How To Choose The Right Life Jacket For Your Child

Choosing a life jacket for your child can be hard. There are so many different sizes, styles and features out there. It’s easy to get confused and make the wrong choice.

This article will provide you with everything you need to know about how to choose the right one as well as what products are available on the market today.

Why Does Your Child Need A Life Jacket?

Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in kids under 14.

In fact, each year, the U.S. Coast Guard estimates there are over 500 boating accidents involving children under 12 years old. Over 50% of children wear life jackets while on boats, but wearing the wrong size could be dangerous.

It’s important to buy your child a life jacket because it will increase their chances of surviving if they fall into the water.

(Related: Best Life Jackets For Kids).

Choose The Right Type Of Life Jacket For Your Child’s Weight And Height.

A lifejacket that is too small will ride up on your child’s chin when they are in the water, allowing them to go underwater.

A life jacket that is too big will be loose and allow your child to slip out of it. If your child is between sizes, choose a life jacket that can be adjusted to fit as she grows.

  • Infant: 8 to 30 pounds
  • Child: 30 to 50 pounds
  • Youth: 50 to 90 pounds

(Related: Best Life Jackets For Infants).

How To Properly Fit A Life Jacket On Your Child.

The best type of life jacket is one that fits snugly, but not tightly. The straps should be loose enough to allow easy breathing and movement, but not slack; you can test that by running your fingers beneath them. 

There should be no wrinkles or ridges in the fabric.

The life jacket should fit snuggly but your child should still be able to walk, run, sit down and play without difficulty. 

If the lifejacket has a crotch strap, choose one that fastens with a buckle rather than a side-release clasp.

If the life jacket is a type with straps across the torso, they should be adjusted so that each is flat, not twisted.

If you choose a life jacket with buckles, make sure they are the zipper-type and that they come with instructions that show how to properly put on and remove the life jacket.

(Related: Best Life Jackets For Toddlers).

Choose a Life Jacket That’s Brightly Colored and Easy to See.

If you choose a brightly colored lifejacket, it will stand out in an emergency situation, allowing people around your child to set hem.

Choose The Right Type Of Life Jacket For Your Activity.

Make sure to choose a life jacket that is appropriate for the type of boat your child will be on. For example, choose a water ski or wakeboard life jacket if your child will be skiing or riding behind the boat.

 There are three types of life jackets:

Type I: Offshore Life Jacket.

The first is an offshore life jacket. This type is designed for swimmers who are far out at sea where there are large waves. They have a foam core just like floatation devices which will support your head and keep your face out of the water.

Best for: Extended survival in rough seas, open ocean, or remote water where quick rescue is unlikely

Advantages: Designed to turn an unconscious person face-up; lots of buoyancy

Disadvantages: Bulky, not comfortable for extended wear

Type II: Near-Shore Buoyant Vest.

The second type is a near-shore life jacket which is designed for people who are in calmer waters such as rivers, lakes or calm shores. 

These jackets have an inflatable bladder on the front to support your upper body if you fall into the water. It also has two extra pockets which you can use to store things in, like your mobile phone.

Best for: Calm, inland water and most general boating activities where there is a good chance of a quick rescue.

Advantages: Many turn an unconscious person face up; less bulky than Type I

Disadvantages: Will not turn all unconscious persons face up; not intended for extended support in rough seas

Type III: Flotation Aid.

The third type of life jacket is a buoyancy aid. This is the smallest and lightest type of life jackets which are designed for water sports like canoeing or kayaking. 

These jackets are not designed for people who go swimming in open waters, but more for when you are out on the lake or river. The only thing you have to do is put it over your head and fasten yourself onto a kayak or canoe.

Best for: Calm, inland waters only

Advantages: Most comfortable and lightweight; easy to wear for extended periods of time

Disadvantages: Most not designed to turn an unconscious person face up; not suited for rough waters or open seas

Make Sure The Life Jacket Is Coast Guard Approved.

You should know that not all life jackets are approved by the Coast Guard.

Additional Water Safety Tips

Teach your child how to swim and stay safe around water

Always have a phone nearby in case of an emergency

Keep a close eye on your children at all times when they’re near water.