If your child enjoys being out in the water, or you're trying to encourage them to do so, you want to make sure that their experience is as safe as possible. No matter what their swimming ability, it's advised that your child wears a life jacket when out in open water. Life jackets aren't just limited to use in the sea though - they can also be a useful tool for teaching toddlers how to swim in the pool too!
There are so many water-based activities to get stuck into, from boat-based fun like kayaking and canoeing to something a little different such as paddleboarding, and a comfortable, supportive life jacket doesn't have to get in the way of the fun! So, we've prepared a top 10 list of the best ones to buy from trusted brands including Helly Hanson and Marinepool.
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Getting the right life jacket is all about balancing safety requirements with comfort. Some jackets can be considered a bulky inconvenience but with the right fit, your child will forget that they're even wearing one while they splash about.
There are a few things to check in order to judge whether a life jacket will be suitable for your little one. In addition to the level of buoyancy, the main factors are your child's weight, chest size, and age.
While all life jackets are designed to keep the user afloat, the weight that they can hold above the water will depend on how big the life jacket is and how much buoyancy the foam offers. Most life jackets will clearly state how many kilograms they can support, so you can measure this against your child's weight.
If you want to know more about the buoyancy offered by a life jacket, you can also check the label for a number with the letter N after it. This N refers to Newton, which is the scientific measurement of buoyancy. The basic level of buoyancy is about 40 to 50N, but some jackets will provide more.
Life jackets not only provide buoyancy when your child is in the water, but the shoulder straps will allow you to pull your little one out if they unexpectedly fall in. For this to work without your child slipping out at the bottom, however, the chest part of the jacket needs to be tight enough.
It shouldn't be too tight, though, as this will be uncomfortable and mean that your little one is less willing to put it on. So, in addition to measuring their chest and picking out a jacket that'll fit snugly, check for adjustable straps that'll provide some flexibility as they grow.
While it's best to use the weight and chest measurements of your child when shopping for a life jacket, some parents find the suggested age provided by the brand useful too when trying to assess which one will fit them properly.
Unfortunately though, not all life jackets will say which ages they are suitable for, and some will suggest a rough range (e.g. 3-6 years) rather than giving a set number.
A zip at the front comes as standard on most life jackets as the main way of fastening them, but to make sure they are comfortable and stay on securely, additional fastenings are usually required.
The main one you'll come across is a belt (or sometimes two or three) around the waist. These are clipped together to keep them secure and can be adjusted according to your child's size as they grow.
Other fastenings include string ties or velcro strips, which are normally found on the bottom or the collar of a life jacket. For young kids, a crotch strap is also a good idea as it will prevent them from wiggling out the bottom of the jacket.
Most extras that are added to life jackets are designed to enhance their safety. A whistle, for example, can be used by your child to bring attention to their whereabouts if they've fallen into water and can't be seen. The same is true of reflective patches, which make your child more visible in the dark.
A handle on the back of the neck is something that you might see on jackets for toddlers and younger kids, as it makes them easier to grab and pull out of the water. Lastly, if you're using a life jacket to teach your kid to swim, look for removable floats which allow you to adjust the buoyancy as they improve.
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Sport II Buoyancy Aid
An All-Rounder That Can Withstand Anything
The Ideal Jacket for Water-Sport Enthusiasts
Kids' Float Jacket
Perfect for Introducing Young Kids to the Water
Children's Life Jacket
Maximum Adjustability and a Wide Range of Sizes
Swim Vest Float Jacket
A Lovely Looking Jacket That Keeps Them Warm Too
Several Straps Will Keep Everything in Place
Provides Plenty of Padded Support
Go Kids Starter Float Jacket
Get Your Child Swimming Like a Shark
Sport I Buoyancy Vest
Simple Yet Stylish Safety Gear
A Comfy Option With a Soft Touch
Looking for a truly versatile jacket that's simple yet will suit everyone? We recommend this smart option from trusted brand Helly Hansen, who specialise in creating gear that can withstand life on the high seas as well as leisurely water-based activities.
Whether they're yachting, jet skiing, or paddleboarding, you'll be able to spot your child from afar easily in this bold red jacket. Plus, if you need to adjust their jacket more than the buckle allows, there are string ties you can use to ensure a snug fit. With a huge range of sizes available, including ones large enough for adults, this Helly Hansen life jacket is our top pick for swimming safety!
This amazing jacket is for all the sporty kids out there! A standard life jacket is fine for casual boating or playing in the water, but kids who are keen kayakers will need something a bit more specialised. This life jacket has excellent buoyancy but slightly less body coverage, so it frees up your arms to give them full range of motion.
Unlike other life jackets, the shoulder straps on this design can be loosened or tightened, allowing you to properly tailor the fit. We also think the swirl design looks pretty snazzy and we're sure that slightly older kids will love it.
Appealing to both adults and kids, this life jacket is perfect for younger swimmers or those who are new to the water. Kids will love the fun marine life pattern and bright colours, while parents will be pleased to see that all possible safety considerations have been taken into account.
Although this jacket can be used as a precaution when out in a boat, it's best used as a buoyancy aid to encourage your child to develop their swimming skills. They'll feel confident and well-supported thanks to the two belts and comfy crotch strap.
Although this life jacket might look fairly basic, it has a few features that make it stand out from the crowd. Firstly, it has an easy-to-access whistle on the front and multiple reflective patches. The 3 belts also mean that it's fully adjustable, making it ideal for growing children.
Best of all, this jacket is available in 6 different sizes, ranging from S to 3 XL - so the whole family can match! No matter what weight or age your child is, this brand has something suitable for them.
This pretty life jacket is sure to appeal to kids who love all things pink! Not only does it look lovely, but it's also very comfortable and has two belts which can be adjusted to your preference.
The neoprene material offers warmth in the same way that a wetsuit does, keeping your child's chest warm if they're in colder water. And, if you need to get them out of the water quickly when they're unable to swim, you can use the conveniently-placed handle at the back of the neck to pull them to safety.
Here we have another fab vest that you can use to teach your child to swim. Depending on their ability and confidence, you can change the amount of buoyancy inside, while the crotch strap means they'll feel more secure inside their vest.
There are three sizes to choose from, going up to age 7 - so even if your youngster is a latecomer to the pool, they'll be able to find a vest that fits. It also has a cute fish pattern and logo that we reckon your little one will love!
Kids will be both seen and heard in this brilliantly designed life jacket. As well as its bright colour and many reflective patches, it also features a whistle that your child can use to get your attention if they're in danger.
The padded collar helps to support small heads and the crotch strap will prevent your child from slipping out of their life jacket in the water. It's just a shame that this jacket doesn't go up a bit higher in its sizing, as it would still come in handy for children heavier than 30kg.
This life jacket is a bit different from the others on this list - it's perhaps more accurately described as a swim vest. It does, however, still offer plenty of buoyancy to help kids stay afloat. This type of product is therefore great for teaching little ones how to swim without throwing them straight into the deep end.
As your child feels more and more at ease in the water, you can remove some of the floatation blocks inside until they feel confident enough to can go without. However, this product is best used in a controlled area like a swimming pool rather than the sea.
This bright white life jacket stands out anyway against the water, but the reflective patches on both shoulders will make your child even more visible if they happen to end up in deep water. Plus, the string ties and belt make it super secure.
This buoyancy aid's simplicity will appeal to older kids who want to look cool, avoiding the garish colours that most life jackets designed for children come in. Again though, it's a shame that there's only one size available by this brand.
This jacket, which is made from a soft waterproof fabric, aims to minimise the risk of uncomfortable chafing. Its bright colour will make your child visible wherever they are in the water, plus there are reflective patches too for when it gets dark.
While this is a decent jacket that definitely does the job, we wish it came in more sizes. It's also one of the more expensive options on our list, although the high level of buoyancy makes up for this flaw.
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