Splash Better: What to Look for in a Water Safety Vest for Your Kiddos

Make room in the beach bag!

Child jumping off dock and into a lake
Cannon ball!Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema

A water safety vest is never a substitute for close supervision, but the right one can provide some support as your toddler or kid is navigating the pool, or splashing around in a lake. Beginner swimmers may need the extra flotation provided by arm bands, while kids gaining water familiarity may want a close-fitting vest that gives them use of their arms. Buckle systems are designed to stay in place, but you may need to try out a few models to find the one that fits your kid best.

Body Glove Mermaid Aquatic Mermaid Swim Life Jacket, blue

Splash and Play

U.S. Coast Guard-approved, this model for 30 to 50 pound kids has a safety shoulder harness to keep arm bands in place.Body Glove

Look at whether the vest has been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, or USCG. The U.S. Coast Guard has different performance ratings for life jackets; these ratings can help you understand how the life jacket is designed to work. Often, kid’s swim vests are rated as level III, which means it can support an unconscious person upright in the water, but cannot turn them on their back. Some jackets are best designed for paddling, while others may be best for boating. Reading the label can help determine the best option for you.

Speedo Unisex-Child Swim Flotation Classic Life Vest Begin to Swim UPF 50

Ideal for Long Pool Days

This neoprene waist-to-shoulders model with built-in UV sun protection allows full range of arm motion.Speedo

A swim vest isn’t a substitute for sunscreen, but can provide an additional layer of protection. If you’re planning to be outdoors all day, a vest option provides the most coverage. You also may consider how your child will plan to use the vest. Kids who are learning to swim may be better served by a slim-fitting vest, which can give them full arm mobility that can help them learn proper stroke technique in the water.

Stearns Original Puddle Jumper Kids Life Jacket | Deluxe Life Vest for Children

A Secure Way to Splash

Coast Guard approved, with a safety buckle in the back so kids can’t escape.Stearns

When it comes to the best vest for your child, fit is everything: A toddler who doesn’t fit the weight requirement, even if he or she is just shy by a few pounds, may not be safe in a model designed for bigger kids.