We got season passes to our local water park for the summer... so we'll be spending lots of time swimming!!
So now I need to think about a life jacket for DS. There are some tricks... He's 3, but he only weighs 28 pounds... so all the toddler jackets are going to be too big for him. I'm not really wanting to get him one of the infant ones with the head support... I think he'll be less likely to be happy and comfortable in it. I want a jacket that is going to allow for good movement and comfort since we're going to be mostly playing at a water park in it. I've thought about those suits that are all one piece and have the floaty foam in them... but they look bulky and uncomfortable and I haven't seen one that is small enough for him. All of the water park play will happen under VERY close supervision and will probably mostly stay contained to the kiddie area. Although we may want to float around the lazy river... I'm still wondering about the current on that one (which is the big reason I'm seriously considering a life jacket for the water park)... and we might play in the shallows of the wave pool.
What life jackets would you recommend for a tiny 3 year old?
If you want a "life jacket" then I would suggest MTI brand. Although the unfortunate thing about being 28lbs is most vests are up to 30 and then 30-50.
We use PFD (personal floation device/life jacket) for boating, but swimming we use a swim vest. Which offers floation, but doesn't flip the kid on their back (like a pfd is designed to). You have to be right next to them when using a swim vest, but I like it for swimming because it is more fun, (keeps the kid's head above water, but they can still swim and be in some control) and I find that actual life jackets really restrict the ability to swim or practice swimming. Ds likes to be able to practice putting his face in the water and blowing bubbles etc and in a good pfd it will flip him on his back and not let him swim on his belly. So it depends on what you're goals are.
I have a very sensitive son who refuses to wear anything bulky etc. I have found great success with the softer body glove or speedo jackets. He wears them in our boat without any complaints. They are trim and I use one myself and feel confident in them.
I would take him to a boating supply store and ask for some help finding a lifejacket that fits him, and that he finds comfortable - he'll be able to try them on, and see which ones are best. Take him when he's in a good mood though - morning or right after waking up from a nap are the times that would work best for my ds, but YMMV.
I wouldn't purchase a lifejacket online unless you've tried it on him already - its hard to get a good fit without trying it on.
Before purchasing anything I would check with the waterpark and see what their requirements are. I know when we had seasons passes to our local waterpark they were VERY particular about what types of 'lifejackets' could be brought in and preferred that people used what they provided.