kids life jackets

How to choose a kid's life jacket

You shouldn’t take any compromises when it comes to keeping your child safe, which is why we only sell the best kids life jackets from the most trusted brands. That said, choosing a life jacket for kids can still be a tricky decision, which is why we want to make sure you have the best possible information available.

This guide includes:

Head over to our main life jacket page to shop all adult and child life jackets.

Difference between a life jacket, buoyancy aid and impact vest

Firstly, make sure you know the difference between the flotation devices we have available.

  • A life jacket is strongly recommended for children, toddlers and babies, as it will support the head and keep the wearer facing upwards in the water, should they be unable to do this themselves.
  • A buoyancy aid, as the name suggests, will aid the buoyancy of the wearer, keeping them floating. It will not, however, support the neck and head, or roll the wearer over if they’re face down in the water. Anyone wearing a buoyancy aid should still be a confident swimmer.
  • An impact vest is used for sports like wakeboarding, where the chances of hitting the water with impact are high. Though it does provide some flotation, its primary purpose is to protect the torso and vital organs from being injured from impacting with the water.

What to look for in a child's life jacket

  • CE approved: All European life jackets must carry the CE mark, which all of the life jackets on Wetsuit Outlet do.
  • Foam: Foam life jackets are the only options available to buy for children up until the age of seven, although many would keep kids in foam life jackets until they’re eight or nine.
  • Foam collar/neck support: an essential feature of a life jacket (if it doesn’t have this, it’s not a life jacket!)
  • 100N of buoyancy: Buoyancy is measured in Neutons (N), and 100N is the standard for those who will be in sheltered calm water, but you should always check the weight of the child against the guidelines on the life jacket, as a heavier child will require more buoyancy. Furthermore, if you’re heading further out to see – maybe doing a channel crossing – a 150N life jacket would be a good idea. However, this is a lot of foam for a kid who is just splashing about in the shallows.
  • Sizing: Tempting as it is to buy a life jacket your child will grow into, the guidelines set out by the RNLI say to get one which fits them right now. If a life jacket is too big, it can slip above the child’s head and be unable to offer proper support or keep their mouth and nose above the water. A good way to judge this is to fit and adjust the life jacket on the child and then lift the life jacket from the top. You shouldn’t be able to lift it more than 2.5cm from the child’s shoulders if the fit is correct.
  • Crotch straps: Kids always hate wearing these, but leading on from the previous point, they’re key in ensuring the life jacket stays in place.
  • Reflective taping/bright colours: These features improve the visibility of the child and will be useful for spotting them.
  • Whistle: Again, helpful for the wearer to be able to attract attention should they need to, but admittedly highly irritating when your child is sitting right next to you and feels the need to “test” the whistle for twenty minutes straight…

What are the best kids life jackets?

Without further ado, here are our best life jackets for kids…

Click on any of the options on our list to see more information.

Foam life jackets:

Foam Life Jackets

Jobe Kids Comfort Boating PFD Vest


Jobe’s comfort boating life vest offers the ultimate protection on the water. Covered in lightweight nylon to ensure durability season after season, this vest has great visibility due to its reflective panels. This life jacket even features a whistle in case of emergency.


  • 100N ISO-certified (life jacket)
  • Adjustable webbing strap
  • Bright color & reflecting panels for optimal visibility
  • Crotch strap for optimal safety
  • Front zipper for fast entry
  • Lightweight EPE-foam
  • Strong & lightweight nylon fabric
  • Unisex fit
  • Whistle in case of emergency


Gul Dartmouth 100N Child Life Jacket

Gul Dartmouth 100N Child Life Jacket

Gul has designed this child’s life jacket with a large collar to support the head if submerged and for sun protection. The reflective piping and bright orange colours ensures visibility from a distance.


  • 100N buoyancy
  • ISO approved life jacket
  • Solas approved reflective tape on collar
  • CE approved hard wearing outer
  • 40mm Nylon webbing waist belt
  • Adjustable webbing thigh straps
  • Soft layered foam
  • Extra reflective piping for visibility

Crewsaver Euro 100N Life Jacket

Crewsaver really leads the way when it comes to life jacket design, and this expertise is prominent in their range of children’s life jackets as well. The Euro 100N is a foam life jacket, designed for inshore use for sailing, kayaking, swimming and other surface watersports.

It’s available in baby and child sizes, as well as large child and junior, and features cartoon characters from ‘Oliver’s Adventure’ which helps to teach children the importance of wearing a life jacket – a nice extra touch which makes wearing a life jacket a lot more fun for the child.


  • 100N super soft PVC foam lifejacket
  • Reflective taping
  • Inherently buoyant
  • Crotch straps as standard
  • Strong, durable cover and fittings
  • Whistle
  • Waist adjustment
  • Fun cartoon design
  • Comes with ‘Oliver’s Adventure’ storybook

Crewsaver Spiral 100N Life Jacket

The other option from Crewsaver is the Spiral 100N Life Jacket. This is made to the same exceptional standard as the Euro, but doesn’t feature the cartoon design.


  • 100N foam lifejacket
  • Inherently buoyant
  • Crotch straps included as standard
  • Strong, durable cover and fittings
  • Whistle
  • Waist adjustment
  • Reflective tape and detailing


For further advice on choosing a child’s buoyancy aid, give our friendly and knowledgeable customer service team a call.

You can shop all kids life jackets here.

We also stock a wide range of the best quality manual inflation and automatic life jackets for adults and teenagers.

Updated on 6th April 2022

Originally published on 21st February 2020 in Guides

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