Best life jacket for toddlers

Health & Safety

Make sure that your life jacket is a bright color such as yellow, orange or red instead of blue or gray. Bright colors are more easily spotted by the human eye from farther away.

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Which life jacket for toddlers is best?

Whenever you’re on a boat or out on the water, make sure everyone has a proper life jacket. This is especially true for the most vulnerable in your group — young children and toddlers. If a child falls into the water, you want peace of mind that they will remain afloat until safety arrives. 

The toddler’s size and age are important factors to consider when deciding which vest is best for you, but our top pick is the Stohlquist Waterware Coast Guard-Approved Life Vest.  

What to know before you buy a life jacket for toddlers


Pay special attention to the size and weight requirements when purchasing a life jacket for your toddler. If it’s too big for your child, it could slip off in the water, but if it’s too small, it might not be buoyant enough to keep them afloat. 

Life jacket type

There are different types of life jackets, but the ones best suited for toddlers are Type II and Type III life jackets. 

Type III jackets may feel more cumbersome when out of the water, but they offer the most head and back support, while keeping the child face up in the water. Type II jackets are less restrictive or heavy, but they’re also less supportive. 

What to look for when buying a life jacket for toddlers

Straps or zippers

  • Straps: Many life jackets for toddlers feature two to three chest straps and a crotch strap. The advantage of straps is that they are adjustable as your child grows and the life jacket can be worn safely by a variety of children in the model’s weight range.
  • Zippers: Some models of life jackets feature zippers instead of straps. If you choose one, it is imperative that the zipper life jackets feature a crotch strop, too. This will keep the jacket from riding up on your child.

Head support 

Some toddler life jackets offer padded head support. This is a great feature that keeps the child’s head out of the water and rotates your child to a face-up position, even if they fall into the water face first.

Grab handle

A grab handle is a bonus feature on some life jackets for toddlers. This handle makes it easy for you to grab your child out of the water if they need a quick rescue.

How much you can expect to spend on a life jacket for toddlers

A life jacket for toddlers doesn’t need to be expensive to be efficient. The color, fit and size are the life jacket’s most important aspects, and you can usually find a reputable, U.S. Coast Guard-approved version from $20 to $60.

Toddler life jackets FAQ 

How do I clean a toddler’s life jacket?

A. For minimal dirt and residue, clean the life jacket with a small amount of soap and a wet rag. If you need to deep clean a well-used jacket, soak it in a large tub of cold water with a deodorizer for at least three minutes. You should not wash the life jacket in a washing machine, which could break down the foam inside the jacket and make it less buoyant.

Do I need to replace my child’s life jacket often? 

A. There is no specific lifespan for a life jacket as long as the jacket is in good condition and the straps or zippers are still effective. The life jacket should be replaced when the child’s weight exceeds the recommended amount, but it can still be used by another child whose weight is in the preferred range.

What are the best life jackets for toddlers?

Top life jacket for toddlers

Stohlquist Waterware Coast Guard-Approved Life Vest

Stohlquist Waterware Coast Guard-Approved Life Vest

What you need to know: This U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket can help kids flip over when in the water, so they can float on their backs and keep their faces out of the water.

What you’ll love: The extra head and neck support is designed to let kids move comfortably in the water, while parents have the confidence that their children are safe. The zipper closure, single-release front buckle, and grab collar for easy retrieval are all features that are ideal for the best life jacket for toddlers.

What you should consider: The additional support can be cumbersome, even though it offers additional flexibility over other models.

Where to buy: Amazon

Top life jacket for toddlers for the money

Stearns Heads-Up Child Vest

Stearns Heads-Up Child Vest

What you need to know: This bright-colored and reflective life jacket for toddlers offers high visibility when in the water. 

What you’ll love: Made from the best-quality ingredients, this life jacket offers a pillow-style neck contoured to keep kids’ faces up and out of water. This jacket is loaded with safety features, including a rescue handle, crotch strap and pair of chest straps.

What you should consider: Always keep an eye on your child in the water as some people report that the neck pads occasionally can pull your child onto their stomach, depending on their weight.

Where to buy: Amazon

Worth checking out

Airhead Gnar Kwik-Dry NeoLite Flex Life Vest

Airhead Gnar Kwik-Dry NeoLite Flex Life Vest

What you need to know: This ultra-lightweight life jacket will assist older toddlers who need additional support to swim and float properly. However, it will not hold a child’s head above water.

What you’ll love: This is a comfortable, soft, flexible and breathable option in life jackets for toddlers. The quick-drying ability will keep kids comfortable in the water and out. 

What you should consider: This jacket is a good option for toddlers who are already comfortable in the water and have the ability to hold their head up above water, because this model will not do that. 

Where to buy: Amazon


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Ryan Dempsey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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