Keeping Your Kids Safe: Tips for Choosing the Perfect Kids’ Life Jacket

Date Posted: 23 May 2023 

Keeping Your Kids Safe: Tips for Choosing the Perfect Kids’ Life Jacket main image Keeping Your Kids Safe: Tips for Choosing the Perfect Kids’ Life Jacket image

When you’re going out on the water with little ones, you want to ensure everyone is safe. At Mr Boats, we have a range of life jackets — or personal floatation devices (PFDs) — to support kids and adults alike. If you’re wondering how to choose a life jacket for kids, the first crucial rule is that one size does not fit all.

In fact, there are all sorts of requirements and considerations to observe when fitting life jackets for kids. In this blog post, we’ll break down everything you need to know about life jackets and provide some tips for finding the perfect fit. But first, let’s address the most pressing question of all.

Do Kids Have to Wear Life Jackets?

As a rule, anyone who’s venturing into so much as somewhat treacherous water conditions needs to wear a life jacket. However, some parents may query this, especially when their child is a confident swimmer. If you’re in this mindset, it’s important to remember that swimming ability should have no bearing on the blanket rule. Your child could be the best swimmer in the suburb, but that still shouldn’t get them out of wearing a life jacket.

So, why do kids have to wear life jackets, even when they excel at swimming? Because, for one thing, swimming is not a foolproof defence against water-based danger. Although it’s an invaluable skill to have up your sleeve, it’s also high energy and unsustainable for long periods of time. Swimming is also often no match for forces stronger than humans, such as strong currents, jagged rocks, or not-so-friendly fish or sea creatures. When nature rears its ugly head, even the fittest swimmers can cower against the cold temperatures or succumb to sudden shock.

Just as you wouldn’t sit in a car without securing a seatbelt — or you wouldn’t ride a motorcycle without protective gear — you shouldn’t board a boat without wearing a life jacket. And, when you consider their typically smaller stature and strength, that should go double for kids.

What Should I Look for in a Life Jacket for Kids?

As alluded to earlier, life jackets come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, the Marine Safety Regulation 2016 specifies life jacket ‘levels’ that correspond to specific conditions. To better understand the specifics, let’s look into each level in detail. This should lead us to the answer of the ultimate question: what is the safest life jacket for a child?

Level 50

Designed for competent swimmers, Level 50 life jackets are for tamer activities in enclosed waters. They provide basic support, but will not automatically turn their user into the face-up position. In action, the assumption is that the Level 50 user will be able to access the shore or bank relatively quickly.

Nevertheless, Level 50 life jackets will always feature a high-visibility colour. What is the safest colour for a life jacket? There’s no definitive answer, but most people would agree that red, orange or yellow fit the bill best.

Level 50S

Level 50S life jackets are a subset of Level 50 variants. The difference is entirely aesthetic: they come in a greater variety of styles and colours. They’re also a popular choice among wakeboarders and water skiers.

Level 100 & Over

Because Level 100+ life jackets are for more hardcore water activities, they have greater buoyancy and will turn their users into the face-up position. In this case, ‘hardcore’ has different levels, so let’s observe each one:

  • Level 100 jackets are for calmer conditions when the shore is still in sight.
  • Level 150 jackets are for offshore conditions and rough weather.
  • Level 275 jackets are like Level 150 variants with extras: they establish dominance over air-trapping clothes that could prevent the jacket from turning to a face-up position. They also provide extra buoyancy for people carrying heavy items.

So, What Is the Safest Life Jacket for a Child?

Children under 12 should wear a life jacket that fits well, does not slip off and ideally has a crotch strap. It’s important parents don’t confuse life jackets with swim vests, the latter of which aids children learning to swim but does not provide the protection of the former. Furthermore, we do not recommend inflatable life jackets for children under 12 or, for that matter, anyone who cannot swim.

If you’re boating with a baby on board, a life jacket will be more important than ever. You must find one that will hold the baby’s weight and fit so securely that the baby won’t slip out. If the baby is too small for even the smallest life jacket, it would be best to skip the boating trip for now. But if you are setting sail with a tiny passenger, a life-jacket-wearing adult must hold them at all times.

If your child is 12 or over, the specifications will be similar to those for an adult. Choose something that fits well, does not slip and slide, and is the correct level for the conditions at hand.

Where to Buy Life Jackets for Kids?

At Mr Boats, we have a range of different life jackets for sale. Whether you need a large inflatable life jacket for yourself or something for the kids, we’ve got you covered. While our brands are as easy as A-B-C — Axis, Burke and Crewsaver — our sizing is specific to your needs. We have life jackets fit for babies and toddlers, kids, and adults of all sizes.

From high-visibility Burke inflatable life jackets to camo-patterned variants from Axis, we’ve got what you want in your favourite colour and with the right specifications. Shop life jackets for the whole family at Mr Boats!