When you buy an item using one of our links, we may earn a portion of the sale. Life Jacket Advisor and some products featured on the site are owned by the same company. Learn more.

5 Best Toddler Life Jackets for On-the-Move Tots (15-30 lbs)

Updated October 26, 2021

I think we can all agree that toddlers love being in, on, and around the water. But their developing ability to get around means there’s a good chance they’re going to end up falling in at some point.

Whether it’s an unexpected plunge in the pool or a stumble on deck you need to be prepared for them landing in the water, and getting them the best toddler life jacket for the money should be your highest priority.

For example, a good life vest for an 18-month-old child needs to be adjustable to fit their fast-growing body, have good neck support and be secure enough that curious little fingers won’t be able to undo a strap for them to wiggle free.

Toddler life vests are sized for most 15-30 pound children and they’re sized similar to (and sometimes exactly same as) an infant life jacket but should not be confused with a toddler swim vest (see how they compare).

Our 5 Favorite Life Jackets for Toddlers

 ProductUSCGSizeCrotch StrapColors
best toddler life jacketStohlquist NemoType II8-30 lbsYes3
Mustang Lil' Legends reviewMustang Lil' LegendsType IIUp to 30 lbsYes2
baby life vestO'Neill WakeType IIUp to 30 lbsYes2
life jacket for toddlersO'Neill SuperliteType IIUp to 30 lbsYes2
Coast Guard approved toddler life jacketStearns Infant ClassicType IIUp to 30 lbsYes2

Toddler Life Jacket Reviews

#1 – Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket

best-infant-life-jacketThe Nemo is probably the best infant life jacket you can buy, and the same size scores very highly for toddlers as well.

It’s a comfortable, USCG type 2 rated, compact vest that allows fantastic mobility and good ventilation, so a 1 to 2-year-old can get the most from family activities while staying safe.

The Nemo’s outstanding feature is its excellent collar, which restricts mobility slightly more than the Mustang model but does a great job of holding the head above water.

The Nemo comes in a choice of three color schemes. We recommend you stick with the bright red or yellow, instead of the less visible blue.

While we never want to think a boating emergency would ever happen to us (think a non-functioning PLB), having your toddler in a Stohlquist life jacket should give you peace of mind.

>> Check current price <<


#2 – Mustang Lil’ Legends Toddler Life Vest

Mustang Survival Lil LegendsThe Lil’ Legends floatation vest from marine survival specialists company Mustang is available in three sizes; infant/toddler, child, and youth.

Mustang recently updated their top-selling life jacket and it looks better than ever. In the toddler size bracket, its feature set makes it pretty much unbeatable.

This type 2 PFD is built around a mesh base for comfort and ventilation, with front and back flotation panels. The back has internal airflow channels to help keep active toddlers cool, and all the panels are shaped to allow maximum mobility.

In front there’s a full length zipper and the neck is cut away to ensure the chest panel doesn’t slip up over the child’s chin.

For extra security there’s a waist strap with a tough quick-release buckle. The toddler-sized model also has a crotch strap. This is designed to prevent the lower edge riding up, but it also makes it more secure.

mustang-toddler-pfdOne feature of the Lil’ Legends that is really impressive is the large, multi-section collar. That does a really good job of keeping the wearer’s head above the surface, and it also includes a sturdy grab handle for retrieving your child from the water.

life-vest-for-toddlersThe latest Lil’ Legends comes in a bright blue w/ yellow or bright red w/ blue color scheme making both varieties highly visible in the water. This is an improvement over the previous colors which were not as visible.

Overall this is a very high quality life vest that’s ideal for a 15 to 30-ish lb child. It’s well made, highly buoyant and comfortable enough to wear all day. It’s made by experts to do an important job well, and that’s exactly what you need.

>> Check current price at MustangSurvival.com <<

>> Check current price at Amazon.com <<


#3 – O’Neill Wake Waterski Vest

baby-life-vestThe Wake Waterski is a good reminder that some PFDs are made for swimming, and some for survival. This type-2 vest is among the latter, with the lightweight fluid foam neoprene panels focused in the front to immediately flip children onto their backs.

A USCG-approved vest head support panel helps to keep your child’s head above the water while they await rescue. This head support is not always comfortable on smaller children, as it is designed to support infants and toddlers up to 30 pounds.

However, older toddlers will have less difficulty moving around in the vest and feel a higher degree of comfort while you can enjoy knowing they are safe.

To further improve the safety side of this PFD, there is an adjustable safety belt that fits between the legs and quick release dual safety buckles to ensure that the vest stays on until you’re ready to take it off.

A safety strap located on the head support allows you to pull the child to safety easily.

While the safety focus of this vest makes it difficult to swim normally, the strap’s location makes it possible to teach your child certain swimming techniques.

Choose bright colors and this Coast Guard approved safety vest will keep your child safe for many fun boating trips.

>> Check current price <<


#4 – O’Neill Superlite Life Vest

life-jacket-for-infantsThe Superlite by O’Neill is a Type-2 personal floatation device that uses lightweight polyethylene foam for more comfortable use out of the water.

Its collar folds down when not needed, allowing for more mobility, and the three quick-release Delrin buckles keep your toddler secure without making removal a hassle.

Approved by the US Coast Guard for infants and toddlers up to 30 pounds, this highly adjustable vest will grow with your child.

As with most type-2 PFDs, this vest is designed to roll your child on their back if they fall into the water and includes a safety strap on the neck support for easy retrieval. It can thus be a little more difficult to swim in for many toddlers.

Children who are just beginning to walk may also find this and other type-2 vests to be top-heavy due to the safety features.

The Pacific blue and yellow version is easy to spot, and a brighter turquoise and berry color scheme make this vest popular with boys, girls, and parents alike.

>> Check current price <<


#5 – Stearns Infant Classic Boating Vest

coast-guard-approved-infant-life-jacketThe Stearns Classic is a very affordable type II flotation vest but it’s also a capable one. The simple but rugged nylon-covered vest is secured with a full-length zipper and a quick-release chest strap that runs all the way round the body for extra strength.

To make it even more secure there’s a leg strap too. This is a smaller version of Stearns’ children’s vest but, to make it safer for the typical 2-year-old, a head cushion has been added.

The collar on the Stearns isn’t as sophisticated as on the Mustang or Nemo but it’s still effective enough at keeping a small head above the surface.

It also doesn’t get in the way as much out of the water, because the cushion hangs down the back out of the way until the wearer is actually floating.

With Coast Guard approval and a reasonably low price, the Stearns Classic certainly won’t let you down. Again, opt for the brighter red color instead of blue.

>> Check current price <<


25 thoughts on “5 Best Toddler Life Jackets for On-the-Move Tots (15-30 lbs)”

  1. I see where the weight is 10-30 pounds or 30-50 pounds. My daughter weighs right at 29.5-30 pounds. What should I go with?

    • More often than not, you’d be best off going with the next size up if your child is right at the limit. Otherwise, you might need to be buying a new life jacket the next week or two. There are exceptions of course so if it feels too loose, play it safe and go with the smaller size even if they’ll outgrow it soon. It’s not worth the risk in that case.

  2. My nephew is 4 years old and will be 5 in November. He’s solid and is 4 feet tall and weighs 60 pounds and I want to know what life jacket is best suited for him.

  3. I’m confused about which lifejacket I should get for my 20 month old. We are going to Florida in February and will be around a pool that is in very close proximity to the house (no gate) and also going to beach and will take a boat ride. She is around 28lbs now so not sure how much she’ll weigh in 2 months. Seems like I should decide between the Mustang Lil Legends 100 or the Stearns Flotation Heads Up. I want to be sure if she accidentally falls in the pool her face will face up. I’d also like to be able to use it next summer. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Hi Carol. At 28 pounds (or more by the time February comes around), I’d definitely recommended going to the 30-50 pound life jacket range. Any of the major brands should fit fine even at 28 pounds and you can definitely use it again in the summer.

      The Stearns Flotation Heads Up on that page is a great choice with it being a Type II vest. Slightly bulkier than the Stohlquist (Type III) but it’s safer for your daughter’s age.

  4. I hav a 2 year old and a 4 year old and I’m looking for a vest to not only wear on a boat but also to be swimming in a pool that will keep their chips out of the water. The one I have my daughter doesn’t float high enough and she won’t go in the water. Any advice is appreciated! I believe they are both under 50 lbs.

    • Any of the life jackets on this page would be great for boating use and have plenty of buoyancy to keep their heads above water.

      For swimming in pools, I’d highly suggest one of the products here: https://lifejacketadvisor.com/best-toddler-swim-vests-floatation-devices/

      The Puddle Jumpers and Puddle Pals are the most popular. While both are USCG Type III approved and would suffice for USCG boating rules and regulations, they’re not recommended for off-shore boating due to them being more of swim aids rather than life jackets.

      If your budget allows, a dedicated boating life jacket and a swim aid (such as the Puddle Jumper) is the best option.

  5. I am looking for the best life vest for a 2 yr old 23lbs that will keep her upright or right itself to the back and not the front as the one we bought in the past rolls her to her stomach and she can’t keep her face out of the water. Which vest will roll her to her back so I am not having to be a complete helicopter mommy

    • I have the same question as this poster. Our 2 year old had a very frightening experience in that his life jacket did not roll him to his back when he fell in the water this weekend. It kept him face down and he wasn’t strong enough to lift his face out of the water or roll himself over. I had no idea this could happen in a life jacket! He is right at the lowest weight limit for the jacket he has. Wondering if the jacket is wrong for him, and/or if I should be putting him back into his infant jacket rated for the lower weight (up to 25lbs). The fact that his jacket did not right him is absolutely terrifying.

      • I couldn’t imagine how terrifying that must have been! No type II PFD will automatically turn over a wearer to the face up position 100% of the time but some do it much better than others. When our kids were 2 years old, we used the Stohlquist Nemo and that life jacket simply would not let them roll over onto their fronts due to the design of the collar. The Mustang Lil’ Legends has a similar sort of design.

        I’m curious what brand of life jacket your son was wearing?

        • This is not true- a Type II life jacket will NOT turn the wearer to the face up position 100% of the time. By definition of a Type II jacket it will only turn SOME wearers face-up in water.

      • This is my concern. I am currently researching jackets for a trip we are taking, and all seem to have the neck feature and seem to flip the children face down, vs up. Does anyone know of a vest that does not do this that they would recommend?

  6. My two year triplet toddlers need life jackets. The ones we have now “ride up” and sit right under their chin no matter how fitted the leg straps are. They are extremely uncomfortable with the jacket so close to their chin! Any suggestions? For reference, my son is 33 inches and 26 pounds. Thanks!

    • Often if the size is too big or the style is extra bulky, life jackets can ride up (especially on younger kids). Both the Mustang and Stohlquist vests above have a reputation for being very comfortable for this weight range. They have larger neck openings and don’t ride up as much as others if the correct size is used.

  7. I have a 2 year old granddaughter who is 23 lbs. Can she wear her older sister’s puddle jumper where is recommended for 30-50 lbs?

    • At 23 pounds, it should be fine to wear as long as it’s not too loose on her. We personally started using Puddle Jumpers with our kids when they were right around 25 lbs. The child’s build would of course play a big role.

      Keep in mind that a Puddle Jumper is mainly a “swim aid” and at that age, an adult should in the water with her. You’d want her to wear a regular life jacket if on a boat or other scenario where the child could fall in the water.

      See also: https://lifejacketadvisor.com/best-toddler-swim-vests-floatation-devices/

  8. My girls will be 17 months old when we visit family, and 22-23 lbs. we want to go in the pool; they have never been in a pool and I won’t be letting go of them but still want something in case of an accident of course. Would you still recommend a full life jacket? Would they be too young and small for a puddle jumper? Thanks!

  9. We have the Mustang Lil’ Legends 100 for our 19 month old. Today she fell in the water and was unable to flip over. The life jacket was keeping her on her side with her face fully submerged in the water. She surely would have drowned. Why didn’t this life jacket flip the child into her back? We feel very discouraged now & do not know how to proceed in being around water now.

    • So sorry that happened. I couldn’t imagine how scary that must have been. Unfortunately, no life jacket is guaranteed to turn a child face up every time. That’s why it’s critical to always have adult supervision nearby in rare cases like this as you had. Although it’s hard, please try not to be discouraged. Also, having your child get started with swim lessons is one of the best things you can do. See this post: https://lifejacketadvisor.com/whats-the-best-age-to-start-swimming-lessons/

  10. We will be going on a trip where my 18 month old (currently 26 pounds) will be around a pool without a fence. I would to get him a life jacket that is not too bulky to wear while we are in the yard around the pool (but not in the pool). What life jacket would you recommend? I was considering the Stearns PFD 5402 Hydro since it seemed less bulky for longtime wearing.

  11. Looking to get a life vest for my son who is 14.5 months old and 21lbs for our boat as well as for a camping trip where we will be rafting in August. What would you recommend for this?


Leave a Comment