All kids, regardless of their gender, need essentially the same things from a bathing suit: comfort, protection from the sun, and a garment that won’t get in the way as they dig, splash, swim, and otherwise mess around. But few kids bathing suits, particularly those made for girls, deliver on all these fronts. Too often, girls’ suits look like scaled-down versions of women’s bathing suits, designed to highlight body parts that don’t exist.
Setting aside the weirdness of that, these kinds of bathing suits are just plain impractical. (What parent wants to spread sunblock across a complicated lattice of strings or cut-outs? Why put a skimpy bikini bottom over a diaper?) They ride up or fall down, limit mobility, allow sand into unfavorable places, and provide little to no sun protection. Boys’ suits tend to be better suited for playing, but can be annoyingly long and baggy, and come in a narrow variety of hyper-masculine colors and patterns.
The best kids bathing suits fall somewhere in the middle, providing coverage, comfort, and sun protection in prints that are universally loved and easily passed down from one kid to another, regardless of where they are on the gender spectrum. As a plus, many have ratings of 50 UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor. (Most clothing provides some level of protection against the sun, but as Cleveland Clinic dermatologist Dr. Alok Vij has said, clothing with a 50 UPF rating provides 10 times as much sun protection as the average shirt.) When kids wear one of these suits, they’re free to run around the beach without having to think about what they’re wearing.
Best Kids Bathing Suit Bottoms
These boy-short style swim bottoms can go over a one-piece or be worn on their own. They're machine-washable, too.
These swim shorts are made from bathing suit material but look more like sports shorts, a design that many kids are already comfortable with. They provide UPF 50, have an elastic waist under the mock drawstring, and a bikini-shaped liner.
Neither short nor long, these board shorts are substantial without veering into baggy territory.
These adorable swim shorts are lined with a soft boxer brief like material, which minimizes chafing. They're also made from recycled water bottles.
Cut short but not too narrowly, these board shorts have a unique fit that provides decent coverage without bulk.
For kids who prefer a longer fit, these legging-like bathing suit bottoms hit below the knee, but stay close to the skin for easy movement and minimal waterlogged-ness.
These swim shorts have a polyester lining and a drawstring for extra comfort. UPF protection of 50+ doesn't hurt, either.
The board short style combined with the bright floral print of these bottoms makes them fit for just about anyone. They provide UPF 50 and have a mesh lining and pockets for collecting shells and lugging around toys.
Up through size 9, these board shorts have a shorter style, setting them apart from the baggy, knee-length board shorts that are so popular but so poorly suited for running around. While bigger sizes are a bit longer, they still hit above the knee.
Best Kids Bathing Suit Tops
The sunny print on this short-sleeved rash guard matches the aforementioned board shorts. It can double as a regular shirt on indoor days.
This short sleeve rash guard is one of those basics your kid will wear all summer. It comes in eight colors and six sizes, provides UPF 50, and is incredibly affordable, so you might as well order a few while you're at it.
This sweet striped rash guard comes in two sleeve lengths and provides 50 UPF sun protection. It's soft, made of thick, quality fabric, and doubles as a regular shirt on the way to the beach.
For kids who prefer a looser fit, this rash guard falls like a big T-shirt. It dries quickly and goes easy on sensitive skin.
Featuring a tunic-style hemline, this blue and red rash guard looks more refined than sporty.
The classic rash guard gets a stylish makeover with the addition of flared short sleeves, a half zipper, and cinched sides with a beaded tie.
While this top leans admittedly towards the feminine side, it's blatant non-offensiveness warranted it a spot. Finally, a bathing suit top that looks like it was made for a kid.
Best Bathing Suits for Babies
This jumpsuit approach to swimwear leaves only a kid's legs and face exposed, making sunscreen application about as easy as possible. It's also made from recycled materials, and provides UV 50 sun protection. This one-piece is available for bigger kids, too.
Long sleeves plus short shorts provide good sun protection and maximum mobility. This lemon covered suit runs from 0-3 months up to 3 years and is currently on sale, down from $35.
This simple, straightforward one piece is basically a rash guard with shorts attached. It's easy to get on and off, and universally cute.
The front zipper and snaps at the hem of this suit make diaper changes and getting it on and off easy. The timeless navy-and-white striped pattern means you can pass it down from one sibling to another, regardless of gender.
This understated swimsuit looks like a daytime lounge set, but is made from stretchy UPF 50 fabric. The shorts have an elastic waist for extra comfort and easy changes.
This bright, rainbow-striped one-piece has snap closures for easy diaper changes, leaves little skin exposed to the sun, and provides UPF 50 sun protection to the rest.
This zip-up one-piece provides more sun protection than your average bathing suit, thanks to its sizeable surface area, ensuring your kid won't come home with a keyhole or criss-cross-shaped sunburn.
This playful set includes bikini-style bottoms, a short-sleeved rash guard, and a hat. The high-necked top and hat provide extra sun protection.
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