Life Jackets for Tots

Swimming Without StressingStearns Puddle Jumper life jacket with flotation on chest and arms in blue with orange starfish

  • What: Stearns Puddle Jumper Life Jacket
  • When: Age 2 until they can swim
  • Why: Keep them safe, help them learn to swim
  • Where: Amazon

We discovered these life jackets by accident. Instead of the standard vest shape, they have padding along the front chest and two floats attached on the sides, one to encircle each arm. We stumbled across a pair when I had three kids in a pool by myself, and I put my enthusiastic but not adequately swimming daughter in them. (My oldest was tall enough to touch the bottom and I needed both hands for my very slippery youngest who wanted to go everywhere his siblings went.)

She loved it so much I went home and scoured the internet until I found one online. The extra material at the arms keeps kids afloat with no restrictions on mobility. All of my kids love to wear it, even now that they know how to swim.

Stearns Puddle jumper life jacket in green with blue toucan and blue and yellow stripes

Our Stearns Puddle Jumper life jacket in green

I also think this design promotes learning to swim, unlike some other water safety equipment. Because my kids could use both their arms and legs to kick and paddle, they learned to propel themselves through the water quicker. My kids jumped in the pool wearing them regularly. Not only did the placement not budge, it allowed them to go under water (which they loved) but pop right back up (good for my peace of mind). They work great for the beach or swimming pool, though you will still need a vest style for boating and other higher risk water activities.

Backside of Stearns Puddle jumper life jacket in green with blue and yellow stripes on arm floats

The inside of our green Stearns puddle jumper life jacket with warnings and instructions

Contrary to instinct, the buckle on this design goes on your child’s back (unlike most life jacket designs). It adjusts to get a good fit for several years. They come in a variety of colors and the same size goes from 30 to 50 lbs to support all levels of water comfort.

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