When it comes to finding the right swimsuit for your child, there are lots of different options to choose from. We’ve spoken to our parent testers and used our expert parenting knowledge to bring you the very best swimwear to suit a whole range of activities and locations.
Our list includes everything from traditional one-piece swimming costume to bikinis, board shorts to rash vests and more. We’ve looked at swimwear made from fabric with built-in sun protection to keep your child’s skin from burning, as well as brands that have have created their swimwear by recycling plastic waste. There are even some some wearable buoyancy aids for children who are not yet water confident.
Here is our pick of the best baby and children’s swimwear:
Best rash vests for kids:
1. Bambino Mio Swim Rash Top, £12.99
– best for fun prints
Size: 0-6 months to 2+ years | Material: 90% polyester, 10% spandex | Machine washable: Yes at 40°C
This gorgeous swim rash top is perfect for babies and toddlers with a number of fun, colourful designs to choose from. We love the long printed sleeves which co-ordinate with a single colour on the body – our favourites include ‘tropical’ featuring watermelons and pineapples and ‘nice’, which has a pattern which includes puffins, crabs and anchors.
The swim rash top is designed to be used with Bambino Mio reusable swim nappies but you could mix and match it with other nappies, shorts or briefs. MFM testers found the soft, stretchy fabric pulls easily on and off over your little one’s head and liked how it offers UPF 40+ sun protection. Tester Jo, mum of a 1-year-old, said “I loved the size of the top and I found it really to slip on and off because of how well it fit; which is a real bonus when you’re trying to do a speedy change to keep little one happy.”
2. Fat Face Raglan Rash Vest, £14
– best zipped rash vest
Size: 3-4 years to 10-11 years | Material: 82% polyamide 18% elastane | Machine washable: Yes
This bright traditional rash vest combines authentic surfer chic with practicality and comfort. We love the contrasting raglan sleeves that come in a striking sunshine yellow and the material dries quickly so your child won’t be left shivering when they come out of the water.
The front zip makes it easy to get on and off over their head and it is super simple to look after as it is machine washable. Some online reviewers found the sizing a little small so you might want to buy the next size up but remember rash vests should fit quite snugly to keep your child warm while they’re swimming.
Available from: Fat Face
3. John Lewis & Partners Kids’ Short Sleeve Rash Vest, from £14
– best short sleeved rash vest
Size: 2 years to 14 years | Material: 80% nylon, 20% elastane | Machine washable: Yes at 40°C
This navy rash vest may be simple but works really well as a practical staple for your child’s holiday wardrobe. The plain design means it will go with shorts in almost any design and colour, plus it will keep your child’s chest and back covered up and protected from irritation from the sun, sea and sand.
The rash vest is made from a soft fabric that stretches with your child so they can move freely and without restriction. It’s comfortable to wear with a high neckline and short sleeves, and it can be popped in the washing machine when it gets dirty and washed at 40°C.
Available from: John Lewis
4. Joules Shoal Rash Vest Set, £27.95
– best premium rash vest
Size: 1 year to 11-12 years | Material: 85% Polyamide 15% Elastane | Machine washable: Yes
This shark-print rash vest from popular British clothing brand Joules comes in pastel colours with matching striped briefs. The built-in UPF 40+ sun protection, high neck and long sleeves will help protect your child’s skin from sunburn and being irritated by sand and saltwater on the beach.
The top does have to be pulled over the head to get it on and off, which might be a little tricky when it is wet but the material does have plenty of stretch to it. The 2-piece set is machine washable and you can expect the premium quality associated with the Joules label, which has been worn by royalty and A-listers like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Taylor Swift.
Available from: Joules
Best one-piece swimming costumes for kids:
5. John Lewis & Partners Unicorn Print Swimsuit, from £12
– best for unicorn fans
Size: 2 years to 12 years | Material: 80% nylon, 20% elastane | Machine washable: Yes at 40°C
This blue unicorn print swimsuit will be a big hit for kids who are fans of the mythical creatures. The silver foil stars add a bit of sparkle to the design, plus the bow detail and keyhole back makes it stand out from the average one-piece swimming costume – just remember to add sun cream to your child’s lower back!
The material is soft and stretchy so will be comfortable whether your child is swimming laps of the pool or playing on the beach. You can also stick in the washing machine at 40°C so there is no faffing about having to hand wash it ready for your next swimming trip.
Available from: John Lewis
6. Nike Black Animal Print Swimsuit, £22
– best for swimming lessons
Size: 6-8 years to 13-15 years | Material: 82% polyester, 18% elastane | Machine washable: No, hand wash
With a cheetah-inspired monochrome animal print, this one-piece swimsuit manages to be both sporty and stylish. The spiderback design has 2 thin straps on each side that cross over at the back. This allows free and unrestricted movements, making this costume a good choice for swimming lessons and competitions.
We also like that the swimsuit has flat seams to make it more comfortable to wear and reduce the risk of skin irritation.
7. Speedo Koko Koala Crossback Swimsuit, £12
– best for a trusted swimwear brand
Size: 6-9 months to 6 years | Material: Endurance10 fabric with Creora HighClo (80% polyamide and 20% elastane)
This koala-themed pastel swimming costume is super cute with a striped design and applique bow. At just £12, it is very affordable but as it’s by Speedo, a major international swimwear brand, you also know you’re getting a high quality swimsuit. This crossback swimsuit has wide straps which won’t dig into your child’s skin but will also not slip down when they’re splashing about in the water.
The costume is made from Speedo’s Endurance10 fabric, a unique blend of materials which is soft and comfortable, making it a good choice for young children. It also includes Creora HighClo, which has a higher resistance to chlorine than most swimwear fabrics, meaning it will keep its shape and colour rather than quickly becoming faded and stretched like some costumes.
8. Kite Sea Breeze Swimsuit, £18
– best for sustainable material
Size: 9-12 months to 12-13 years | Material: 83% nylon and 17% elastane | Machine washable: No, hand wash in cold water
This swimming costume’s stunning yellow and blue floral print is inspired by the Sea Breeze flower, which grows on the coastline in Dorset. This is because it is made by Kite, an organic clothing brand based in Poole, Dorset, which often celebrates its local landscape in its designs. We absolutely adore the stylish elasticated crossback straps and summery print, and can imagine this suit looking great on children of all ages.
The swimsuit itself is made from OEKO-TEX approved fabric, meaning it is free from harmful substances, and it offers UPF 50+ sun protection. You can even buy a co-ordinating cover-up to complete your child’s holiday outfit for long days at the beach. One thing to note though is that you should hand wash the costume in cold water rather than stick it in the washing machine.
9. Rachel Riley seahorse bow swimsuit, £39
– best for extra details
Size: 3 years to 10 years | Material: 82% nylon and 18% elastane | Machine washable: Yes with similar colours
A bright, eyecatching number in a stretch Lycra pull on fabric – easy up for impatient toddlers! Rachel Riley is often the brand of choice for Prince George, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte so your little one might end up wearing the same costume as royalty.
We love the pink and aqua seahorse print and the double ruffle at the waist. The shoulder straps are thick so won’t cut into your child’s skin and there’s a cute little bow on the neckline.
Available from: Rachel Riley
Best UV protective swimsuits for kids:
10. Boden Long-Sleeved Swimsuit, from £21
– best long-sleeved swimsuit
Size: from 2-3 years up to 13-14 years | Material: 80% polyamide 20% elastane with polyester lining | Machine washable: Yes
Currently available in 2 sweet designs – floral and blue and ivory stripes with rainbow cuffs, this swimsuit is designed to keep your child warm when they’re in the water and protect them from the sun’s harmful rays. With a high neckline, long sleeves and a fabric which provides UPF 50+ protection, you can relax a little knowing they’ve got extra coverage against the sun.
A zip at the front means it is easy to take on and off – something that can sometimes be tricky with wet costumes! The high leg style also means it isn’t quite a swimsuit or a wetsuit but a clever blend of both.
Available from: Boden
11. Matalan Ombre Whale Surf Suit, £10-£12
– best value UV-protective swimsuit
Size: 6-9 months to 4-5 years | Material: 83% polyester and 17% elastane, lining 100% polyester | Machine washable: Yes
We love the ombre effect on this cute surfer-style swim suit that features a colourful applique whale design. With UPF 50+ fabric which protects against both UVA and UVB rays from the sun, this all-in-one wetsuit offers great value for money.
The high neckline and long sleeves are great for keeping your little one’s sensitive skin covered up but the legs are shorter than on many wetsuit styles to make movement easy. The zip at the back makes taking it on and off quick and simple – an important factor to think about when dealing with soggy costumes!
Available from: Matalan
12. Next Multi Long Sleeve 2 Piece Swim Suit Set, £17-£21
– best for a striking pattern
Size: 3 to 16 years | Material: 82% polyester and 18% elastane | Machine washable: Yes (rinse in fresh water after use)
This practical 2-piece swim suit comes in a wide range of sizes all the way from preschooler to older teenager. The colourful tie-dye pattern is striking and it is made from sun safe material with UPF 50+ protection.
The long-sleeved style of the rash vest means key areas that are prone to sunburn will be covered up and protected while your child swims. It comes with a matching pair of shorts which offer more coverage than the average bikini bottoms too.
Available from: Next
13. Sunuva Pink Aloha Fruit Wrap Around Tankini, from £45
– best quick drying swimwear
Size: 1-2 years to 13-14 years | Material: 78% polyester and 22% Elastane | Machine washable: Gentle wash separately at 30°C with mild detergent
This tankini’s distinctive wrap-around top makes it stand out from the crowd. The zesty tropical fruit design and vibrant pink colour is bound to turn heads but this costume does more than simply look great. The fuller style of top offers extra coverage around the neck and shoulders and it is accompanied by bikini briefs with tie bows at the side.
Sunuva is a luxury swimwear brand so you can expect to pay a premium price tag for its exclusive designs and styles. However you can be reassured when it comes to sun protection as the tankini is made from UPF fabric, plus the material is designed to dry quickly. It forms part of a wider Aloha fruit swimwear range, which includes co-ordinating swim shorts for an alternative style.
Available from: Sunuva
14. JoJo Maman Bebe Fuchsia Dinosaur 2-Piece Sun Protection Suit, £22
– best for little dinosaur fans
Size: 6-12 months to 5-6 years | Material: 80% nylon, 20% lycra elastane with a 100% Polyester lining | Machine washable: Yes at 30°C
We love the fact that this swimsuit combines the dinosaur theme with pinks and purples, not often seen across children’s clothing. The knee-length shorts are covered in a cute dinosaur print, while the top has a larger applique dinosaur taking centre stage, complemented by printed sleeves, which come to the elbow.
The 2-piece set has built in sun protection and has a UPF 50+ rating, minimising the risk of your child’s skin getting damaged by UV rays. As it provides plenty of coverage, it could be worn on its own as an outfit for the beach or a day in the garden as well as for swimming. The lightweight fabric dries quickly and there’s a matching sun protection hat available if you want to complete the look.
Available from: JoJo Maman Bebe
Best 3-piece swimwear sets for kids:
15. The Little Mermaid 3-Piece Swimsuit, £14
– best novelty swimsuit
Size: 2 years to 9-10 years | Material: 80% polyester and 20% elastane | Machine washable: Yes
This 3-piece swimsuit is great for fans of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, as your child can pretend to be Ariel by adding a skirt designed to resemble a mermaid tail to the metallic bikini. When it comes to actually swimming, it is probably best to leave the skirt off but we think lots of children will love the idea of wearing fancy dress at the pool or beach.
Both the skirt and bikini bottoms have a sparkly sequin scale print and the purple bikini top has frilly ruffles. Designed exclusively for The Disney Store, it isn’t the most practical costume on our list but it certainly has lots to appeal to mermaid-mad children and those who love a bit of sparkle.
Available from: ShopDisney
16. George Black Gingham Print Tankini and Scrunchie Set, from £7
– best for a simple style
Size: 4-5 years to 15-16 years | Material: 96% polyester and 4% elastane | Machine washable: Yes
Simple and extremely affordable, this tankini from George at Asda is a great option if you want to bulk up your child’s holiday wardrobe without breaking the bank. We love the fact that this tankini set comes with a matching scrunchie to complete the outfit too.
The all-over monochrome gingham print is stylish and would suit everyone from a small child to a teenager. The tankini top has a square neckline and ruched straps and has more coverage compared to some bikini options. The briefs are also excellent quality with a high leg, elasticated waistband and lined gusset. Reviewers liked the feel of the fabric and the style seemed to be a hit with older as well as younger children.
Available from: Asda
17. WAWSAM Toddler Long Sleeve Swimwear Set with Hat, £13.99
– best swimwear set
Size: 18-24 months to 5-6 years | Material: 82% polyester, 18% spandex | Machine washable: Yes
This 3-piece swimwear set includes a rash guard, trunks and swimming hat, all with a quirky underwater dinosaur design. We particularly liked the fun little dinosaur horns on the hat and one of the sleeves, which adds a bit of character to the costume.
Made from soft, quick-drying and salt-resistant material, this long-sleeved set is ideal for wearing to the beach. The top has an elastic neckline while the trunks have an elasticated waistband for a comfortable fit. The price is very affordable for a 3-piece set but some reviewers on Amazon commented that the that was a little on the snug side.
Available from: Amazon
Best swim shorts for kids:
18. Mamas & Papas Printed Swim Shorts, £10
– best value swim shorts
Size: 0-3 months to 3-4 years | Material: 80% nylon and 20% elastane with polyester lining | Machine washable: Yes at 40°C
We love the sweet underwater-themed print on these stylish swim shorts. There’s lots of fun details in the design and your little one can try to spot whales, starfish and even submarines.
The elasticated waistband on these shorts mean they are comfortable to wear and easy for you to pull up and down when getting your baby or toddler ready for the water. Plus, the draw cord means you can easily adjust the shorts to make sure they fit securely, ready for lots of splashing around. There’s even a co-ordinating swim hat in the same range if you want to finish off your tot’s outfit.
Available from: Mamas and Papas
19. Frugi Board Shorts, from £20
– best for recycled fabric
Size: 6-12 months to 9-10 years | Material: Recycled polyester with organic cotton drawstring cord | Machine washable: Yes
These colourful board shorts are cleverly made from recycled plastic bottles, although you’d never be able to tell as the fabric has a soft fuzzy finish like a peach. We love the bright design and the elasticated waistband that makes it a comfy fit for your child. The shorts also have a lightweight mesh lining and a drawstring cord made from organic cotton for extra adjustability.
The quick drying fabric makes them ideal for days spent hopping in and out of the water on holiday. The board shorts are also chlorine safe, which means they will last well even if they are worn for swimming lessons. Though keep in mind that Frugi does recommend they are rinsed thoroughly with fresh water after use to protect the material.
20. Speedo Corey Croc 11″ Watershort, £11
– best for comfort
Size: 1-2 years to 5-6 years | Material: Recycled polyester made from waste plastic
Using eco-friendly materials in their design, these Speedo watershorts are also made from recycled plastic. We’re also big fans of the bright and cheerful Corey Croc design in blue, green, white and mango.
As well as looking great, these shorts have been built for comfort with plenty of space to move and an elasticated waistband. The fabric itself has a soft brushed finish and there is a mesh inner lining to preserve modesty while your little one is busy making a splash.
21. JoJo Maman Bebe Sea Print Swim Shorts With Nappy, £15
– best for in-built swim nappy
Size: 0-3 months to 2-3 years | Material: Polyester with cotton lining | Machine washable: Yes at 40°C
The print on these shorts is absolutely adorable with a cute crab, friendly crocodile and even a colourful lighthouse, along with a stylish Breton stripe design. Ideal for babies and toddlers who are not yet potty trained, they look like standard swimming shorts but they have a discreet built in nappy so you don’t need to worry about using a disposable or buying a separate product. It will effectively contain any accidents and the cotton lining next to the skin means it won’t irritate little bottoms.
The material offers UPF 50+ protection from the sun and it can safely be machine washed at 40°C. It even has some handy little pockets for your cool dude to store their beach treasures.
Available from: JoJo Maman Bebe
Best kids’ swimwear made from recycled materials:
22. Konfidence Splashy Swimsuit with e-flex, £19.99
– best for high quality materials
Size: 3-6 months to 12-24 months | Material: E-flex material made from recycled plastics and nylon | Machine washable: Yes at 40°C | Award: MadeForMums Awards 2021 – Children’s swimwear, Gold
The Splashy swimsuit is made from a supersoft and flexible material that offers UVPF sun protection of 50+ as well as recycled plastics, so it is great for the environment too. It is the only baby swimsuit to be made in collaboration with the Swimming Teachers Association (STA) of Great Britain and is designed to be used with the Splashy swim nappy from the same range.
We named it a MadeforMums Gold Award winner for 2021, with our testers praising both the appearance and the quality of the swimsuit. Tester Lauren, mum-of-2, really liked the warm fleecy underside and said: “It’s strong, durable, feels thick and like it’s made well.”
23. Beanie & Bear UPF 50+ Misty Bikini, £40
– best for durability
Size: 3-4 years to 13-14 years | Material: Lycra created from recycled plastic bottles | Machine washable: Yes at 30°C
Beanie & Bear is a kids’ swimwear brand known for its quirky bright prints and material that keeps its shape and colour. Keeping sustainability in mind, the brand has used SeaQual (yarn made from waste products) and EcoNyl (nylon made from waste products) in its swimwear, which are also twice as resistant to chlorine, suntan lotions and oils as normal swimwear fabric. This fun bikini is made from a lycra created out of plastic bottles and its bright print is designed to make it super easy to spot your child at a busy pool or beach.
This bikini is at the more expensive end of what you might expect to pay for children’s swimwear but it is built to last and should stay looking great for longer than the average swimming costume.
Available from: Beanie & Bear
24. Joseph & Alexander recycled plastic swim shorts UPF 45+, from £42.57
– best for a fade-proof design
Size: 3-4 years to 15-16 years | Material: 90% polyester and 10% spandex
Joseph and Alexander makes ‘mini-me’ swim shorts so parent and child can hit the beach in matching designs. They might be a bit pricey, but the designs are beautifully intricate and come with a 12-month fade proof guarantee.
These mid-length shorts are made from recycled plastic, which has been turned into a quick-drying, lightweight and soft feel fabric that offers UPF 45+ sun protection. One of the features we love most about these shorts is that they come with handy pockets to store pebbles and other beach treasures in. As well as 2 front pockets, there is a flap pocket at the back which fastens with Velcro. The shorts also have an elasticated waistband with fabric cord and a soft mesh lining for extra comfort.
Available from: Joseph & Alexander
Best swimsuits to help your child float:
25. Sunuva blue stripe watermelon whale float suit, UPF 50+, £45
– best for swimming beginners
Size: 1-2 years to 3-4 years | Material: 82% polyester and 18% elastane | Machine washable: Yes at 30°C (rinse in cool water after use)
If you’re looking for a swimsuit which will help your child stay afloat in the water, this floatsuit is for you. It is a little pricier than your average high-street buy, but offers top quality sun protection and a selection of lovely designs.
The floatsuits have lightweight floats around the middle – ideal for children who aren’t super confident in the water. You can also keep the suit once the floats aren’t needed, as they’re removable. Like many places, the suits are organised by ‘boy’ and ‘girl’, but do have a look at both ranges as many of the designs are unisex depending on your personal taste.
26. Limmys Premium Neoprene Swim Vest, £25.97
– best for portability
Size: Small (1-2 years/11-15kg) | Material: Neoprene with lycra binding | Award: MadeForMums Awards 2021 – Children’s swimwear, Bronze
This swim vest is designed to help children feel safe and supported when they are in water, giving parents peace of mind too. It is a little bit bulky due to the 8 removable floats that are built into the vest as buoyancy aids. However, our testers found that the floats themselves did not hinder their children’s movements and the vest was easy to swim in.
We loved the fun designs and the fact it came with its own handy storage bag to keep it in when you’re on your way to the pool or beach. The Limmys swim vest won the bronze award in the swimwear category in our 2021 awards. Tester Claire described the vest as “good value for money” and said she loved the convenience offered by the drawstring bag it comes with.
Available from: Amazon
27. The Original Konfidence Buoyancy Swim Vest, £26.99
– best for a secure fit
Size: 18 months-3 years to 6-7 years | Material: neoprene | Machine washable: No, hand wash
If your kids are still getting to grips with being in the water, this buoyancy swim vest will give them a helping hand. Designed more than 20 years ago by swimwear brand Konfidence, this swim jacket now comes in lots of different colours and designs.
The vest itself fastens with a self-locking zip with a Velcro zip retainer so you don’t have to worry about it accidentally becoming undone. To keep your toddler afloat, there are 8 built in floats but these can easily be removed when your child no longer needs them. The swim vest is designed to keep your child in a good position for swimming and it will help keep them safe from the sun with fabric that provides 100% UV protection.
The thick neoprene will also help keep little ones warm in the water so you can enjoy splashing about together for longer. To keep it looking its best, you will need to rinse in cold water as quickly as you can after use and then leave it to dry naturally.
Best all-in-one wetsuits for kids:
28. Splash About Happy Nappy Sunsuit, from £22.99
– best wetsuit and nappy combo
Size: 0-4 months to 12-24 months | Material: nylon-lycra with neoprene nappy | Machine washable: No, hand wash in cold water| Award: MadeForMums Award 2021, Family travel product over £20 – Gold
Why buy a swim nappy and separate wet suit for your baby when you can get a clever product which combines the two? This genius all-in-one from Splash About is both a rash vest with UPF50+ sun protection and a leak-proof swim nappy. You get peace of mind that your little one’s skin will be protected from the sun and you and they’ll stay protected from any potential nappy leaks!
We were such big fans of this sunsuit we made it one of our gold award winners in the family travel product category, while the Splash About range took silver in the swimwear category. Our testers loved both the stylish design and the softness of the material. Tester Rebecca said: “It is so much easier to put my daughter in it than other swimwear and also having the UV protection is a great extra.”
29. Purple Unicorn Surf Suit, from £9
– best value wetsuit
Size: 1-1.5 years to 6 years | Material: 84% polyester and 16% elastane | Machine washable: Yes
As with most supermarket brand clothing, this all-in-one surf suit from Sainsbury’s Tu clothing range offers amazing value for money while still keeping its finger on the pulse of what many little ones look for when it comes to clothing design – rainbow unicorns and stars. Your toddler will love it for its cute unicorn design with frilly rainbow mane and tail.
Unlike many wetsuit styles, this swimsuit has short arms and short frilled legs, making movement in the water easy and there’s a handy zip at the back. It does have a high neck to keep the super-sensitive skin around the neck and shoulders covered up but remember the sun cream as the fabric doesn’t have a UPF rating.
30. Splash About Kids Warm in One Thermal Wetsuit, £23.99
– best for keeping warm
Size:0-3 months to 12-24 months | Material: neoprene | Machine washable: No, hand wash in cold water
One of the trickiest things about taking a young baby swimming is keeping them warm in the water. This thermal baby wetsuit could be the answer as it has a fleece lining to keep your little one from feeling chilly as they splash about. Available in a range of cute designs and colours, the Warm in One is great for babies with sensitive skin and will keep any barrier creams in place.
You can team it up with a matching Happy Nappy or use another swim nappy of your choice. The full body wetsuit also offers UPF 50+ protection from the sun. Splash About claims its swimwear is swim school approved and the materials they use are both chlorine resistant and quick-drying.
About the author
Catherine Ball is a freelance journalist who specialises in writing about parenting and health. She has been a journalist for 20 years, writing for a wide range of regional and national publications. Outside of work, she is the mother of 4 children – all girls! – aged between 4 and 12.