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 15 Best Swim Floaties for Toddlers and Preschoolers in 2020
Here are 15 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|
|Body Glove Paddle Pals|
|Stearns Puddle Jumper|
|Speedo Begin to Swim|
|SwimSchool Training Vest|
|Poolmaster 50566 Learn to Swim|
|Konfidence Swim Jacket|
|Doji Kids FLoaties|
|Elejolie Swim Vest|
|Silfrae Swim Vest|
|SwimSchool Tot Trainer|
|Floatsafe Flotie Armbands|
|Gogokids Swim Vest|
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. Body Glove Paddle Pals Swim Life Jacket
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. 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.
2. Stearns Puddle Jumper Basic Life Jacket
The Stearns Puddle Jumper life jacket looks a lot like the Body Glove Paddle Pals, but this one doesn’t have the shoulder harness. It 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. While cheaper than the Body Glove, the Puddle Jumper is not as good of quality and doesn’t stay on the child as well. Stearns floaties are a good choice for a beginning swimmer, but if you are looking for lasting quality, go with the Body Glove.
3. Speedo Kids’ Begin to Swim Classic Swim Vest
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. Aqua Leisure Swim Training Vest with Sleeves
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. Poolmaster 50550 Learn-To-Swim Freestyler Swim Vest
This lightweight vest is a good option for toddlers or preschoolers who are ready to learn to swim. It is less bulky than some other swim vests. The open-side design gives the swimmer more freedom to move in the water. Closed-cell foam material makes this vest buoyant and gives you peace of mind that your child will be safe wearing it.
Nylon covers the foam. Unfortunately, nylon can cause chafing for some people. This vest has adjustable buckles and a center strap to keep your kiddo securely strapped in. The Poolmaster Learn-to-Swim Freestyler comes in three sizes: small (up to 45 pounds), medium (up to 65 pounds), and large (up to 80 pounds). This is a great choice for a swim vest as long as your child isn’t bothered by the nylon.
6. Konfidence Children’s 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.
7. Doji Kids First Floatie Swim Vest
This is probably the most versatile of the floaties on this list. It comes with two arm floaties and a swim belt which are attached with buckles. Once your child is more comfortable and calm in the water, simply detach the swim belt and allow the child to swim more independently.
The armbands on this swim float are inflatable. They hold air well, and as long as they are sealed correctly, they don’t deflate in the water. The swim belt is made of high-quality foam. The fabric is woven polyester and nylon. It can cause chafing, so you might want your child to wear a swim shirt underneath.
Since part of this flotation swimming device can be deflated, this is another good option to use when traveling. It takes up little room in luggage.
Be aware that although the manufacturer says this product is for kids 24-66 pounds, we have found that it is really better for kids about ages 4-8. The armbands are too big for most younger kids.
The Doji Kids First Floatie Swim Vest comes in either blue or pink/purple. It carries a 100% satisfaction guarantee as well as a limited warranty. A mesh carrying bag is included.
8. SwimSchool USCG TOT Swimmer
This is one of the only floaties on this list that is approved by the US Coast Guard. To be clear, this is not approved for boating; it is only approved for swim training and play.
The SwimSchool USCG Tot Swimmer is made for kids who weigh 30-50 pounds (roughly a child between 3 and 6-years-old). The woven fabric on the armbands and chest will not irritate a child’s skin. The adjustable strap helps assure the correct fit. Arm movement is not restricted with this floatie, so your child will be able to move around easily while he practices swimming. The Tot Swimmer is made of high-quality buoyant foam to keep your child afloat.
While similar to other designs, this one is slightly different. Instead of the foam piece across the chest being straight at the top, it is curved. That is fine for older or taller children, but for younger kids, the curved portion tends to rub on their chins and makes it harder to stay upright.
If your child is within the weight range and is tall, this would be a good option. Otherwise, check out the Body Glove or Stearns options.
9. Elejolie Swim Aid Vest for Toddlers
This option looks similar to many of those listed above. The Elejolie swim aid for kids is a good choice. It is advertised as being for kids who weigh 22-66 pounds and are 2-7 years old. However, it is larger than other options, and we find it is best for kids 30-60 pounds.
The inside is made of foam and the outside is polyester. It has an adjustable chest strap. Once again, if your child is on the slender side, this might not be the best option. Kids love that this comes in 8 different cute animal designs and colors. It is also less expensive than some of the other choices on this list.
You will notice that this looks a whole lot like the Puddle Jumper. It will give you similar results in that this is a good water vest for young kids and will help keep them afloat. This isn’t likely to last nearly as long as the Puddle Jumper though; it is not nearly as high of quality.
If you don’t need a beginning swim aid to last longer than one season or for more than one child, this could be the right choice for you.
10. 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.
11. Topsung Kids Deluxe Life Jacket 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.
12. Zerlar Floatation Swimsuit for Girls
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.
13. SwimSchool Deluxe 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.
14. Floatsafe Flotie Soft Fabric Armbands Floatie
I don’t know about you, but when I was a young kid, I swam with “water wings”. While there are many more sophisticated options now, the Floatsafe Flotie employs the age old inflatable armbands. However, unlike the sharp-cornered plastic I remember digging into my arms and side, the Floatsafe Flotie Armbands are covered with fabric. That means they are comfortable to wear and won’t causing chafing or cutting. There are two pattern options–pink with white flowers and blue with white fish.
This is another good option if you are traveling, as it deflates to be completely flat so it takes up very little room. Unfortunately, the valves on these armbands are the same as those I remember as a kid. There is no stop in the valve, so as soon as you stop blowing it up, air escapes as you rush to shove the stopper in.
These toddler arm floaties are for kiddos 30 pounds and up. They are best for kids ages 3-6.
This is a decent option for armband floaties, but we recommend Doji Kids First Floatie more highly.
15. 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.
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 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.