How to Fit Your Child for a Life Jacket

We know that life jackets are synonymous with boating safety and that everyone on board should be wearing a life jacket each and every time on the water. But when it comes to matching the jacket with the person, one size does not fit all. This is especially true for children. An ill-fitting jacket can put your child in harm’s way. Too small and it will not be able to keep the body afloat; too big and it can slip off.

So how can you assure a proper fit for your child? Follow these tips and procedures for peace of mind when enjoying boating activities with children:

Size Guidelines:
Life jackets come in four sizes, which are categorized by weight range. Check the manufacturer’s label inside the jacket to determine the size.

  • Infant – under 30 pounds
  • Child – 30-50 pounds
  • Youth – 50-90 pounds
  • Adult – 90 pounds and over

While these are good guidelines, body proportions vary by individual, so it is essential that you take the next steps to determine the proper fit.

Is the life jacket too small?
After slipping the life jacket on your child, make sure all zippers and buckles can be closed and fastened properly. It should be snug, but comfortable.

Is the life jacket too big?
Have the child hold his or her arms straight up overhead. Pull the life jacket upwards by the arm openings. If you are able to slip the fastened jacket over the body, the jacket is too big. Also, make sure there is no excess room above the openings and the jacket does not ride up over the chin, ears or face.

Additional Tip:
Unlike other jackets and clothing, resist the temptation to purchase a life jacket with the thought that your child will grow into it. Equip your child with the best fitting life jacket for their current age. If your child is in between sizes, start with the smaller size, so that there is no risk the jacket will slip off.

For visual instructions, check out this safety video by Boat U.S. Foundation

You Might Also Like

Stephanie Vatalaro

Stephanie Vatalaro

Stephanie Vatalaro is vice president of communications for the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation and its Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar campaigns where she works to recruit newcomers to recreational fishing and boating and increase awareness of aquatic conservation. Stephanie grew up in the Florida Keys as the daughter of a flats fishing guide. Outside of work, you can find her fishing and boating with her family on the Potomac River in the Northern Neck of Virginia.