having been denied last summer, it’s gearing up to be a family time to be remembered.

There are several fun activities that you can do lakeside like reading, sunbathing and playing ball. Of course, there is swimming, and also wakeboarding, pedal boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, and many more. It is an enjoyable time with family, but also a time to prevent avoidable water accidents.

This is where the Stohlquist Waterware Life Jacket comes in. Are you thinking that your toddler might dislike it? This vest is super-comfortable and well-constructed than many other toddler life vests that we tested.

This life vest is United States Coast Guard approved. It is safe for kids and will protect them from accidents and injuries associated with fun water activities. It comes with a broad neck that is extra comfortable and a solid zipper for extra security. You will also find padded head support designed to flip your toddler’s face up when in a water body.

If you need a life vest that is designed for beach safety, go for this product. The color combo is bright. As a result, it is highly visible in the water. In addition, the materials are resilient, prioritizing your kid’s wellbeing and health above all when boating, swimming, or playing on a water body.

  • It is certified safe by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • There’s a unique wrap-around foam for extra comfort.
  • It comes with large arms holes that prevent chafing.
  • No significant cons we noticed.

5. Full Throttle Water Buddies Life Vest — Best graphics

Highlighted Features
  • Child-friendly graphics
  • Hand Wash
  • Belly straps and a crotch strap

The Full Throttle Water Buddies Life Vest has the best graphics of them all. During unboxing, you can’t help but notice the attractive colors at first sight. It has one of the most beautiful, fun graphics on a life vest in the market today.

Should you love to go for this product, there are four beautiful, fun graphics variants to choose from. You can have a look at this point, but wait till the end of the review before clicking “Buy Now.”

The Full Throttle Water Buddies Life Vest has a crotch strap and two belly straps for added safety. They are adjustable and won’t break easily. As such, they will serve your baby for years. We also love the sturdy grab handle on this vest that ensures lightning-speed rescue, which doubles as a hanging hole the vest when not in use.

One thing we do not like about this vest is the absence of a flip the face-up feature. This vest is essentially a buoyancy aid designed for teaching kids how to swim.

  • It comes with attractive child-friendly graphics.
  • It is USCG Approved certified.
  • The straps are made of high-quality materials and won’t break easily.
  • It may chafe the skin.

6. Stearns Original Puddle Jumper for Kids – Best for full mobility

Highlighted Features
  • Adjustable buckle
  • Kid-friendly design
  • One size fits all

If your toddler does not like wearing a life vest, you should give this puddle jumper a try. This jumper is comfortable, safe, and approved by the United States coast guard. Plus, it allows for greater mobility than other life vests on this list.

This puddle jumper will keep your kid afloat and build confidence among kids learning to swim, making them comfortable around or in water. Crafted from a solid nylon shell, it is durable, and the soft foam interior makes it super-comfortable.

The Stearns Original Puddle Jumper for Kids fits perfectly, making it feels really safe. We notice that the low-profile design makes it fully mobile and safe. And unlike in some other vests, this comes with a tough back snap buckle that can’t be mistakenly opened by your little cutie.

The strap is easy to adjust; as such, the vest will be functional for your kid’s growth milestones. It comes in 11 beautiful colors; do you like the designs? We absolutely love them.

  • This life vest is USCG approved.
  • It is adjustable, durable, and comfy.
  • It allows mobility and encourages movement.
  • No flip the face-up feature is included.

7. Salus Bijoux Baby life Vest – Best live vest for hot days

Highlighted Features
  • White/Blue/Pink color
  • Buckle strap

Is your toddler going to play around a waterbody? A bulky life vest can cause more discomfort when it’s hot. If your toddler is likely to spend plenty of time on the sand around a water body, you should go for this life vest.

It comes with a webbing harness system and an adjustable mesh designed to improve the circulation of air and prevent plastic materials from chafing the neck and arm. The mesh, in particular, will allow your baby to lie comfortably in a carrier or blanket.

The Salus Bijoux Baby Vest is designed for babies weighing 9 to 25lbs of weight. It comes with additional floatation and a 3-piece collar that will cradle your toddler’s head. So if you plan to spend quite some time on the beach, this life vest will keep your baby cool and safe.

  • It comes with extra floatation on the neck area for extra buoyancy.
  • There’s webbing and a mesh harness to keep your toddler cool on hot days.
  • It is lightweight.
  • Some parents find it difficult to wear for kids the first time.
best life vest for toddlers

Best life vest for toddlers:  Buying Guide

Safety is the number one criterion when picking the best life vest for toddlers. Consider these factors before making a buying decision. You will be well informed to choose the best vest for your little cutie.

U.S. Coast Guard-Approval

All life vests on this list are approved okay for children’s safety on water bodies by the United States Coast Guard for water use. Safety is key, and you should not settle for any product without this regulatory approval.

Size and weight

Before clicking add to cart, and buy, measure your toddler’s chest circumference, and ascertain your preferred life vest is a good fit. In general, life vests are available in three broad sizes: 30lbs or less, 30-50lbs, and 50-90lbs. The 30lbs or less, 30-50lbs variations are catered for by the products reviewed on this list.


Your kid needs a different life vest as a non-swimmer sailing or exploring the water body. Or as a rookie or a big kid who is a good swimmer spending the afternoon boating. If your kid is just starting out, consider going for Full Throttle Water Buddies Life Vest designed for non-swimmers.


Go for a life vest made from quality materials that will not irritate. Also, ensure it is a life vest that will not chafe your toddler’s arm and neck. Do not buy a large-sized vest in the hope that your kid will grow into it. The life vest should not be too large. If it is, your kids will be uncomfortable, distracting them from swimming, which can be dangerous. Consider going for the Stearns Original Puddle Jumper for Kids It is easily adjustable and will serve for years.


Go for life vests having not just an attractive color but a highly visible color. A color that is easy to spot will aid the fast retriever of a drowning kid during an emergency. As such, go for a life vest with colors like neon green, neon yellow. Otherwise, rescue might be delayed.

Quick dry

Life jackets will get wet; the best life vest for toddlers should quickly drain and dry instead of being soggy and developing mold. As such, go for vests made from quick-drying and water-resistant materials like neoprene, polyester, and nylon. Also, consider going for life vests having built-in drain holes like the O’Neill Waterski Infant USCG Vest.

UVA/B protection

Go for a life vest fortified with UVA/B protection, a protective layer that will shield your kid from destructive U.V. rays of the sun. This is very important as exposure to harmful rays can predispose your kids to effects that may become troublesome later in life. For instance, a sunburn blister can increase the risk of your kid developing skin cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: At what age should a child start swimming classes?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, swimming lessons are an important protection mechanism against drowning that can start at age 1.

Q: How long should a 2year old toddler stay in a water body?

Do not keep your toddler in water for more than 10 minutes the first time. When the toddler is out, towel dry immediately or wrap with a warm blanket. For babies, age 12 months or less, do not keep them in water for 30 minutes or longer at any time.

Q: How long will it take a baby to drown?

Toddlers drown quietly. This can be as short as 30 seconds. However, the initial panic to exit the water creates a dangerous scenario that can result in near-drowning or loss of life. A child is drowning when he involuntarily inhales underwater, drawing it directly into his airway.

Q: Is drowning common among toddlers?

Toddlers between 1 to 4 years of age are reported to have the highest drowning rates. A huge percentage of these drownings happen in the swimming pools. A child can drown at any time, especially when near a water body, during an unsupervised visit to swimming pools.


Water fun activities are awesome for kids of all ages, even more so for your little cuties. Toddlers are precious cargoes. As such, they need high-level protection at all times.

Before allowing your kid to head off to any water body, ensure they wear a life vest approved by relevant regulatory bodies. In addition, enroll your kid in swimming classes. This life lesson will reduce the risk of drowning when the need arises. The best life vest for toddlers reviewed above has been certified safe on water bodies. They are affordable, effective, and functional. You can’t go wrong with these vests.

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