Best Toddler Swim Vest for 1, 2, 3 and 4 Year Old



Mar 07, 2022

Looking to go to the pool this summer and bring your toddler along? Or have access to an indoor pool? Most toddlers don’t know how to swim yet or have had only basic lessons. You will want to make sure your toddler wears a swim vest designed for them and their capabilities. Safety first when dealing with a 1, 2, 3 or 4 year old!

toddler swim vest speedo 4 year old
My 4 Year Old wearing his swim vest in the deep end

I have a pool membership with my two toddlers (aged 1 and 3 currently), and we also go to many beaches, lakes, and water parks where I want to ensure my toddlers are safe in the water. Both my boys love the water and eager to explore; as a mom I want to encourage this behavior. 

If you are planning a trip to the beach with your toddler make sure you read Toddler Beach Essentials.

Summary of Best Toddler Swim Vest for 1, 2, 3 and 4 Year Old

Product ImageCategoryTypeFeatures
Best Toddler Swim Vest 1, 2 and 3 Year Olds Beginners-little swimming basics
Puddle Jumper
Type III US Coast Guard Approved Nylon Shell Buckles in Back Dries Quickly
Best Toddler Swim Vest for The Slender Toddler 1, 2, 3 and 4 Year Old Beginners- little swimming basics
Puddle Jumper, Vest
Type III US Coast Guard Approved Polyester Material Buckles in Back with Safety Shoulder Harness Dries Quickly Great for Slender Toddlers
Best Swim Vest for 1 Year Old Beginners- little swimming basics
Puddle Jumper
Type IV Double Stitched buckle Lightweight (<.5 lbs)
Best 2 Year Old Swim Vest for Learning to Swim Toddlers with Swimming Basics- Intermediate
Swim Vest
Neoprene Material Durable Front Zipper Adjustable Buckles 2 Crotch Straps
Best Swim Vest for Toddler Learning to Swim 3 and 4 year olds Toddlers with Swimming Basics- Intermediate
Swim Vest
Poylester Material with Neoprene Construction Front Zipper Crotch Strap
Best Swim Vest for Toddler Learning to Swim Smaller 3 and 4 year olds Toddlers with Swimming Basics- Intermediate
Swim Vest
Built-In Foam Pads Padded Shoulders Front Zipper
Best Baby Swim Vest
Life Jacket
US Coast Guard Life Jacket Approved Oversized Collar Elasticized Fabric Leg Strap Convenient Grab Strap

Swim vests and puddle jumpers for toddlers are a great product that helps me as a mom feel safer when my toddlers are exploring in a body of water. Swim vests and puddle jumpers are not the same as a life jacket and it is important to know the main difference. 

swim aides for toddlers at the pool
My two toddlers wearing swimming vest at Legoland, FL

My two toddlers wearing swimming vest at Legoland, FL

Your toddler’s swimming ability and type of water activity will determine which water safety product will be best to use. 

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. Rest assured all products I suggest are products I have bought or would buy based on personal experience or through my network of other mommas.

What is a Puddle Jumper?

Puddle Jumpers are not designed to turn a child’s face upright when in the water. Great for supervised play and learning swimming basics. They are a swim vest with built in floaties or water wings designed for toddlers. Adult supervision is required when a toddler is in a puddle jumper.

Best Swim Vest for 3 year old puddle jumper
My toddler wearing a puddle jumper, a vest with attached arm floats.

Puddle Jumpers are best to use once your toddler reaches the minimum weight for the product and little to none swimming basics.  They are a great first introduction product for toddlers in a body of water or exploring near a body of water.

What is a Swim Vest?

A swim vest was designed for a child learning to swim.  It has less buoyancy than a puddle jumper or a life jacket.  The main purpose of a swim vest is to help your toddler learn to swim.

Swim Vests are not meant to save lives. As a parent, if your child is wearing a swim vest you should be in the water with them to ensure their faces are out of the water and the toddler stays afloat.

Toddler Swim Vests are ideal to use once a kid has some basic swim skills, a key one being able to tread water.

What is a Life Jacket?

A life jacket has to be coast guard approved and sole purpose is to save a life.  They are designed to keep the head out of the water. They provide the most buoyancy, but will also be the bulkiest making them not the best tool to learn to swim.

toddler life jacket
Toddler Life Jacket

Life Jackets are best to be worn when partaking in boating or a moving vessel. It is the US law that a life jacket must be worn when on an open deck of a moving vessel for a child under the age of 13. Boating companies will have to provide a life jacket for your toddler if they are to come onto the ship. 

Each state also has their own guideline regarding life jacket requirements and penalties. To read more about it visit Sea Tow Foundation’s article here.

What Qualities to Look for in a Swim Vest for Toddlers?

best toddler swim vest

The main differential qualities to look for in swim products for your toddler are:

  • Material. The material of the swim product is important. You want a material that is waterproof and durable. You also want the swim aid to be able to dry quickly. The best materials are made from polyester, nylon and neoprene. 

For puddle jumpers and swim vest for toddlers nylon or polyester is most commonly used.

Nylon is more durable and water-resistant but also comes with a higher price tag compared to polyester.

Polyester provides a better UV resistance when compared to nylon and polyester is more eco-friendly. Poylester takes significantly less energy to synthesize which results in lower carbon emissions.

Neoprene is a pure rubber and the material wet suits are made out of. It is known to provide warmth and is softer to wear, although it takes longer to dry. The top quality life jackets are made from it.

  • UV Protection. Most swim aids provide some UV protection. However, you still might want to suncream your toddler for added protection, especially if the swim aid can wiggle around a bit.
  • Weight Range. Each product comes with a child weight range. Ensure your toddler is within the recommended weight range, otherwise the product might not perform as expected. 

What are the 5 types of Floatation Devices?

There are 5 different types of personal floatation devices. A worthwhile toddler puddle jumper will be a Type III, or known as floatation aide. A life jacket to save your toddlers life will be a Type I.

You can watch this video to learn more about the differences.

Best Toddler Swim Vests For Toddlers 1, 2 and 3 Year Old

Best 2 year old swim vest for toddlers

For the younger toddler a puddle jumper swim vest is going to be your best choice. Until your toddler has learned some swimming basics the added arm floaties will help keep your toddler comfortable in the water under your protection.

Stearns Original Puddle Jumper - Best Overall

Stearns offer two different original puddle jumpers; one option being deluxe. The difference between the two is the deluxe option is made from a woven polyester fabric making it softer on the skin. This reduces chafing probability. The Deluxe weighs .3lb less and costs about $5 more.

The original Stearns Puddle Jumper uses a nylon shell. 

Stearns puddle jumper fits around your child right underneath their armpits and has an adjustable buckle that straps in the back of your toddler, ensuring they cannot take it off. It is the puddle jumper style meaning it also has arm floats.

The jacket is Type III US Coast Guard approved, approved for personal floatation aide. Adult supervision required.

The puddle jumper is lightweight (.27 lbs) and dries quickly. It is machine washable, but should be hung dry. The swim jacket comes in multiple designs and is made for children 30-50lbs. 

The one negative is that on a skinny child the puddle jumper can wiggle around and chaff. For this reason I would suncream your toddler even under the puddle jumper, unless a rashguard is worn underneath.

Body Glove Paddle Pals Life Jacket - Best Swim Vest for Slender Toddlers

If your toddler is slender this is the perfect life vest. Unlike Stearns puddle jumper design Body Glove’s design features a shoulder harness. Their design is patented. This is to ensure the swim vest stays in place as well as the adjustable strap in the back and arm floats.

Body Glove paddle pals is a US Coast Guard approved Type III flotation device. It is made from polyester and designed to prevent chafing. It comes in many different fun designs and fits kids 30-50 lbs. The product weighs 0.6 lb making it the heaviest of the three puddle jumpers. 

Many people have started using this product before their toddler reached 30 lbs. I also have used it when my son was 25lbs and found it fit right. Just ensure the jacket stays in place on your toddler and does not ride up.

Nexwave Kids Life Jacket - Best Swim Vest for 1 year old

Best Swim Vest for 1 year old Nexwave
My 21 month old at the beach in Nexwave vest

The best swim vest for a toddler smaller than 30 lbs is from Nexwave. My 1 year old wore this when he was (24-28 lbs) and it worked great for him. I will continue to have him wear it again this summer.

The Nexwave vest features a double stitched buckle that snaps in the back, weighs less than half a pound and provides a 12 month warranty. It comes in three different designs and in my personal experience I have not had issues with it wiggling around alot. 

My 1 year old asks to put it on when arriving at a pool and appears comfortable in it for long periods of time. It also dries quickly.

Best Swim Vest for Toddler with Swimming Basics (2, 3 and 4 year olds)

Once your toddler has some swimming basics a swim vest is more appropriate. A swim vest is a great choice if you want to continue teaching your toddler how to swim. The removal of the arm floaties allows for more movement. Parent supervision is required when your toddler is wearing a swim vest.

The most important things I look for with a swim vest for toddler are

  1. Zipper front with closure : A zipper is more secure than buckles and less bulky
  2. Adjustable buckle to go down between their legs: This helps make sure the vest does not ride up on a toddler and cause chafing and irritation. 

Gogokids Kids Swim Vest Life Jacket- Best 2 Year Old Swim Vest

Gogokids makes a great 2 year old size small swim vest. For a 2 year old swim vest I find a more robust swim vest is best. I want a swim vest that can be adjustable to fit like a glove on my toddler.

The toddler swim vest comes in two colors and a comfortable 2mm neoprene material. The neoprene gives the swim vest its buoyancy and some warmth.

The swim vest closes with a durable zipper in the front, adjustable buckles and a padded crotch strap. The fit should be snug and comfortable.

Your 2 year old should have no trouble moving their arms and learning to swim in this vest. The vest has a grab handle in the back, great for quickly grabbing your child in the water. Also the swim vest provides UPF 50.

Zeraty Kids Swim Vest - Best Overall Swim Vest for 3 & 4 year old

Zeraty makes a great learning to swim swim vest for toddlers. It provides UPF protection 50 and is made from neoprene. It comes in a handful of different designs for either a boy or girl.

The Zeraty Vest features a zip with a safety closure and buckle to go down and between their legs ensuring it stays in place and on your toddler and does not lift upward. It comes in three sizes: small (1-3 years) medium (4-6 years) and large (7-9 years). 

Again this is going to be a great option once your toddler has some experience in the water, such as treading water. This vest is great to start learning the strokes to swim and when supervised. 

SwimSchool Swim Trainer Vest - Best Toddler Swim Vest for smaller 3 or 4 year old

If your toddler is on the small size and you want a product to enable them to start learning to swim better, the SwimSchool trainer vest is a great option. The small fits a toddler up to 33 lbs and a medium will go up to 50lbs.

Like the Speedo swim vest, the Swimschool vest has a zipper closure with safety cover as well as a buckle snap to go between their legs. Ensure the buckle strap is the right fit, without this the vest can ride up and might chaf the face or neck.

The vest was designed for a child to be in a forward position learning to swim by having flex-form foam pads in the right location. The product weighs 0.77 lbs, a bit more than speedo due to the added foam pads to try to keep the toddler in a prone swimming position. It is UPF 50 and still recommends having a rashguard below the vest, especially to reduce any chance of chafing. 

I recommend this for pool use mostly, for rougher waters a swim vest which also is suited for a child not in the forward position would be best.

What if My 1 Year Old Doesn’t Fit the Minimum Weight Requirement for a Swim Vest?

Most puddle jumpers and swim vests have a minimum child weight of 30 lbs. If your 1 year old doesn’t meet this requirement you can look for a baby floatie to be used in a pool or body of water, under your supervision. Some puddle jumpers can fit a smaller child and might be worth looking at.

You should also be able to find a life jacket in the right size. This is a great option if you are concerned of water safety.

Best Baby Swim Vest

The best baby swim vest will be a certified life jacket. These devices will keep your baby's head out of the water and prevent a baby from drowning. Parents should place a life jacket on their baby any time their baby is on the water, such as a boat.

my daughter in a baby life jacket
My baby in a life jacket ensuring the head stays out of the water

If you are looking for a way to carry your baby in a pool with you a water baby carrier might be best.

Full Throttle Infant Baby-Safe USCG Approved Life Jacket

Full Throttle make a nylon life jacket for infants less than 30 lbs. It features an oversized collar for head support, buckle at collar for easy put on access, elasticized comfort leg strap and comes in two colors.

The US Coast Guard has approved the flotation device as Type II Life Jacket. You shouldn't worry when your baby is wearing this device properly.

Overall Safety Tips for Toddlers with Swim Vests On

safety when swimming with toddlers

-Never leave a child unattended with a swim vest

-Make sure it can't be easily removed by your toddlers (think strap in back)

-Ensure the vest is suited to the right weight of your toddler

Hope this helps you determine what toddler swim vest is best for your child!

Be sure to also check out Best Toddler Water Shoes!