There are some things you need to know about choosing life jackets for kids. You need to know what they do, how they do it and why your child needs one. A life jacket is superior to water wings because they are well fitted and cannot slip off. Read more about the Dangers of Water Wings. Life jackets prevent drowning! Now that your child has started to swim – getting them a life jacket will give you peace of mind.


Here’s what you need to know about life jackets for kids:


Why choose a life jacket?

A well-fitted life jacket permits a swimmer to move their limbs freely while providing floatation assistance through the torso. This design allows a child to use their arms and shoulders to rotate from a face-down position to a face-up position. Also, by providing buoyancy through the torso, it more closely mimics how a child will control their own buoyancy through breathing, once they are swimming independently.

Should kids wear life jackets at the beach?

Although, swimming at the beach is different than swimming in a pool since even in shallow water you can be put in an unsafe situation. It is therefore still advised that children wear a life jacket in and around the water even when they’re at the beach.

Can you drown with a life jacket?

While, life jackets provide your child with protection, it does not mean they cannot drown while wearing a life jacket. It will help you keep your child’s head above the water by providing extra buouyancy, but keep in mind that dry drowning can occur which doesn’t require being submerged in the water.

What is a life jacket and how does it differ from a Personal Floatation Device (PFD)?

PFD and life jacket tend to be used interchangeably. However, a life jacket has a large collar at the base of the neck. This design keeps a person afloat AND turns the wearer onto their back whether or not they are conscious. The extra support design keeps the head and mouth out of the water. It also tends to be bulkier than a PFD. As such, PFDs tend to provide more freedom of movement and are more comfortable. As your child is learning to swim, it is highly recommended that you purchase a life jacket and not a PFD.


How to choose a life jacket for my kid?

It should fit snugly, and not be able to slip over the child’s chin and ears. If there are more than three inches between the child’s shoulders and the life jacket, it is too big. Choose one that has a safety strap between the legs. This prevents the device from slipping over your child’s head. Have your child try on the life jacket before you buy it. If possible, you should also have your child test the life jacket in water. This will give you the best sense of whether or not the life jacket fits your child.

Check the life jacket label to ensure that it matches your child’s weight. Life jackets for kids do not come in one size fits all. Don’t try to buy a life jacket that will “fit” two or more of your children. Chances are it will only properly fit one of them, or potentially none of them.

For maximum visibility, especially when swimming in open water, purchase a brightly coloured life jacket – yellow, orange or red. Make sure it is approved by Transport Canada or the United States Coast Guard.


Where can I buy a life jacket?

You can find proper life jackets in stores that carry outdoor sporting goods such as WalmartDick’s Sporting Goods and Canadian Tire or online at Amazon, eBay and AliExpress


Tips for optimizing life jacket use:

  • Fasten and adjust all straps without making them too tight, make sure your child is comfortable
  • If using the life jacket while boating, attach a waterproof whistle to the zipper. Teach your children to blow the whistle in case of emergency.
  • If dried and stored properly between uses, the life jacket will last for several years.


Remember: A life jacket or PFD is no substitute for adult supervision. Children should be within arm’s reach and should be wearing a proper flotation device at all times.


Does your child enjoy the life jacket? Share your experiences in the comments below to help inform other parents!