Keeping kids warm and protected when they hit the water – whatever the season
Whether it’s for hitting the waves on your boogie boards or learning to SUP with your kids, a wetsuit for your kids can be a vital factor for their comfort and enjoyment in all sorts of water sports.
We knew our desert kids would struggle in the colder waters of the Southern Ocean on trips home to Australia so invested in wetsuits early on to ensure they could still hit the waves year-round without complaint.
But what to look for in a good kids wetsuit? How do you know you’re making an investment in a quality product that will last (and actually get used!)
This post is part of our beach vacation and best kids travel products series
Reasons for kids to wear a wetsuit
Do kids really need a wetsuit? Or does it become just another item to pack in your already burgeoning suitcases on a beach vacation?
Wearing a wetsuit in many conditions is essential, and here are some solid reasons why your kid should be earing one before plunging it into the water.
Wetsuits provide floatation assistance
A wetsuit cannot replace the need for swimming lessons and wearing a life jacket, however, the thickness of the wetsuit material can offer small kids additional buoyancy in the water.
The extra buoyancy is beneficial for older kids too that are ready to learn snorkeling and diving. The thicker the suit, the better the buoyancy it will offer. Some suits for younger kids also come fitted with extra panels for buoyancy.
Wetsuits prevent heat loss
Tell me a child that doesn’t want to immediately jump in the ocean when they see the waves! With the excitement and adrenaline rush, many kids will jump right in without any notice of the temperature. However, regardless of how tough kids seem on the outside, their little bodies still need to be kept warm.
Kids can go from cool to cold to hypothermia fast; they do not have the same muscle and fat that adults do to keep us warm. A wetsuit insulates kids from the surrounding water temperature.
Now it cannot work miracles in keeping your child completely warm, particularly if your little ones are sensitive to the cold but it can certainly help tempt them into waters that may otherwise be too cold for swimming.
Wetsuits protect against the sun
Just because the water is warm – as you’ll find in many tropical destinations where there’s plentiful snorkeling and water fun to be found – doesn’t mean a wetsuit can’t still be useful. The material wetsuits are made from also helps to protect skin from harmful UV rays.
You should still, of course, apply reef-safe sunscreen but we know after hours of water play this can easily wash off. A wetsuit will provide your child with an extra layer of sun protection.
Wetsuits provide skin safety
Apart from floatation and protection against the weather, a wetsuit safeguards your kids from stings and abrasions. Those jellyfish stings can be excruciating, so wearing a kid’s wetsuit can help curtail the impact of the sting, as well as protection against abrasions on rocks and other small mites in the water.
Again, its not 100% protection but will go a long way to helping you have a safe family day at the beach.
What to look for in a good wetsuit for kids
If you ask your kids which wetsuit they’d love to have, chances are they’ll point to the best-looking one! No doubt, the wetsuit should look good on your kid, but there are some important additional factors you need to consider before making a purchase.
Here are the features a good kid’s wetsuit should possess:
Material and its thickness
Most of the wetsuits for kids are made using neoprene, as it’s a hypoallergenic material that’s gentle to the skin. But you’ll find different options when it comes to choosing the thickness.
Kids wetsuits can be 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm or even 4mm thick, so which one should you buy? Choose the thickness depending on the climate, water temperature and activities they’ll be partaking in.
A thicker wetsuit is great if the water is cold, but it can be too much for summers or when the water is warm. A 2.5mm thick wetsuit can be used in both warm and cold water whilst a 2mm wetsuit is best for sun and skin protection over warmth. In a colder climate, you’ll want something at least 3mm thick.
As a rough temperature/thickness guide for your kids wetsuit:
|Water >26°C / 80°F||rash guard only|
|Water 21°C to 25°C / 71°F to 79°F.||1 -2mm shorty|
|Water 18°C to 20°C / 65°F to 70°F||2-3mm full-length wetsuit|
|Water below 17°C / 64°F||3-4mm full-length wetsuit & boots|
Do note, as the thickness increases, your kids’ wetsuit loses a little flexibility. If they will be actively participating in sports, they may still prefer a slightly thinner suit. This is why you see some suits with 3mm thickness on the body but 2mm on the arms and legs for that added flexibility.
Length of the wetsuit
There are two options available in wetsuits for kids:
- Full-body wetsuit
- Short wetsuit (also known as shorty wetsuits or spring wetsuits)
As it’s evident from the name, a full-body wetsuit covers the entire body from wrists to ankles. These suits are perfect for wearing during winters or when the water is ice-cold. There are various thickness options available in full-body wetsuits for kids but most are 2.5mm to 3mm.
On the other hand, spring suits are perfect for summers and spring. A full-body suit can be overwhelming for kids if the temperature in the water is reasonable, so you are using this more for sun and skin protection than warmth.
You will also find kid wetsuit tops and separate bottoms if you need a two-piece suit for your child – some find the full length suit difficult to get on and off and too restrictive.
Size & Fit
Choosing the right size is essential to give your child a snug fit. When we say snug, you want the neck to be a close fit, but so they have no difficulty breathing and the ankles and wrists to be a firm fit to prevent water flushing into the wetsuit.
Don’t overlook the size chart before buying a children’s wetsuit and read reviews carefully for feedback from other parents. If you only occasionally hit the water, try one size bigger, as your kid can quickly outgrow wet suits within a season and may not like the restrictiveness of a snug fit.
Conversely, kids using a wetsuit for some serious water sports will pefer the tighter fit.
If you are shopping for a younger child we suggest you head over to our guides for the best wetsuits for babies and the best wetsuits for toddlers.
Is your child a little sensitive to things touching their skin? This was our biggest challenge getting our kids to accept wearing a wetsuit and it turns out a lot of its to do with discomfort from the seams.
A flatlock seam (where the material is butted together) causes less irritation as there is no protruding material. If you go with a cheaper wetsuit they may have overlock seams – this gives the seams a raised section on the interior which can irritate kids skin and lead to chaffing.
NB sometimes wetsuits have a smell when you first unpack them before use, this is likely from the glue needed to bond the seams for the flatlock.
Protect your kid’s skin from the scorching UV rays with a good quality wetsuit. Only consider suits that genuinely offer UPV 50+ protection.
Best Kids Wetsuit: Our Top 6 Picks
Best Full-Length Kids Wetsuit: Hevto Wetsuits Kids and Youth Vigor (I)
We love it because: Want your kid to look stylish in his/her new wetsuit while providing ultimate comfort? Have a look at this dual-colour wetsuit from Hevto. Made using neoprene, the wetsuit offers ultimate protection from cold water and jellyfish stings.
It’s a full-body suit with 3mm thickness that works well in cold water but isn’t that great if the water is warm. Your kid doesn’t need any assistance in wearing and snapping off the suit, as it comes with an accessible zipper, so getting in and out is a breeze.
The material contains elastane that doesn’t hinder mobility and makes this suit a great choice for active kids who enjoy surfing, paddleboarding, wakeboarding and wakesurfing.
The Hevto Vigor (I) comes in a wide range of sizes from Toddler Size 4 through to Teen Size 16 with several colour options available.
Runner Up Full-length Kids Westuite: Dark Lightning 3/2mm Kids Wetsuit
Here’s a wetsuit for kids that works well in cold and hot water, so there’s just one suit and no fuss! With its versatile design, it’s a good choice for both boys and girls.
It’s a 3mm thick neoprene suit with an emphasis on warmth. The flatlock seams make it a highly durable and long-lasting wetsuit with a comfortable fit and the neoprene material which feels lighter so your little one will love wearing this wetsuit.
With an SBS zip at the back, your child will need limited or no assistance at all getting this suit on and off. There’s a choice of both a full length and a shorty version – great for all types of water sports.
Highly commended full-length wetsuit: IREENUO Kids Wetsuit
Kids love wetsuits that are comfortable and don’t pinch their skin. So here’s a comfortable child’s wetsuit from IREENUO that feels soft and is gentle to the skin. It’s a full-body wetsuit with full sleeves, making it a great option for surfing and scuba diving.
The material is 2.5mm neoprene making it an outstanding option for every season. The best thing about this kid wetsuit is the breathability and the UV protection it provides.
IREENUO has smartly designed the suit with a zipper and bigger leash, so kids can wear and remove it with ease. A lot of parents praised the suit for its comfort and elasticity.
The IREENUO is available in multiple sizes so will fit your smaller and older kids, though lacks variety in color choices, only black/red and black/blue.
Also worth a look: Aunua Youth 3/2mm Neoprene Wetsuits
If you are after a kid’s wetsuit that’s highly comfortable and doesn’t restrict mobility, consider this 3/2mm full-body suit from Aunua. The suit looks stylish in black, two-tone black & red or blue or navy blue.
The material is lightweight neoprene that’s breathable and gentle. A lot of parents say the suit offers great protection against UV rays, making it the best option during summers. The Aunua also comes in a 3mm shorty.
The suit’s backside has a big zipper with a gusset that restricts water from entering the suit. Furthermore, the flatlock seams offer maximum comfort, and your little one can wear the suit for extended periods.
Designed for different sports activities with extra padded knees, this wetsuit is ideal for bodyboarding, snorkeling, surfing, and diving.
Best Kids Shorty Wetsuit: Mountain Warehouse Junior Shorty Wetsuit
Perfect for warm water, here’s a spring wetsuit that offers promising comfort and looks stylish. Made using 2.5mm thick neoprene, the wetsuit offers excellent breathability and UPF50+ sun protection.
This suit offers great body contouring and fit with an adjustable velcro neck fitting. Flat seams prevent chafing for comfort and it’s also easy for kids to remove on their own with an easy glide zip.
A key pocket on the inside adds convenience if your child needs to carry a key or any small coins with them.
The Moutain Warehouse Junior shorty comes in a great range of colours and sizes making it our top choice for a kids shorty wetsuit (they also offer a full wetsuit for kids).
Runner up kids shorty wetsuit: REALON Kids Wetsuit
A premium wetsuit for young and older kids, this wetsuit from REALON delivers on comfort and pricing. The 2mm thick wetsuit claims to keep the warmth intact – made from 85% Neoprene and 15% CR wind-resistant “smoothskin” for extra insulation.
Be it stings or UV rays, this wetsuit will protect your child from all the elements! Getting in and out of the suit is easy and doesn’t require a lot of assistance with a generous back zipper with a drawcord.
Coming in both a shorty, short leg and long sleeve as well as a full suit version, you can choose the style that suits your water needs best. Their sizing down to XS (2T) will suit your toddlers through to XXL for teens – a great all-rounder well worth considering.
Looking for something a little smaller? See our specialised guide to the best toddlers wetsuits
Cleaning and care for your kids’ wetsuit
Now that you’ve decided to invest in a wetsuit for your child, don’t forget that it’s not a cheap item you can store away immediately and forget about until your next trip to the beach.
Wetsuits by their nature need proper care to ensure their shape and the durability of the material is retained, as well as to prevent smells (trust me, kids do pee in them).
Proper care and maintenance is needed after each use, something that’s important for your kids to grow up respecting. At a minimum, after each use it’s recommended that you/they:
- Turn the suit inside out and open all zippers
- Rinse the wet suit in fresh cold water removing all sand
- Leave to dry on a hanger in the shade from the waist (avoid direct sunlight with neoprene or hanging from the shoulders which can make the suit misshapen) Check out these specialised hangers for wetsuits, ideal for retaining their shape
- Turn the wetsuit back the right way around so both sides of the material have a chance to dry
Every now and then your kids wetsuit needs a more thorough wash, and especially before storing at the end of the season:
- Open all zippers and turn the wetsuit inside out
- Rinse with cold water removing all sand first
- Submerge in a tub of cold water with wetsuit shampoo (never use harsh detergents; if you do not have a specialised wetsuit shampoo, try baby shampoo or bicarbonate soda)
- Gently knead the shampoo into the suit
- Rinse thoroughly in cold water
- Leave to hang and dry as above before storing
(You can see for this reason – plus all the other sandy beach gear, snorkeling sets and boogie boards why we prefer having our own rental property with washing facilities after a big trip to the beach!)
Repairs to your kids wetsuit
A good quality kids wetsuit shouldn’t need repairs before its outgrown, however, we know accidents can happen! You’ll want on hand a specialised Neoprene patch repair kit for any emergencies.
Family Beach Vacation Advice
Looking for more great advice and product reviews before heading to the beach? Check out more ideas from our beach travel collection:
- Flotation vest for kids – help your beginner swimmer enter the water with confidence in these kids swimming vests
- Best Beach Toys – looking for more fun in the sun on the beach? Here’s our all time favourite tried & tested beach toys
- Best beach shoes – no more burning feet on foot sand or little shell cuts, here’s how we protect our little ones feet
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