Pennsylvania, all children 12 years of age or younger are required to wear a life jacket when underway on a boat that is
20 feet in length or less and all canoes and kayaks. Beyond being a statewide regulation, however, ensuring youngsters
are wearing a properly fitting life jacket is also common sense.
With the vast array of sizes, shapes and makes available, selecting the right life jacket for a child can seem like a
daunting task. The wide variety of life jackets is a bonus, however, increasing the odds you'll find a proper fit.
Consider fit first when selecting a life jacket for youngsters.
When selecting a life jacket for a child, bear in mind the following guidelines:
- At home, be sure to measure the child's chest (underneath the arms) Many manufacturers include a chest size. Be
sure the chest measurement is accommodated by the life jacket when selecting a purchase.
- If the child has a fear of the water or does not know how to swim, a Type II Child or Infant life jacket is
- While at the store, have the child try on the life jacket and make sure it fits snugly. To determine fit, lift
the shoulders of the life jacket to make sure it does not slip over the chin or ears. The life jacket is too big if
there is more than three inches between the child's shoulders and the device.
- Choose brightly colored life jackets. Children are more likely to wear devices that are attractive to them. And
bright colors are also more readily visible on the water.
- Crotch straps are an important feature on life jackets for young infants. For the child's protection, be sure
the crotch straps are used at all times.
- A parent or other adult should assist the child in testing their life jacket in the water. Adjust the life
jacket so that its optimum performance is achieved. Let the child indicate when the device needs to be tightened or
A list of PFD manufacturers is available at our PFD Information page.