Best Swimming Vest for Toddlers & Kids in 2021

Child floating on their back in a pool wearing a swim vest floatation device

Keeping your little ones safe near water

One thing I have always loved about my children has been their sense of adventure, which extends to their fearless approach to water of any kind.  However, when they were younger, this was also cause for more than one near heart attack and the feeling of unease that I couldn’t be close to all of them at once.  

I’m sure other mums have experienced similar situations to mine, which is why I am such an advocate of swim aids for children of all ages.  In this article, we’ll be taking a look at different kids’ swim vests and other swim aids from infants to older kids, so you’re sure to find what’s best for your own bub’s skill level in the water.

This post is part of our tried and tested essential family travel product reviews series


Swimming vest v Life Jacket v Arm Floaties

Your bub’s swimming skills and the type of water activity you’re going to be engaging in will determine which type of swim aid you’ll need.  

Swim Trainers

Kids swim vests and arm floaties fall into this category, as they’re meant to bolster your child’s existing swim skills in the water.  These are especially helpful for children who have had some level of swim training but are not totally comfortable in the water.  

Swimming vests for kids are typically designed to be both buoyant and warm, but they are not as buoyant as life jackets.  Therefore, you will still need to closely supervise your child while they’re in the water. 

Arm floaties for toddlers and kids perhaps for your most advanced swimmers, as they only fit around your child’s upper arms for minimal support; however, they’re an excellent way to add an extra layer of comfort for both you and your little one while they’re in the water.

Life Jacket

Life jackets, or buoyancy suits, are an essential (and often required) piece of equipment for any child under 13 years of age while in a boat or swimming in deep, open water.  They are constructed of buoyant material intended to keep your child’s head above water even if they have no swimming experience.  You’ll want to find one that is Coast Guard-approved, as these have passed rigorous safety testing. (This is a US requirement but appropriate guidance to follow for kids life jacket products worldwide).  

Puddle Jumper Design

Stearns puddle jumpers really deserve to be in their own category, as they’re a combination of a toddler swim float suit, arm floaties, and a swim vest.  They’re intended for children between 30-50 lbs as opposed to life jackets, which come in all sizes.  

young child swimming with a puddle jumper flotation device

From my own personal experience, this is one of the best products out there for toddlers, as they keep the chest and arms out of the water to mimic the natural swimming position.  You’ll still need to keep a watchful eye, but the puddle jumper will make both you and your bub feel much more at ease.  

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What to look for in a good swim vest for toddlers

Material: Most toddler swim vests made from waterproof neoprene, nylon, or polyester.  These materials are especially lightweight and quick-drying.  

Sun Protection: Added UV protection is not a guarantee in kids swim vests, but many of them have this additional protection as well.  You’ll always want to make sure that you still use sunscreen on your bub regardless of the type of swim aid they’re wearing.

Comfort: Most swimming vests for toddlers and other swim aids are made from lightweight, comfortable material, but if they’re ill-fitting or worn for hours on end, chafing or rubbing could occur. You’ll want to make sure you consult the product’s size chart to ensure your child gets the right fit. 

Level of Buoyancy: Toddler swim float suits come in different levels of buoyancy depending on the activity they’re designed for..  For example, the most common types of life jackets are Type II and Type III.  

Type II life jackets are intended for infants and children who don’t know how to swim yet, while Type III jackets are more versatile and comfortable to wear, but less buoyant.  These are for children who have basic swimming skills but are not fully independent in the water.

Child’s Swim Skills: You know your bub’s skills in the water the best, as you’re probably the one who had to take them to swim lessons, or you have given them yourself.  If you have an infant or younger toddler, you’ll obviously want to choose a more supportive swim aid, while older toddlers and kids might require less support. 


Best Toddler Swim Vests and Life Jackets

 ProductBest forChild weightCoast Guard Approved?
STEARNS Life Puddle JumperBeginners30 to 50 lbsYes/Type III Child's PFD
Body Glove Swim Life JacketBeginners30 to 50 lbsYes/Type III Child's PFD
Speedo Swim Flotation Classic Life VestIntermediateMedium 33 to 44 lbs
Large 45 to 60 lbs
Yes/Type II Child's PFD
Swimschool Swim Trainer VestBeginner/intermediateUp to 50 lbs (Age 4 to 6)
Gogokids Swim VestBeginner/intermediate26 to 77 lbs (Age 3 to 8)
Full Throttle Infant Baby-Safe VestBeginnersLess than 30 lbsYes/Type II Life Jacket
Stearns Child Classic Series VestIntermediate30 to 50 lbsYes
Stohlquist Fit Youth Life JacketIntermediate/Experienced 50 to 90 lbsYes

Best swim vests for toddlers and kids

Best for Younger Toddlers: STEARNS Life Puddle Jumper 

The Stearns Puddle Jumper is perhaps one of the most popular swim aids of all time, and for good reason.  It has been rigorously tested and can be used anywhere that requires Coast Guard-approved swim aids.  It helps build your bub’s confidence while learning how to swim and can be worn comfortably for hours of fun in the sun.  

  • Sun Protection: Minimal
  • Product Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Material: Woven polyester for less chafing
  • Available Colors: 12 Different Designs
  • Size: 30-50 lbs
  • Best Suited For: Beginning swimmers
  • Coast Guard Approved: Yes/Type III Child’s PFD
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Runner-Up: Body Glove Swim Life Jacket

I can best describe this toddler swim vest as a swim vest/life jacket hybrid, as it combines features of both to create a uniquely supportive product for your beginning swimmer.  The vest design provides additional stability and less slipping, and it has a quick-release rear safety buckle.  Your child will love all of the cute and colorful designs as well! 

  • Sun Protection: Minimal
  • Product Weight: 9.17 ounces
  • Material: Nylon
  • Available Colors: 14 Available Designs
  • Size: 30-50 lbs
  • Best Suited For: Beginning Swimmers
  • Coast Guard Approved: Yes/Type III Child’s PFD

Best for Older Toddlers/Intermediate Swimmers: Speedo Unisex-Child Swim Flotation Classic Life Vest

For older toddlers and children who are already familiar with the water, this kids swim vest is an excellent option. The neoprene material adds warmth and extra buoyancy, and it also has UV50+ Block the Burn protection to help protect your child’s skin.  It also has a safety strap that would easily fit over a swim diaper or swimsuit/shorts.  

  • Sun Protection: UV 50+
  • Product Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Material: 100% Polyester
  • Available Colors: 5 Available Colors
  • Size: Medium (33-44 lbs) / Large (45-60 lbs)
  • Best Suited For: Intermediate Swimmers
  • Coast Guard Approved: Yes/Type II Child’s PFD

Runner-Up: Swimschool Swim Trainer Vest with Sun Protective Sleeves

This swim vest for kids combines both support and added UV protection.  The foam within the vest promotes the correct swim position for your child to learn in, and the sleeves provide extra coverage for your child’s shoulders and upper arms.  The chest straps are adjustable, and the swim vest also features a safety strap for additional fit customization. 

  • Sun Protection: UPF 50 fabric
  • Product Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Material: Soft fabric w/built-in foam pads
  • Available Colors: 4 different designs/colors
  • Size: Up to 50 lbs/Ages 4-6
  • Best Suited For: Beginner/Intermediate

Worth a Second Look: Gogokids Swim Vest Life Jacket

We love that this swimming vest for kids comes in a wide range of sizes, from ages 3-8 years.  The neoprene material provides both warmth and buoyancy, and the reinforced safety strap fits securely between your child’s legs to prevent unwanted slipping.  The chest strap has quick-release buckles in the event of an emergency, and the overall construction of the swim vest helps increase your child’s confidence as they learn to swim. 

  • Sun Protection: 100% UV protection on covered areas
  • Product Weight: 12.98 ounces
  • Material 2.5 mm neoprene
  • Available Colors: Blue/Pink
  • Size: S-XL/26-77lbs
  • Best Suited For: Beginner/Intermediate

Best life jackets for toddlers and kids

Best for Infants: Full Throttle Infant Baby-Safe Vest

If you’re planning on being out on the water with your bub, this infant life jacket gets our top pick.  This baby life vest is especially designed to flip your baby safely on his/her back in the event of a water emergency.  The oversized collar provides improved head support, and the padded strap that fits between the legs can comfortably be worn over a diaper.  

  • Sun Protection: N/A
  • Product Weight: N/A
  • Material: Nylon
  • Available Colors: Pink/Orange
  • Size: For infants less than 30 lbs
  • Best Suited For: Beginners 
  • Coast Guard Approved: Yes/USCG-approved Type II Life Jacket
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Best for Toddlers: Stearns Child Classic Series Vest

If you’re planning on taking your toddler out for a day of boating fun, this life jacket is a great option that is specially designed for younger children.  It is constructed with PE flotation foam and has three adjustable buckles for a secure and comfortable fit.  The included leg strap also adds an extra level of safety, which is a plus. 

  • Sun Protection: N/A
  • Product Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Material: Nylon shell with PE flotation foam
  • Available Colors: Red/Blue
  • Size: 30-50 lbs
  • Best Suited For: Intermediate Swimmers
  • Coast Guard Approved: Yes

Best for Older Toddlers/Intermediate Swimmers: Stohlquist Fit Youth Life Jacket

This kids life jacket is intended for your more experienced swimmer while you’re out boating.  The sculpted design of the vest allows for increased arm movement, and it has three easily adjustable buckles.  The hanging loop is a nice feature for drying, and its sporty design is sure to catch your child’s eye. 

  • Sun Protection: N/A
  • Product Weight: 13.62 ounces
  • Material: 200D Nylon outer shell and liner
  • Available Colors: Red-Gray/Blue-Black
  • Size: Youth 50-90 lbs
  • Best Suited For: Intermediate/Experienced Swimmers
  • Coast Guard Approved: Yes

A trip to the beach or pool should be a safe, worry-free experience for the whole family, and this can easily be achieved by finding the right swim aid for your bub.  Our hope is that as our worlds slowly return to some semblance of normalcy, our families will be able to venture out into the sunshine (and water) safely and worry-free. 

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Child swimming in open water with a safety device

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