Best Kid’s Life Jackets Ranked

This is our official list of the best kids’ life jackets on the market today. There is nothing more important in this world than keeping your little ones safe! Especially during what should be a fun activity, such as swimming in the kiddo pool.

Highest Reviewed Life Jackets for Your Kids

There are many water activities that may be included in a family fun day. However, when it comes to choosing the best kids’ life jacket for your child, it is no laughing matter. When considering which personal flotation device (PFD) is suitable for your situation, take into account your buoyancy needs based on the activity and size of your child. You may also want to consider your child’s swimming skill level, whether or not they are comfortable around water, and what requirements are to be met.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) requires that all life jackets be USCG-approved and are within the appropriate weight range for the child especially while recreational boating. A selection guide that categorizes life jackets into five different types is provided: only types II, III, and V are approved for use on children.

A quick way to test for a proper fit is to tug moderately in an upward direction while the child is wearing it. If the life jacket rides up over the child’s face or if there is extra room in the armholes, it is too big. The Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association (PFDMA) urges parents not to intentionally purchase life jackets that are too large with the idea that the child needs room to grow. It is imperative that the child is fitted properly and trained to utilize their PFD in an emergency situation.

There are a lot of options to choose from, which can make deciding on a purchase difficult. To help point you in the right direction, here are the top five kids’ life jackets based on functionality and style.

1.) Full Throttle Child Water Buddies Life Vest

Full Throttle Child Water Buddies Life Vest

This simple yet effectively designed USCG approved type III life vest sports a unique rounded foam back. The playful patterns not only amuse the child, but they also make it easier to keep visual contact in the water or in a crowd.

Whether you choose the ladybug, dinosaur, astronaut, or firefly graphics, the life vest will support a child within a 30-50lbs range. The front zipper is secured with two adjustable waist straps. The bottom strap helps the PFD stay in place so that the child can be properly flipped over if needed.


  • It immediately flips the child onto their back if unconscious
  • Unique graphic designs make it easier to distinguish the child in a crowd
  • Rounded vest back provides top-notch neck support


  • It is intended for more advanced swimmers and will not flip the child on their back if there is resistance.

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2.) Stearns Child Classic Series Vest

Stearns Child Classic Series Vest

This U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type III life vest is manufactured sturdy enough to withstand the force that watersports can cause yet flexible enough for comfortable wear for nearshore activities. There are three adjustable straps to secure a child weighing 30-50lbs.

The open sides allow for better movement. However, the bottom strap keeps the life jacket from slipping off as they swim. The shell is made of durable nylon and is filled with PE flotation foam. This vest is intended for children that are more advanced. It does not flip the child over in case of accidents nor does it have a pull handle for emergency extraction.


  • Ideal for boating, tubing, and other watersports
  • Designed with three adjustable chest straps for a custom fit
  • Bright colors stand out in the water as an additional safety feature


  • Will not automatically turn the child face-up and no pull handle

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3.) Speedo Kids’ UPF 50+ Begin to Swim Classic Swim Vest

Speedo Kids' UPF 50+ Begin to Swim Classic Swim Vest

This swim vest delivers everything you’d probably expect from the trusted brand. It designed for children who are swim level 2. Even though it is licensed by the American Red Cross, it is not a USCG approved life jacket. It is a swim aid that allows a child that already familiar with the water to stay afloat as they learn.

The soft polyester lining provides comfort and sturdiness. Even though it is equipped with an adjustable bottom strap, the vest itself is not designed to be custom fitted. Therefore, it is imperative that you choose the correct size for the child. Size medium supports the weight range of 33-45lbs and large supports 45-60 lbs.


  • It is licensed by the American Red Cross
  • UV50+ Block the Burn protection against UVA and UVB rays
  • Made with durable neoprene for added warmth and better buoyancy


  • The vest is not adjustable for a more customized fit

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4.) Stohlquist Unisex Nemo Child Life Jacket

Stohlquist Unisex Nemo Child Life Jacket

One of the best features of this type II life jacket is the creative neck support system, which includes a clever float that rests against the child’s back until they are immersed in water. This particular feature also provides younger toddlers more stability as they learn to control movement.

The Nemo PFD is approximately 6″ high and 12″ wide. It is made of nylon with a Denier oxford shell and liner for children 30-50lbs. The jacket is equipped with a quick-release buckle over the front zipper to ensure no accidental opening.


  • Beaded grab loop stays afloat in water for quick location
  • Dual support collars cradle the head and provide excellent neck support
  • Adjustable bottom strap for added security
  • Automatically turns flips child face-up in the event of control loss or unconsciousness


  • The extra support system may be mildly restrictive for older or more advanced swimmers

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5.) O’Neill Wetsuits Child Superlite USCG Life Vest

O'Neill Wetsuits Child Superlite USCG Life Vest

This type III vest consists of lightweight polyethylene foam. It has a coated polyester outer shell for a sleek finish and quick-clean capability. It is specifically designed to be extra soft for comfortable wear on children 30-50lbs. This is a bonus for beginner swimmers who are still building confidence around the water.

Without the extra bulk that some vests may have, it is less cumbersome. This life vest is well made and also suitable for more advanced swimmers who just prefer a more streamlined experience. Even though it comes with adjustable straps, the size is smaller in smaller than most vests that are designed for the same weight range.


  • Easily adjustable design fits small or larger body types
  • Quick-release buckles for emergencies or beginners
  • Lightweight easy-to-pack fabric makes it ideal for travel
  • Mesh accents for effortless drainage and fast-drying


  • Tends to be a bit rigid and may rest high towards the chin with the first use

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All personal flotation devices are not created equal and knowing which ones that are best suited for your situation can mean the difference between fun and fail. Keep in mind that size guidelines are just tools to help determine what is right for your child. Ultimately, you have to decide what best suits your needs.

Overall, a life jacket is one of the most important safety devices that a parent can give to their child. A good life jacket should be safe and secure, making it easy to enjoy boating and fishing trips even in the event of a mishap. With a high-quality life jacket, a possible emergency can be reduced to a simple inconvenience.