Keep Afloat with The Best Toddler and Baby Floaties
This post may contain affiliate links. See my full disclaimer here
If you are headed on vacation, or to the pool or beach, an important must-pack is your pool floatie. Bringing the ‘wrong’ toddler floatie on your trip is a mistake you just don’t want to make (from experience!). Before we discovered our favorite floatie, we spent many a vacation suffering from a clingly toddler who had all of the sudden decided he was AFRAID OF ALL WATER. After seven days straight of being held to for dear life, we knew we needed to find something that was going to give our little one some confidence in the water! If you are headed to the water with your little ones check out my suggestions here for the best toddler and baby pool floaties below!
We’ve now tried so many different toddler flotation devices over the years, and have finally found the best toddler floatie around. In this post I’m going to cover our favourite toddler and baby flotation devices, and also review some of the important differences between a toddler lifejacket and a ‘floatie’.
Lifejacket vs Pool Floatie
A pool floatie is NOT the same as a lifejacket. Lifejackets or PFDs (personal flotation devices) are lifesaving devices that are meant to keep your head above water if (God-forbid) you were ever in trouble.
In fact, lifejackets specifically, are meant to be able to turn a person from the face-down position over to their back in the water. PFDs (personal flotation devices) do not have this same feature and are only designed to keep you afloat. Lifejakets are absolutely what you need if you are going on a boat or watercraft as they keep you and your family safe.
Please visit Red Cross to read more about Canadian standards for life jackets or the US Coast Guard lifejacket facts if you are in the US. In both of these countries, if a floatation device is approved, it will be clearly marked on the inside of the jackets with a weight and chest size approval. Look for approval by the US Coast Guard (or Canadian Coast Guard/Transport Canada if in Canada)
Life vests, floaties, swim-aids, puddle jumpers and other flotation devices all have some material that is meant to help you stay afloat. Whether these devices are ALSO lifejackets depend on the specific product. You need to check the labels! In general, if it is not an approved lifejacket or PFD these will NOT save your life if you are at risk of drowning. They are simply an aid to make swimming easier. They can still be GREAT for toddlers who are learning to swim but its important that an adult is still ALWAYS supervising kids (at arms length!) with pool floaties on. These shouldn’t be used on boats. The danger in the water can happen in a matter of seconds.
The Best Toddler Floatie: The Puddle Jumper
Hands down the only floatie that you need for your toddler is a puddle jumper! Seriously, if we forgot our puddle jumper on vacation we would probably order amazon same day shipping just to get one at our hotel! My son absolutely loves this toddler floatie, which I think is perfect for most kids age 2 and up (it is rated between 30-50lbs).
What makes the puddle jumper so great is the design. These upgraded water wings have a genuis chest strap that brings your toddlers face up and out of the water. What do toddlers hate about the water? Getting their eyes wet!! Once my son realized he wasn’t going to be gulping water when he used this thing he was sold.
In the US, the coast guard has actually approved this as a ‘learn to swim’ type V lifejacket. In Canada, the puddle jumper is considered a swim aid (aka it is not approved and shouldn’t be what you use on a boat!)
With the puddle jumper, my 3-year-old son can basically swim completely independently. He enters and exits the water, kicks, and paddles and this year even started really dunking his head with some epic pool jumps! The fact that my son is now fearless around the pool DEFINITELY means I have to keep an extra eye on him at all times. When we are on vacation he does NOT take the puddle jumper off when we are by the water.
Puddle Jumper was the ‘original’ but there are now a few puddle jumper spinoffs that are getting rave reviews from some of my friends. These may also be worthwhile checking out:
Body Glove Paddle Pals: This has a similar design to the original, with an added feature of a safety vest. The safety vest makes it more difficult for kids to slip out of the vest. It also comes in some super cute patterns that your toddler will love.
Puddle Jumper 2-in-1 Swim Suit: Made by puddle jumper, this combines the original with a padded swimsuit. I’m not sure if the extra bulk is worth the extra space, or if the padded swimsuit does the same job of bringing the chest up that the original does.
The Best Baby Floatie: Inflatable with Canopy
For babies <12 months, the options for floaties are a bit more limited. I can’t say I’ve gotten into the latest odd trend of these neck flotation devices, that seem umm, super dangerous to say the least. We tend to use a baby floatie that has a canopy, as for us the most important thing on vacation with a baby, is keeping our babies out of the sun and protected from sunburn. We have a few inflatable baby floaties like this one that have been great in this regard.
The nice thing about an inflatable floatie is that these pack super well on vacation. We bought our two floaties when our first son was 8 months old and they have lasted three years and many trips back and forth on vacation.
Baby floaties are absolutely not rated as a lifejacket or PFD. These devices all need DIRECT (hands on) supervision. The main appeal with these devices is simply to be able to let your little one feel a little bit ‘free’ in the water and allow them to splash around a bit.
The Best Preschooler Floatie: The Swim Fin
After swiming a lot this year at our local gym, our four year old is actually starting to get quite comfortable in the water. Although the puddle jumper is still our go-to when we don’t want to worry, I did want to find something that would encourage my little guy to practice his swimming in a more realistic way. I had heard from some friends about this shark fin and decided to give it a try.
The shark fin is definitely a ‘swim aid’. It should be used with DIRECT hands-on supervision if your child does not know how to swim. It is great for giving kids a little boost in the water who already have the basics of swimming down. In a pinch, it’s similar to a pool noodle tried around the waist or the chest. We like the Shark fin, and lets be honest, it’s also adorable!!
The Best Toddler Lifejacket: Hyperlite
In the lifejacket category, the most important thing you should look for is to ensure that your lifejacet is ACTUALLY a certified lifesaving device. Again, check the label and make sure you look for approval in the country you live in. We have two toddler lifejackets at home that we use whever we go on a boat with our little ones. We certainly don’t take any risks in this regard.
In choosing a lifejacket, fit and style are probably the most imporant features. You want to make sure that you choose a lifejacket that fits with your child’s weight and chest measurements. For our son, we went with a hyperlite pfd that was made of a soft neoprene materal. This lifejacket was comfortable for my toddler and the few times that we did swim with it, it wasn’t riding up too much to bug him.
The Best Baby Lifejaket: OBrien
In canada, there are no lifejackets which are rated for babies under 20lbs. Small babies should alwas be held by their parents if they are travelling by boat. In the US, the US coast guard has several infant lifejackets which are approved for infants less than 30 lbs. I have an O’Briend infant life jacket that I actually scored at a local thrift store! We have only used it once, as we don’t tend to be big boaters. But I feel great about having it on hand in case we need it.
Stay Safe and Have Fun!
Now that you are all ready to float and enjoy the water on vacation be sure to check out my post on what to pack for the beach with kids for some more tips for your next adventures.
If you have a favourite floatie that didn’t make the list, drop me a line in the comments and I will definitely check it out!