Do Baby & Child Car Seats Float in Water? (Safety First!)

A family boat ride might be one of the highlights of pontoon boat ownership. There’s really nothing quite like having the whole gang together for some fun and sun. And that includes even the smallest members of the family.

But while you might be super excited to bring your baby on board, it’s important that you consider their safety. You might be thinking - because you’d strap them into a car seat during a car ride, then those things should be safe on a boat ride, too… right? Wait, do baby car seats float in water? Let’s try to find out.

Do Car Seats Float?

We’ve all seen those testimonies of moms and dads claiming that in the face of an almost certainly deadly vehicular collision, their baby’s car seat was the single thing that kept their baby all smiles and completely scot-free. And the numbers ultimately support that.

According to studies, car seats reduce fatal injury for 71% of infants and 54% of toddlers. For that reason, car seats are required by law to make sure that all babies and small children riding in cars are kept safe from potentially life threatening accidents.

But hey, that’s a completely different story for boating. If you’re on a pontoon boat, colliding at top speed into another vessel or even a rock might not be the biggest of your worries. That said, the biggest threat to pontoon boating would have to be sinking (which is unlikely), and flipping (which is equally unlikely.)

That said, your biggest priority might not be a car seat that cushions your baby’s head and body, but a seat that floats in the rare occasion that you somehow find yourself in the water.

So again, we find ourselves asking - do car seats float in water? In theory, they might. The thing about this issue is that there are no studies that have explored whether or not a car seat will float. That’s because they’re not designed to save your baby from drowning, but from injury associated with a crash.

If we look at the basic design of a car seat though, it does have quite a lot of padding and that might give it some buoyancy especially if you strap in a baby that doesn’t weigh a lot. But even then, that’s a whole lot of risk that no parent in their right mind would ever consider taking.

What’s an Alternative to Car Seats?

As tempting as it might be to bring a car seat for the sake of convenience and freeing up your hands, it’s really not a recommended safety measure for boating. That’s why most parents who find themselves asking ‘do child car seats float’ end up looking for seats specifically designed for boating.

Unfortunately, there also aren’t any baby seats that are specifically designed to float. So what’s the best way to make sure your baby is safe on board at all times? Carry them, of course.

Holding on to your baby just minimizes the risk of them falling overboard and drowning. And in case you both fall into the water, you’ll be there to make sure they don’t go under. If your arms tend to get tired, then you can switch with another free adult on board.

Baby Carrier

baby carrier to keep baby close for floating

Alternatively, you can invest in a baby carrier that straps on to your body for added security. They also help make sure that you won’t have to keep bearing baby’s weight with your own two hands the whole time. But what about small kids and toddlers who tend to wiggle out of mommy’s embrace?

Check out the Infantino Baby Carrier.

Life Jacket

kids life vest

If you’ve got a kid on your hands, then you might want to consider something a little more practical like a life jacket. There are loads of designs intended to fit children of varying sizes and heights, so you’re bound to find one for your kid. Just like all of the adults on your boat, see to it that children also wear their life jackets at all times while on board.

We recommend the Stearns Child Classic Life Vest.

Presently, there aren’t any baby seats designed specifically for boating, so you’re going to have to wait it out until your favorite boating accessories manufacturer cooks up a design. For the time being, you’re better off holding on to your child or strapping them into a vest if they’re big enough for it. You can check out other baby boating essentials and gears you may need here.

Baby on Board

There’s really nothing quite like having the whole family together for a fun day out on the lake. But before you hit the marina, make sure there are safety provisions for everyone -- especially those who most need it. For now, there’s really no point in wondering ‘do baby car seats float?’ especially when there are some real safety measures you can take. Get a vest or a carrier, and make sure you cling to that baby while you’re underway.