Swim vests are a great tool for helping toddlers get comfortable in the water. Here’s a rundown of the best toddler swim vests.
When it comes to the pool (and the beach) the first thing that usually comes to mind is sun and fun. Rightfully so. Right on the heels of the joys of hitting the water is safety, especially if you have little ones.
Drowning is one of the leading accidental causes of death in the United States, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five victims are children .
One of the tools that children can use to not only be safe in the water but also get more comfortable with the water and learn to enjoy swimming is the toddler swim vest.
For kids who are new to the pool and learning to swim, they can be clingy or anxious when it comes to the water. A swim vest is an essential piece of baby swim gear as it can help to increase “water literacy” by giving them a degree of independence.
Okay, with all that fun stuff behind us, here’s a list of our favorite swim vests and floaties suits for toddlers.
Let’s hop right in!
TYR Kids’ Progressive Swim Vest
TYR is a leading maker of swim apparel and swimsuits, with a comprehensive line of swimming goggles, swim caps, and yup—these swim vests that are designed for toddlers and kids between the ages of 2-6 years of age.
The coolest part of this toddler swim vest is that it has removable floats that can be used to steadily increase the confidence of your little swimmer. The vest is sleeveless, with a zip-up front and a clasp at the bottom of the neckline. It’s made with polyester and neoprene with a foam blend for the removable floatation pads.
Available in two different colors (blue and purple) and two different sizes. Small is suited for toddlers 2-3 years old or 33-40lbs, and the medium-sized vest is ideal for kids 3-6 years old in the 40-66lbs range.
Aqua Leisure Swim Vest
The Aqua Leisure Swim Vest is another printed vest that is designed to provide flotation and comfort in the water.
Available in small/medium (up to 33lbs) and medium/large (up to 50lbs), these vests have padded shoulders, a zip close up the front, an added Velcro closure, and soft fabric that is easy on the skin and also doubles up as a sunblock for outdoor swimming.
These toddler swim vests have two fun prints and are very low-cost, with online swim retailer Swim Outlet offering them for less than $20.
Speedo Kids Begin-to-Swim Vest
Speedo is one of the most popular makers of swimming gear and accessories, and their child line is just as popular as the stuff they sell for the most seasoned competitive swimmer. We love their swim goggles for kids, water shoes for toddlers, and just about everything else they make.
In the case of our youngest swimmers, their swim vest, the Speedo Kids Begin-to-Swim Classic Swim Vest, Speedo has developed a comfortable and adjustable vest for kids from 2-6 years of age.
- See also: 7 Best Swimsuits for Babies and Toddlers
The Speedo swim vest is opened and closed from the front and has an additional Velcro clasp at the top to keep the vest on while in the water.
Made with a soft neoprene (the same stuff that your open water swimming wetsuits are made of), the vest gives the child plenty of arm and leg mobility while also featuring a safety strap that wraps around the bottom of the child to keep it secured.
Splash About Flotation Suit
For many, swimming in the pool means being outside. For outdoor pools, there is an added consideration for keeping your kiddo safe and comfortable, and that means protection from the sun.
The Splash About Sun Protection Floatie Suit, with its half-sleeves and jammer-length legs, give your child both flotation and protection from the sun. Although not technically a swim vest, it performs many of the same functions, along with the bonus coverage of the suit material.
The float suit comes with a band of floaties around the torso—sixteen separate buoys in all—that provide a flexible and complete fit. Because the Splash About Flotation Suit is more of a suit, and not just a vest, it means that it will stay on. Simply open the back zipper to help the child in and off they go.
The Splash About Flotation Suit comes in three different sizes, geared towards children of 1-2 years, 2-4, and 4-6, and come in 8 different colors and prints for both boys and girls.
MP Swim Method Swim Vest
When Michael Phelps and Speedo parted ways back in 2014 you knew that he would come out with his own signature line of swimming accessories, including his own racing goggles. As Phelps as grown, and now has two kids of his own, the swim gear line has also grown to include swimming aids for toddlers, including swim vests.
Unlike the Speedo vests, the MP Swim Vest distributes the flotation across the torso, giving the child a more even sense of flotation in the water. This is a more natural feeling, allowing kiddo to swim and float, and not just bob up and down in the water.
The MP Swim Vest has a handle on the back of the vest to help steady the child’s body position in the water, multiple adjustment straps, and comes in a green/blue and pink. The vests come in two sizes, accommodating children 2-6 years of age, and from 33-66 pounds.
Konfidence Youth Swim Jacket
Looking for a swim vest for older children and kids? There is a company that specializes in making swim vests that are ideal for kids in the range of 10-12 years of age.
Made mostly of neoprene (80%) and Lycra, which is a stretchy and comfortable fabric, the Konfidence Youth Swim Jacket is ideal for kids who are a little more nervous around the water or who are limited in their mobility at the pool.
The swim vest, which is better described as a youth jacket, is an excellent option for kids who are just learning to get comfortable in the water. It has removable foam floats that allow you to progress to less and less floatation.
The vests and jackets come in three different sizes, with a size for 8-10 years of age (40kgs), 10-12 years of age (up to 45kgs) and 12-14 years of age (for kids up to 50kg).
The vest is not certified as a life jacket/floatation device and is best used as a swim floatation device.
How to Choose the Right Swim Vest for Toddlers
Feeling a little overwhelmed with all of the options, colors, zippers and materials? A little over your head with how to pick a swim vest?
Here is a breakdown of the key thing to look for when on the hunt for the best swim vest for your toddler.
⭐ Safety features.
Guess what doesn’t take a holiday?
Hands up if you just muttered “Safety!”
The number one thing to keep in mind is how safe will the vest be for your kiddo.
This means buying a swim vest that is made by a manufacturer with a track history of reputable swim products.
You also want a vest that your toddler can’t slip out of while in the water. Things like an underbody strap, for example.
And you want a proper-fitting vest that isn’t too big or too small, as a vest that isn’t fitted properly will slide off or make your kid uncomfortable enough that they will try to claw their way out of it.
Look for things like:
- Underbelly strap so that they don’t wiggle out from the bottom of the vest
- A clasp—Velcro or otherwise—at the top of the zipper to prevent unzipping of the vest
⭐ Fabrics and materials.
Swim vests, and this goes for a lot of swim apparel, including wetsuits, rash guards for kids, and so on, are made of synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and neoprene.
Neoprene is an excellent material for cooler bodies of water. The same material that is used for cold water wetsuits, neoprene is also soft and quick drying.
Polyester is an excellent material for the shell of the vest, as it won’t fade from UV or pool chemical exposure, it’s extremely durable, and it holds color well over time.
Swim vests are typically sized by age and weight. It’s worth double-reminding you that your child should be sized appropriately when it comes to choosing a swim vest.
This goes beyond just a comfort or fit; when a swim vest isn’t sized properly, it loses its buoyancy effectiveness.
For example, a swim vest that is too small on your child won’t give him or her the buoyancy to float properly.
⭐ UV Protection
It’s more than likely that your toddler will be using their swim vest in the backyard swim pool or at the beach. And nothing will ruin a summer’s day than a nasty sunburn.
Kids’ swim vests provide extra coverage and protection from the sun (combine with a waterproof sunscreen and you are in business).
The synthetic materials and bright colors (dark and bright colors absorb more UV rays than lighter colored fabrics) are an excellent 1-2 punch for protecting your child from sunburns while out enjoying those long summer days.
Swim Vests for Toddlers – FAQs
Will a swim vest help my toddler learn how to swim?
Yes, used properly, a swim vest will help your toddler pick up the skills to be successful in the water.
There are a lot of benefits of swim vests when it comes to learning how to swim.
One of the things I like best is that swim vests promote a good range of motion in both the arms and the legs (unlike PFDs or floaties, for example).
Additionally, when a swim vest evenly distributes the buoyancy from the hips to the shoulders, it comes close to replicating how a body would naturally position itself when swimming.
In other words, wearing a swim vest will help your toddler or child learn how to swim better because it encourages a natural and efficient body position in the water.
But like all tools, it’s important to not become overly reliant on them.
Kids pick up the basics of swimming quickly, and as they get stronger and more confident in the water they can progress to swimming without a vest.
What’s the difference between a swim vest and a life jacket?
Although they look generally the same, and mostly perform the same functions in the water, there are big differences between a swim vest and a life jacket.
Essentially, whether you choose a swim vest or a life jacket depends on what kind of water you will be hitting.
- Life jackets are generally much thicker for extra buoyancy, are harder to move around in, have several heavy-duty clasps along the front, and many offer thermal protection for chilly open water. They are also certified by the United State Coast Guard and are certified as a personal flotation device.
- Swim vests are thinner and designed for the pool and calm bodies of water. While they provide less buoyancy than a life jacket, they give a greater range of motion and give enough mobility and flotation to give young swimmers confidence in the water. Swimming vests are best used as a swimming aid or swim float to help toddlers develop water literacy.
Most swim vests—including all the ones reviewed here—are not certified or approved as a PFD and should not be used as such.
To sum up the difference between the two: Life jackets are designed for survival and open water. Swim vests are designed for play and learning how to float.
Of course, it should be noted that neither a life jacket or a swim vest act as a substitute for proper adult supervision.
Should a swim vest be worn over a swimsuit?
Yes. Swim vests should be worn over a swimsuit or rash guard.
Swim vests can rub sometimes on the soft skin of a child, and the right swimwear can help mitigate this.
There are plenty of excellent options for baby swimwear on the market.
Should swim vests be worn in combination with swim diapers?
Absolutely. Swim vests don’t have a bottom, much less a bottom that is designed to catch solid accidents in the water.
Swim diapers are a must when you head down to the pool, whether it’s in your backyard or at the local aquatic center.
What’s the difference between swim vests and floaties?
While both are used to help a child get comfortable with moving their body through the water, the distinction is that a swim vest is designed to be buckled to a child while swim floaties for toddlers are meant more as swimming aids.
This line can get blurry as there are some vest/floatie combos out there that combine the best of both products.
But generally, a swim vest is to be fixed, zipped, and buckled to the child.
Floaties—like water wings, for example—are swim aids that can be removed easily.
At what age should kids wear swim vests?
This depends on a few different factors, but the sooner you can get your toddler comfortable in the water, the better!
Children have a remarkable capacity for picking up skills in the water, and the benefits of baby swimming are abundantly clear.
Ultimately, swim vests can be used at the lower end of the recommended weight and age for your toddler.
Swim vests are a tool for gaining confidence and skills in the water, and as a life-long proponent of swimming and its myriad of health benefits, the earlier you can get them in the water, the quicker they can start picking up the life-saving skill of swimming.
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