Swimming is a great exercise for toddlers and it’s also something that kids and parents can do together. It’s always best to be safe in and around water though, so while your toddler is learning to swim they should wear a good quality swim aid or vest.
Once they’re confident in the water they can strike out without it, but in the early stages they – and you – will feel better with some extra assurance that they’ll stay afloat. Keep in mind that swim vests and floaties are not designed to replace an actual life jacket for toddlers or kids life vests.
Our 7 Favorite “Learn to Swim” Vests
|Konfidence Swim Jacket
|Zerlar Float Suit
|Splash About Float Suit
|SwimSchool Swim Trainer
|Speedo Water Skeeter
Swim aids look simple compared to the sort of vest you need for boating but you still need to choose them carefully. It’s vital that the one you buy allows your child to move freely – otherwise learning to swim will be a struggle. Get it right, though, and it will be amazingly helpful.
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Floaties For Kids Reviews
The Puddle Jumper from Stearns is by far the most popular means of swim floatation for toddlers. It’s comfortable to wear and doesn’t get in the way of learning to swim, but does a good job of adding extra buoyancy when it’s needed.
Think of it like a pool noodle that stays securely on your child without getting in the way.
There’s a good reason the Puddle Jumper has been the best-selling floatation device for toddlers and little kids for some time now. As many parents will attest, it’s an excellent value and we can almost guarantee you won’t have any regrets buying it.
While it doesn’t look like a typical life jacket, it’s technically a Type III Coast Guard approved flotation aid (thanks to the former Puddle Jumper product manager who contacted me).
It’s capable enough to be used as a safety aid on the beach or in shallow water. We wouldn’t recommend it to replace a more traditional life jacket for boating (even though technically it could), but that’s not what it’s meant for.
This compact vest has two armbands and a chest panel; simply slip the arms through the bands then fasten the strap at the back, and it’s all ready to go. The strap makes it quite adjustable and there shouldn’t be any trouble fitting it securely for 30-50 lbs children.
Since Puddle Jumpers are perfect for being on top of the water and looking underwater, make sure they have a good pair of swim goggles.
The arm bands themselves aren’t adjustable but they do have plenty of space in them, even though they may feel tight-fitting (especially when wet). Once your child is in the upper part of the weight range, it’s recommended to put a little sunscreen on their upper arms to make putting on and taking off the Puddle Jumper much easier.
The build quality of the Puddle Jumper is pretty impressive for such an inexpensive product. It’s made from a woven polyester fabric that’s a lot softer than a typical life jacket. That makes it comfortable enough to be worn most of the day, unlike a lot of other brands.
It’s also available in a wide range of colors (over 20 as of the last check), most of which have cheerful cartoon designs on the front. Kids love these, meaning you’ll have a lot less trouble getting them to wear them. Perfect for kids playing swimming pool games or playing on the beach.
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While the Stearns Puddle Jumper is by far the most popular swim aid for most young, eager-to-learn swimmers, it may have a tendency to slide around a bit for a small number of kids who may be on the skinny side or just shy of the 30 pounds recommended minimum.
The new(ish) Body Glove Paddle Pals would in these cases be a better option as it’s essentially a swim vest with floaties that’s also US Coast Guard Type III approved.
When at the beach or by the river, a decent pair of kids water shoes will keep their feet safe while they’re having fun.
Because it has shoulder straps, there’s no possibility of the vest coming off. The vest buckles in the back so they will need help putting it on but this also makes it more secure. The built-in drain holes are a nice touch to keep the vest as light as possible after being in the water.
We’ll see if the Paddle Pals can one day dethrone the Puddle Jumpers as the best toddler floatation device, but it’s too soon to tell. Available in more than 10 fun styles.
Similar to the Speedo vest above, The Original Children’s Swim Jacket from Konfidence is another great option because it has a Lycra binding that’s extra soft for a more comfortable fit.
This toddler swim vest is made from high-quality neoprene that offers 100% UV protection on the areas that are covered.
The jacket was designed to wrap all the way around your little one’s torsos, but it still leaves the arms free for swimming.
For mom and dad’s peace of mind, this vest features a sturdy, self-locking zipper closure. No matter which of the colorful designs you choose, the bright yellow back makes your toddler extra visible in the water.
This swim jacket is also incredibly versatile because it was designed with eight removable flotation panels, so you can tailor the buoyancy according to your child’s needs as he or she learns how to swim.
The Konfidence Swim Jacket truly lives up to its name by helping children feel more skilled, safe, and confident in the water. It doesn’t restrict the range of motion, which is incredibly helpful for toddlers who are starting to learn how to swim.
It’s not bulky, which makes it more comfortable than comparable products.
The Original Swim Jacket by Konfidence comes in seven fun colors that boys and girls will love. It’s available in three sizes for ages from 18-months up to seven years. However, some parents reported that the sizes run a bit small, so be sure to double-check measurements.
While this vest won’t replace your child’s life jacket for boating, it’s perfect for little ones who need some extra confidence when learning how to swim.
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Zerlar’s Floatation Swimsuit is a learn-to-swim device for girls from ages 1 to 10 years old so it’s not limited to only the little ones. It comes in seven sizes and includes eight buoyancy panels that can be removed as your little one gains confidence in the water and learns how to swim.
This floatation swimsuit for girls is made from 100% polyester fiber, so it’s very soft, smooth, and comfortable to wear.
Parents report that this float suit is well made and keeps its shape, even with regular use. It allows for a full range of motion, which is essential for toddlers learning how to swim
This flotation swimsuit allows your child to develop confidence and swim independently. The manufacturer provides armbands that can be used in conjunction with the swimsuit to prevent younger toddlers from tipping forward.
The Zerlar float suit is an excellent choice for toddlers who want to swim on their own and don’t like to be held in the water. This suit is a great choice for kids who have a fear of the water because they can jump in and out of the water without fear of the suit coming off.
Of course, you will still need to watch your child diligently around the water, but this suit will give you some peace of mind. This is an excellent option for girls who like to be independent in the water but are still learning how to swim.
This girl’s swimming aid comes in nine adorable color options. However, some parents had issues with the red suit fading over time. Reviewers also report that the sizing runs just a little big, so keep that in mind when ordering.
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The Splash About is a fun, colorful vest that lets children use their arms freely while making sure they have plenty of buoyancy to keep them safely afloat.
It has 16 removable floats, so it’s easy to adjust for lighter or heavier children by adding or removing floats. You can start out using it as a baby floatation suit and slowly take away floats as your child grows and gets more comfortable staying afloat.
This float suit comes in a range of bright colors with fun designs. It’s also very easy to put on. Essentially, it’s a swimsuit with attached floats and makes a good alternative to a typical toddler pool float. Although it’s unisex, it probably suits girls better.
Like the Speedo Begin to Swim vest, this Splash About float suit is definitely not US Coast Guard approved and should only be used as a swimming aid for the pool.
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The SwimSchool Swim Trainer Vest is an affordable option for toddler boys and girls up to around 50 pounds. The design features UPF 50 sun protection sleeves allowing it to also work as a rash guard.
The adjustable crotch strap is nice in that prevents the vest from riding up or coming off in the water. In addition, this swim aid has padded shoulders for comfort and a sturdy zip closure for safety.
We like the built-in, flexible buoyant pads that are designed to keep your little one in the proper position for learning how to swim. It should be noted that the purpose of this vest is to help your child learn how to swim, so it positions them in the prone position when they’re in the water.
Adult supervision is definitely required as this is a swimming aid, not a lifesaving device.
While most love the vest, there are some mixed reviews. Some love it because it allows their child to be more independent in the water and helps them learn essential swimming skills. Others don’t like how it keeps the child in the prone position, and some reported that the vest rides up too far in the water.
At the end of the day, the SwimSchool Swim Trainer is very affordable, so it’s worth a try if you’re on a tight budget. It comes in four color options and two sizes for boys and girls up to four years old.
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#7 – Speedo Water Skeeter
Another good product from Speedo, this floatation aid is an excellent way to give your 30-50 pound child confidence when first learning to swim without getting in the way.
This USCG-approved Type III PFD has a unique design that doesn’t wrap all the way around so their arms have plenty of room to move. There are instead side straps and a crotch strap to keep them snug and secure.
It’s the best float vest for kids who have trouble floating on their backs due to the “turtle-like” shape. Like other learn to swim aids on this page, it’s not meant to replace a life jacket when boating, but for the pool or around the beach, it’s a fantastic option.
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Toddler Swim Vest, Puddle Jumper Life Jacket and Floaties FAQs
Can you use a Puddle Jumper on a boat?
While it is US Coast Guard approved as a Type III PFD, the use of a Puddle Jumper (or similar Body Glove Puddle Pals) on a boat is not always advisable. Your decision should be based on a few factors:
- Are you on a lake or ocean?
- Are you underway or anchored?
- Are you swimming in the water with your child?
- How good of a swimmer is your child?
In our opinion, if out on the ocean, the boat is moving, or if you have a “not quite ready to learn” swimmer, a traditional life jacket is a must. For the other scenarios above, do what you feel is right as the parent or guardian. But you’ll never be wrong by playing it safe.
What different types of Puddle Jumpers are available?
The top-selling Puddle Jumpers are currently available in 4 varieties.
- Original: Nylon material
- Deluxe: Polyester material
- Deluxe 3D: Polyester material + Antimicrobial + 3D designs
- Ultra: Hydroprene material + Antimicrobial
For most, we recommend going with the Deluxe or Deluxe 3D version. They’re both more comfortable than the Original and about the same price. While the Ultra’s neoprene-like material is the most comfortable, it makes the product seem twice as heavy after being in the water.
What’s the difference between a life jacket and the swim aids listed on this page?
Please see: Kids Life Jacket vs Puddle Jumper vs Swim Vest for a comparison.
Are there learn-to-swim vests available for kids over 50 pounds?
Absolutely. Konfidence is one of the better-known brands when it comes to swimming aids for kids starting around age 4 all the way to about 14. The Konfidence Childrens’ Swim Jacket above is sized for up to 66 lbs and a Youth version is available for ages 8-12.
Does anyone make a learn-to-swim vest for adults?
Yes. While obviously not as popular, there are a small handful of brands that sell adult learn-to-swim vests. Here’s our favorite:
What’s the best way to clean a Puddle Jumper type swim aid?
Puddle Jumpers and other learn to swim devices can be cleaned the same way as a regular life jacket. See: How to Remove Mildew, Mold, and Smells From a Life Jacket