Skip to main content

US Coast Guard Approved Personal Flotation Devices for Proper Water Safety

As a swimming teacher for over 45 years, safety is the most important thing to be taught while in the water.

Child's PFD

Child's PFD

Personal Flotation Device

The function of a personal flotation device (PFD) is to keep your head above the water so you can breathe. When worn properly, this is accomplished. Be safe and prevent a water emergency, purchase and wear a US Coast Guard approved PFD.

Air Filled Devices

Your friends call to go boating, you are excited but remember you do not have any "floaties" for your 5-year old. You run into the discount store to purchase some arm band floaties, the kind you blow up, and maybe even a plastic ring for your child to "wear." They are cheap and readily available.

Please do not do this!


Approved Personal Flotation Devices

Instead, you take a few extra minutes and go to the pool section of the store and locate their flotation devices. Yes, the floaties are still there but you pass them up and go to the safer looking devices. These are devices that have printed inside them saying, "US Coast Guard Approved."

If the Coast Guard approves them, you know they are safe!

US Coast Guard Approval Number

US Coast Guard Approval Number

essential information

essential information

Proper Size Is Essential

When purchasing your device, pay attention to the weight limit printed on the inside back. The weight limits need to be adhered to because if you try and wear a device not in your size limit, the device will not perform properly.

For instance, a child weighing 25 pounds tries to wear a 30-50 lb. size device. It will not fit them properly and therefore the chance is high that it will not keep the child's head above the water properly, it may choke them, or it may even come off.

The same goes for squeezing into a size smaller. You will not be comfortable and you are too heavy for the weight limit. Again, the device will not perform properly.

The weight limits are spelled out expressly on each device. If you do not see this, keep looking until you find one.

And by all means, buckle the device! I recently saw a photo of kids on a boat on Lake Michigan all wearing the correct PFDs - not buckled! If they got thrown off that boat, guess what? The jacket is going to come off. Use your imagination from there.

Scroll to Continue
Weight Limit and USCG approval are clearly marked

Weight Limit and USCG approval are clearly marked

Life Vest

Puddle Jumpers

These are extremely popular for young children in the weight range of 30-50 pounds. Age is not relevant. There are many brands available. They are US Coast Guard approved and since they have been in the marketplace, if worn properly, I have not seen any problems with children wearing them. They have the arm rings and a banded section across the front of the child's body with a clip-hook in the back. They have instructions on how to wear the device printed on the inside.

Again, worn within the proper weight range, they function as they are supposed to. It is very difficult to go underwater with one of these on, if not impossible by one's self.

These come in all sorts of designs, gender, and characters - great ways to entice kids to wear them!

There are similar devices being sold without the USCG approval for a little cheaper than the USCG approved brands. Please spend the extra few dollars for the right product.

Puddle Jumper front view

Puddle Jumper front view

weight range and safety information

weight range and safety information

back view with clasp and instructions

back view with clasp and instructions

Puddle Jumper

Organizations Advocating Safe Swimming

The USA Swimming Federation now recommends all children take swimming lessons and has a lesson finder on their website. The American Red Cross has long been teaching lessons and has the triage of water smarts, swimming skills, and helping others as their focus.

A local organization I advocate here in Texas is working to make bodies of water safer as Texas has the highest child drowning rate in the country. Their mantra is "lifeguardyourchild."

Please research any of these organizations as they have much safety information on their websites that may help you gain knowledge and keep your family safe.

There Is No Guarantee - Constant Supervision is Necessary

On all of these PFDs, there is a lot of printed information. In that information there is no guarantee of protection of life. This depends on constant supervision (with adult eyes on the child and no phone in hands), proper use, good decision making, and wearing a buckled PFD. These things combined give you a very good chance at being safe in a body of water.

Please consider arming your family with this layer of protection when you are around or in water.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Joanie Ruppel

Related Articles