The U.S. Coast Guard and many states require children to wear life jackets while on a boat;
unless they are in an enclosed cabin or down below. Your boat insurance company will expect you to
comply with these regulations.
These regulations depend on the size and age of the child, the size of the boat, and what boating
activity the child is participating in.
When purchasing a life jacket or life vest for a child, remember that if their ears or chin slips
through the neck it is not the appropriate size for the child. Life jackets or life vests should be
snug when worn by children or adults.
Check with your state boating officials to find out the particulars concerning children. If you
live in a state that has no regulations requiring children to wear life jackets, know that the USCG
has their own regulations and they supersede, meaning they take over where the state leaves off. In
this case, the USCG requires any child 13 years of age or under to wear an approved life jacket or
life vest while on a boat, whether it is moving or not.
There are many styles and types of life jackets for kids, but parents should be aware to look for
the USCG tag which states the jacket is approved and what type
it is; because there are many styles which are approved by the USCG and there are so many that are not.
Blow up "devices" such as water wings and floaties are considered toys and are not
approved by the USCG and thus not recommended by your boat insurance company
for use as a means to keep a child safe in an emergency.
Children's Life Jackets - Regulations