Kids love playing in the water, and as a new mom, I imagined myself taking my kids to the pool in the summers. I grew up with a swimming pool next door, and I loved soaking up the sun and splashing in the water. Somehow my mom toted us all to the pool and kept track of us without losing her mind. Holding my first baby, I figured it would be easy to share my love of water with my kids.
I quickly learned I couldn’t possibly hold all of my kids at the same time and keep them all from drowning. How could I take them swimming without at least one other adult to help me? After talking with some other mothers, I learned about the heaven-sent swimmer floaties. It completely changed our summers and vacations.
Keeping an eye on my kids in the pool wasn’t impossible any more, and as long as they stayed within arms length I knew I could keep them safe. It was a big step in their learning how to swim.
Safety Word of Caution
*The following swim floaties are to help your child be comfortable in the water while learning to swim. An adult still needs to be with your child at all times. These swim floats are not life-saving devices nor do they replace adult supervision.
The 14 Best Swim Floaties for Young Kids in 2021
Here are 14 good flotation devices to help your toddlers and preschoolers stay safe while enjoying the water. We’ve also reviewed our favorite infant life jackets and kids goggles. If you’re looking for a jacket rather than a floatie, take a look at that review.
|Top Swim Floaties||Product Details|
|Stearns Puddle Jumper|
|Body Glove Paddle Pals|
|Speedo Begin to Swim|
|SwimSchool Trainer Vest|
|Konfidence Swim Jacket|
|Gogokids Swim Vest|
|Blue Mars Swim Vest|
|Silfrae Swim Vest|
|Gogokids Kids Pool Float|
|Topsung Swim Trainers|
|Zerlar Floatation Swimsuit|
|SwimSchool Tot Trainer|
|Speedo Swim Arm Bands|
|Little Fin Swimmer Float|
When I was learning to swim, I remember wearing the plastic water wings. Remember those? The ones that ripped your skin off when your parents pulled and tugged with all their might to get them off your wet arms? There weren’t many options back then. Thankfully now there are more choices with much better (and less painful) results. How do you decide? Here are some tips of things to look for in toddler or preschooler swim floaties:
Swim Floaties for Toddlers and Preschoolers – What to Look For:
- How safe is the device? Does the device keep your child’s weight centered? If not, your child will tip over either forward or backward into the water.
- What material is it made of? Good quality foam will keep your child floating above the water, but the material on the outside can be just as important. The best materials to keep your child comfortable while swimming are neoprene and polyester. Products made of nylon are often cheaper, but nylon can rub and chafe.
- Is the device adjustable? You want to make sure your child is securely fastened into the swim aid so he doesn’t fall out or take it off in the water. Look for adjustable straps.
- Is the device approved by the U.S. Coast Guard or American Red Cross? For me, the peace of mind in knowing the device has been tested and deemed effective is well worth a few extra dollars.
1. Stearns Puddle Jumper
This is a great life jacket for kids who are learning to swim. You’ve probably seen this style. It goes around the child’s chest and has attached armbands to keep the child afloat. The Stearns Puddle Jumper has foam armbands as well as foam around the chest. An adjustable buckle snaps in the back to keep your child secure. This product is for kids weighing 30-50 pounds.
It comes in a variety of colors with cute sea creatures and smiling faces on it. Puddle Jumper floaties are made of polyester, so they won’t cause chafing. Stearns floaties are the top choice for a beginning swimmer.
2. Body Glove Paddle Pals
This looks similar to the Puddle Jumper above, but unlike some similar styles, the Body Glove Paddle Pals comes with a shoulder harness; this keeps the life jacket from falling off or being taken off by your child.
Paddle Pals is made of high-quality polyester, which doesn’t chafe like nylon can. This swim aid is designed for children who weigh 30-50 pounds. One of my favorite things about it is that it is U.S. Coast Guard approved. That means you can use it for swimming, boating, or other water activities and feel confident that it will keep your child safe. It comes in a variety of fun prints and colors.
3. Speedo Kids’ Begin to Swim
This is great option for kids who are ready to learn to swim. It’s a swim vest and allows more freedom for movement than the options with armbands. The neoprene cover helps with both buoyancy and warmth for the swimmer. A child can easily put this children’s float vest on by himself. There is also a center safety strap that buckles, ensuring the vest stays in place. The neoprene exterior with polyester lining means your child will be comfortable in this vest, without any rubbing or chafing.
Additionally, this pool vest for kids has a UPF 50+ rating, which means it protects your child from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Another bonus is that the Speedo Kids’ Begin to Swim vest is that it’s American Red Cross Licensed for Swim Level 2. You can be confident that this product will help protect your child as he learns to swim. There are two size options: medium (for 33-45 pounds) and large (for 45-60 pounds).
4. SwimSchool Trainer Vest
This is another swim vest specifically for children who are ready to learn to swim. It contains foam pads and padded shoulders to keep your child afloat. Sleeves help keep your child’s shoulders protected from the sun, while still allowing freedom of movement in the water.
The adjustable safety strap allows you to make it just the right size for your child. This vest comes in a blue camo print for boys or a pink camo print girls swim vest. There are two size options: small/medium (for 20-33 pounds) and medium/large (for 33-55 pounds).
While the concept of this vest is good and the price is low, the safety strap can be irritating to legs and can result in chafing. Also, the vest often rides up, leaving a rash on the neck and jawline.
5. Konfidence Swim Jacket
The Konfidence Children’s Swim Jacket has won several awards and is a fantastic choice for kids learning to swim. It is made of soft neoprene fabric on the outside and quality foam on the inside. The neoprene prevents chafing on the neck and face. It also provides sun protection.
If you’ve ever been swimming in cold water, you know there’s nothing worse than trying to keep a shivering child warm in the water. One of the best things about the Konfidence jacket is that it keeps your child warm in the water.
This swim jacket comes in 8 different patterns and 3 sizes: 18 months-3 years, 4-5 years, and 6-7 years. It does run a bit small so you might consider buying a size up if your child is large.
While the Konfidence Children’s Swim Jacket is not US Coast Guard approved as a lifesaving device, it gives kids confidence as they learn to swim. Unlike most other children’s float vests, this one gives you the option of removing some or all of the foam as your child becomes a better swimmer.
6. Gogokids Kids Swim Vest
The Gogokids Swim Vest is good for older preschoolers. It is made from neoprene and comes in blue or pink. Parents and kids love that it is easy to put on and take off. The quick release buckles are not hard to squeeze, but they stay fastened to keep your kiddo safe. A grab handle at the top is good in case parents need to quickly lift the child from the water. The double crotch strap keeps kids snuggly inside, though it can be a bit uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, although the manufacturer claims this is made of neoprene, it can cause chafing. Because the vest can cause the child to tip a bit in the water, we would only recommend it for older preschoolers (5-6 years old).
The Gogokids offers 100% UV protection and comes in 4 sizes as follows:
- Small (for 31-38 pounds)
- Medium (for 39-52 pounds)
- Large (for 53-70 pounds
- X-Large (for 71-95 pounds)
To be clear, this swim vest is NOT USCG approved. It is not as high quality as the Konfidence or Speedo vests listed above.
7. Blue Mars Swim Vest
If you are looking for a style similar to the Puddle Jumper with a slightly smaller price tag, check out the Blue Mars Kids Swim Vest. Made for kids weighing 20-50 pounds, it is good for kids ages 1-4.
One fun thing about this product is that it comes in 8 unique patterns. There is sure to be one your kid would enjoy.
While there is only one size available, the adjustable buckle helps keep your little one secure. And a slide buckle keeps the main buckle from getting loose as your child splashes around. Double stitching and good quality polyester fabric make this a durable product.
A 1-year warranty helps ensure your satisfaction. Although this is a good product, it isn’t as good as the Puddle Jumper, which costs only a few dollars more.
8. Silfrae Swim Vest
The Silfrae Swim Vest looks much like many of the other swim floaties for kids on this list. Like the others, it is made of foam and woven polyester, which won’t hurt your toddler’s skin. It has an adjustable buckle in the back so you can get the right fit. This swim vest floatie is for kids weighing 30-50 pounds. However, it is larger than the Stearns Puddle Jumper or the Body Glove Paddle Pals.
You will notice it costs less than most comparable ones as well. While the foam is of decent quality, the fabric is sewn loosely around the foam and wears out quite quickly. If you are looking for the best swim floaties for toddlers, look at the top of this list.
For a swim flotation device to use only a few times, the Silfrae Swim Vest would work. However, if you want something that will last, look at our highest-rated swim floats for toddlers.
9. Gogokids Kids Pool Float
This cute toddler swim aid is for kids ages 2-6 and 30-50 pounds. It comes in 4 aquatic designs with bright colors.
Like most other similar products, there is only 1 size. It has an adjustable buckle in the back. There are also adjustable shoulder straps, which help keep your child even more secure in the water. However, the straps do tend to loosen so you will need to check them periodically.
The Gogokids float is made of a foam core and is covered in polyester. Although this is a cute product that works pretty well, I would suggest going with one of the others on this list.
10. Topsung Swim Trainers
If you are looking for a toddler swim float to use while you travel, this is a good choice. It deflates to lie completely flat in your luggage. Blow this floatie up by mouth or by pump. A pump is included, but it is hardly worth using. There are 3 valves–one on each arm and one for the chest piece.
An adjustable strap and buckle keep the floatie in place. The Topsung Swim Trainers are available in pink or blue.
This toddler flotation device works pretty well at keeping kids’ faces out of the water and helping them learn to swim. The biggest drawback to this option is that it causes chafing, especially on the arms. I recommend wearing a swim shirt underneath to prevent chafing.
For kids 3-6 years old, this is an inexpensive option. It is great to use for a few days when traveling, but I wouldn’t recommend it as your primary floatie.
11. Zerlar Floatation Swimsuit
This floaties swim suit is different from the others on this list. It is an actual swim suit with removable floatation in the suit. The 8 removable foam float inserts are nice because you can remove a few of the floats at a time as your little girl becomes more skilled in the water.
This floatie comes in 4 fun patterns and 6 sizes for girls from 20-66 pounds. However, it works better with girls who are closer to the end of that range, as they usually have more control in the water. For younger girls, this swim vest with removable floats can cause them to tip.
The material on this floatie swimsuit isn’t the highest quality. It will probably only last one swim season, although some kiddos will outgrow other floaties after one season.
12. SwimSchool Tot Trainer
The SwimSchool Deluxe Tot Trainer is a classic vest attached to a flotation ring. This toddler floatie is great for toddlers and preschoolers who are getting ready to learn to swim. The vest and ring cover are made of a soft fabric that is easy on a child’s sensitive skin. To be clear, the ring is not rubber. It is one you have to blow up yourself. When inflated, it supports a child quite well.
Unlike products with a similar design, the SwimSchool Deluxe Tot Trainer has an adjustable strap. This assures that your child is secure and won’t slip through the bottom of the ring.
The fabric has a UPF rating of 50, so it will protect your little one from harmful UVA and UVB rays. This floatie is best for kids ages 2-4.
The biggest drawback to the SwimSchool Deluxe Tot Trainer is it deflates pretty easily. You have to keep blowing it up, which could be a safety issue if you aren’t careful.
13. Speedo Swim Arm Bands
The Speedo Swim Arm Bands are different than the other items on this list. These are inflatable arm bands only, there is nothing that wraps around the chest. Arm bands are best for kids who are more comfortable in the water. Depending on how much exposure your child has had to water, these would be good for kids ages 3-7. The manufacturer recommends the arm bands for ages 2-12 years, but we found they are too small for most kids over age 7, and most 2-year-olds aren’t quite ready for them. They will hold kids up to 110 pounds.
There are a few different options with these bands. There are two patterns that have a polyester fabric over the plastic. Two patterns come in the plastic only. I recommend the fabric-covered ones, as they are much more comfortable and easier to put on and take off.
14. Little Fin Swimmer Float
This float is the same style as the Paddle Pals near the top of the list. The Little Fin is good for kids who weigh between 30 and 50 pounds. It comes in several different prints and colors.
The adjustable strap in the back and the shoulder straps help keep kids securely in the float. Plastic foam keeps the device buoyant, and it is covered with soft , good quality polyester material.
This is a very cute product. While it does a decent job, it is actually more expensive than the Body Glove Paddle Pals, which is much better performing.
Does a pool float allow a toddler to swim without adult supervision?
No! It is essential that an adult is with a toddler in the pool within arm’s reach at all times. A pool float is not a life jacket or self-supporting flotation device.
How does a pool floatie work?
A pool float provides some buoyancy to assist a child in swimming. Some pool floats can help a child learn to swim with adult supervision.
What materials are pool floats made of?
Pool floats are typically made of polyester or neoprene on the outside so that they are not too abrasive on the skin. The inside of flotation devices are often made of a foam.
You don’t have to be scared about taking your toddler or preschooler to the pool. Get good swim floaties, and you can be confident that pool or lake swimming will be an enjoyable experience for you and your children.
The above options are affordable and effective. If you are having a hard time narrowing down the options, I would recommend the Body Glove Paddle Pals if you are looking for a swimming device with armbands.
Recommended Pool Floatie
For a pool floatie for toddlers, I recommend the Body Glove Paddle Pals Swim Life Jacket and the Stearns Puddle Jumper Life Jacket. Having the security of a USCG approved flotation device gives this swim floatie the most flexibility regardless of where you are going swimming.
Recommended Swim Vest or Swim Aid
Kids who are becoming confident in the water and are ready to learn to swim would benefit from a swim vest. I recommend the Konfidence Children’s Swim Jacket or the Speedo Kids Begin to Swim vest. Have a splashing time with your kids at the pool or beach! Have some recommendations on swim aids you love? Let me know below.