Puddle Jumper Life Jacket – All Your Questions Answered

It is important to prioritize the safety of your children around bodies of water. This is especially critical when they are young and small in size, which is why having products like the Puddle Jumper can be beneficial.

What are Puddle Jumpers? Puddle Jumpers are United States Coast Guard-approved life jackets for infants and children. These life jackets come in various sizes for children up to 90 pounds. They are designed to keep children safe, upright, and comfortable in the water. 

Keep reading to learn more about the Puddle Jumper’s features, risks, and effectiveness. 

What Does a Puddle Jumper Do? 

Puddle Jumpers are personal flotation devices that help water-bound children stay afloat.

They are Type V/III PDFs designed for quick rescue scenarios, mainly on inland waters.

Puddle Jumper Age 

Puddle Jumpers are designated to certain weight classifications rather than age.

However, most children won’t outgrow Puddle Jumper personal flotation devices until around ages 12-13 based on the average weight of children at each age.

Puddle Jumper Weight

Puddle Jumpers are made for children up to 90 pounds. It is important to make sure that you purchase your puddle jumper in accordance with your child’s true weight, not their perceived size. 

Puddle Jumper Sizes

Each Puddle Jumper size is designed with features conducive to water safety for that weight class.

Puddle Jumper Under 30 Pounds

The Puddle Jumper Infant Life jacket is designed for children under 30 pounds. These flotation devices are a single piece with a large chest float, head support, leg straps, and a grab strap.

They are designed for face-up flotation and are colorful to improve visibility in the water.

Puddle Jumper 30-50 Pounds

These flotation devices are what you picture when hearing the term Puddle Jumper. They look like traditional arm floaties with the added protection of a buoyant chest piece.

They’re often decked out in cartoons and vibrant decorations that provide added visibility in the water.

This size is designed for children 30-50 pounds, which often means those of preschool age. 

Youth Puddle Jumpers 50-90 Pounds

Youth Puddle Jumpers look almost identical to adult life jackets. They’re designed with mobility and comfort in mind to encourage proper use. They have front buckles and a fitted design to make size adjustments easy.

This flotation device is made for children 50-90 pounds and is the last Puddle Jumper size before entry into the world of adult life jackets.

Are Puddle Jumpers Safe?

Yes, Puddle Jumpers are safe when properly fitted and used. 

Are Puddle Jumpers Coast Guard Approved?

Yes, Puddle Jumpers are U.S. Coast Guard Approved. This means that the product meets certain safety standards and regulations set forth by the USCG. 

These products must include the boat sizes on which they can be worn as well as the weight or chest diameter for which the floatation device was designed. 

Are Puddle Jumpers Recommended?

Puddle Jumpers are a recommended flotation device for general water safety for children. They’re not recommended for unsupervised swimming or when learning to swim.

That said, many sources, including parents, boaters, and water-safety experts, have a love/hate relationship with Paddle Jumpers. 

Are Puddle Jumpers Approved for Boating?

Yes, Puddle Jumpers are U.S. Coast Guard Approved for boating. However, other measures, such as seat belts, need to be in place aboard a watercraft to ensure child safety.

Does Puddle Jumper Keep Head Above Water?

Per the Puddle Jumper website, they are designed to keep a child’s chest, arms, and head above water. Keep in mind that this relies on the proper use and fit of the child’s flotation device. 

Can You Use Puddle Jumpers in the Ocean?

Puddle Jumpers can be used in the ocean close to the shore; however, they’re not rated for offshore use in open ocean waters.

Oceans pose a more dangerous environment than pools or lakes due to the waves and undercurrents.

Parental supervision is the key to protecting children in ocean waters regardless of what type of floatation device is used.

Puddle Jumper Benefits

Puddle Jumpers provide an extra layer of protection in the event of water accidents. They’re safer than many alternative child flotation aids on the market, including arm floaties and inflatables. 

In addition, children who aren’t confident in the water can safely play under adult supervision. The Puddle Jumper encourages a sense of confidence for young children. However, this confidence has its dangers.

Puddle Jumper Dangers

One of the largest dangers associated with personal flotation devices such as the Puddle Jumper is a false sense of security.

Children who have swum with the assistance of personal flotation devices like the Puddle Jumper may overestimate their swimming capability.

Parents should never leave their children unattended or unsupervised in the water regardless of what protections are in place.

In addition, improperly fitted puddle jumpers can lead to drowning or suffocation accidents. Making sure your child is wearing an appropriately sized personal flotation device is vital to their health and safety in the water.

This means you will need to familiarize yourself with your child’s weight prior to shopping for a flotation device. It also means that a test run in the water, both with and without your child, is necessary. 

Puddle Jumper vs. Life Jacket

Puddle jumpers are made for children and are classed by weight. Life jackets are made for teens and adults larger than 90 pounds but switch to a chest-diameter-based sizing rather than weight.

Puddle Jumper vs. Arm Floaties

Arm floaties are not US Coast Guard approved, nor are they recommended for pool use by the CDC or ADA.

While generally seen as a safe water aid, they are not recognized as personal flotation devices.

Puddle Jumpers meet these standards of regulation and are recommended for general water safety. 

Is a Swim Vest Better Than a Puddle Jumper?

Puddle Jumpers are classified as personal flotation devices while swim vests are classified as swim aids. 

This means that a swim vest will not keep your head above water and is not US Coast Guard approved for boating or inland or offshore waters. Swim vests are designed for children learning to swim as an aid and comfort.

Neither one is inherently better than the other as they have different uses. However, when it comes to swim safety for young children unable to swim, the Puddle Jumper wins this round.

How Should a Puddle Jumper Fit?

A Puddle Jumper should fit tightly to the chest and arms.

  • After loosening all straps and unbuckling all buckles, place the PDF on your child.
  • Begin buckling and tightening the straps until they can’t be pulled further.
  • Once sufficiently tight, lift up on the child’s Puddle Jumper, and if it slips over the child’s chest, head, or arms at all, it’s too loose. 

Do Puddle Jumpers Help Kids Learn To Swim?

Puddle Jumpers present challenges to kids trying to learn how to swim. This is due to the way the flotation device positions the body in the water.

It keeps the body vertical or slightly slanted, whereas the natural swimming position is horizontal.

What Age Do Kids Stop Wearing Puddle Jumpers?

Personal flotation devices, including the Puddle Jumper are not worn according to age but rather to weight. Based on the average weight at each age, most children should be okay to wear adult PDFs by around age 12-13. 

What Is the Next Step After a Puddle Jumper?

Once the Youth Life Jacket 90-pound weight limit is exceeded, children should move to a small adult life vest. 

How To Clean Puddle Jumper

To clean your Puddle Jumper, simply rinse with cool fresh water to remove salt deposits and other impurities.

Hang the Puddle Jumper to dry, and then store it in a cool location out of the way of direct sunlight.

You should not use harsh chemicals or cleaners on your Puddle Jumper, nor should you attempt to have it dry-cleaned. 

Can You Put Puddle Jumpers in the Dryer?

No, you shouldn’t put your Puddle Jumper in the dryer as it can damage the foam on the inside. This can impair flotation capabilities.

What To Use Instead of Puddle Jumpers

While the Original Stearns Puddle Jumper is a safe and effective brand of personal flotation devices for children, there are others out there that are of equal value.

Some of these brands include:

Where To Buy Puddle Jumpers


Puddle Jumpers are personal flotation devices made to keep children safe in the water. They’re fitted according to weight and work for children up to 90 pounds.

Ensuring that your child is wearing a properly sized flotation device in the water is crucial. However, children should never be left in the water unattended, no matter what safeguards are in place.