The definitive guide to kids swimsuits: boys and girls swimwear
Why do people make so much fuss over kids swimsuits? It’s simple… Swimming lessons are one of the first things we arrange for our children – and with good reason. Swimming is not only a great sport, it’s also an essential life-saving skill. After all, swimming can save your child’s life and prevent your kid from drowning.
Kids swimsuits: facts
Children need swimsuits to swim in, no matter what the weather, and where you are in the world. And when you shop, you’ll find swimming clothing available in various iterations. Here’s a selection of swimming facts:
- To swim your kid needs a swimsuit, a necessary outdoor item of clothing for swimming.
- Twenty-first century boys and girls swimsuits are is a far cry from the swimwear collection of old that used to be on sale at an end sale price. These days we concentrate on choosing clothing on sale or the latest arrivals made from strong, durable materials. We look for items that stretch to fit the body well, are comfortable and treated to prevent sun damage.
- Swimming garments you find online and on sale in stores are often lined with fabric that stops it from being see-through when wet.
- A swimming costume is also designed to fit snugly (tight fits make movement easier) and help the child swim more efficiently, by eliminating friction and drag (this is when water slows down the movement of the body).
- Children should have at least 3 regular swimming costumes so that they can alternate these items of clothing when one is wet. And, as we all know, accidents do happen. So always pack a second swimsuit.
What to look for when choosing swimwear for kids
Be careful of cheap and cheerful children’s swimming clothing and beachwear that you’ll find on a Christmas shop sale… there’s a reason that you need to buy top quality swimming gear that fit well and will last the kids or a baby, whether they’re going to be swimming in a pool or in the sea, playing on the beach or on your garden lawn whilst running through a sprinkler, or swimming in an indoor pool whilst on a Christmas holiday.
1. Proper sun protection
We all know that when they’re in the pool or the sea, your children are even more susceptible to the sun’s rays, which reflect off the water. The idea is to protect your child’s body from the sun as much as possible. Concentrate on areas of the body that are most sensitive, like shoulders, arms and backs.
There’s a wide variety of swimming gear on offer for boys and girls (baby too), including an item that offers sun protection. We’re talking about swimming clothing for boys and girls swim shorts that you can pair with swim shirts with sleeves. Look out for UPF50 stickers or labels to show these provide some protection.
Check out maake's swimwear bases - Active Eco Lycra and Recycled Eco Lycra along with the Heavy Lycra 210 all have UPF50 certification (see details in Special Swim Fabrics below).
And remember: it’s not only the style of the swimwear that will protect your kid or baby from the sun. Many a swimming costume brand offers items they make from specially treated fabric. The fabric used for boys and girls swim shirts, for example, also offers sun protection. This is equally important if you have a baby and are looking for suitable swimwear.
After all, having fun in the water is what kids love best. As parents, we need to make sure the clothing they are wearing has the plush bonus of protecting them from harsh elements whilst swimming, keeping them cool in the heat, or warm on a Christmas holiday.
2. Special swim fabrics
As we mentioned above, swimming costume fabric has to tick a number of boxes. It needs to be:
- Hard wearing
- Flexible so that the body can move whilst wearing it
- Able to wick away moisture
- Resist fading
- Can withstand sun exposure, chlorine and salt water
- Stops water drag (see above).
Lycra is a favorite choice for kids swimsuits, so read our excellent guide on What is Lycra? right here.
If you intend making your own children’s swim outfits or for your small business, make sure to read our guide on How to sew stretchy fabric.
3. The right fit
Your kids are going to be running around or swimming constantly in their swimsuits, so when you shop, make sure their selected swimming items fit their bodies well. No sagging or loose fabric, as this will make them feel uncomfortable – and this includes boys and girls swim shirts and swim shorts for sale, too.
There are specific size charts for children, which will make it easier for you to buy the right size for your child. (Take a look at our info on Sizing, below.)
Of course, sizes vary according to brands, so you need to measure your kid before you shop to make sure the garment will fit them snugly. If possible, choose a shop or view online and then order from a store that has an exchange policy in case you choose the wrong size when you shop.
One question we want to answer emphatically now – should you shop for a bigger size so that your kid can grow into the swimsuits? We don’t recommend this.
But when you find a swimming costume that your kid is happy with, we suggest buying two on sale – one in a larger size, for when the current one gets too small. You’ll thank us later!
4. Colours, styles and patterns
With the above in mind, do make a point of taking your kid’s personality, likes and dislikes into account when you shop for colours, patterns and designs for swimming gear and accessories.
Once they reach an age where they have decided likes and dislikes, it’s a good idea to let them shop to see what’s on sale on online stores to get an idea of what they prefer before you shop.
But don’t forget when you shop online: what we see on screen isn’t necessary what will arrive on pick up or delivery day. Computer screens show colour deceptively.
What are popular choices of swimming garments and accessories for children available right now in every shop? It really is kid-dependent: let your kid dictate what they would prefer to wear and then shop accordingly.
There’s a wide variety in every shop to keep every kid happy, from feminine floral prints to more versatile stripes and tie-dye, colour-blocking, single shades, sea and beach themes, and everything in between.
As for styles, before you shop, check out what their school friends are wearing. They may well want to have the same style or similar, so do this before you check out what’s on sale.
For all the information on colour and to give you some inspiration, check out our informative blog An Introduction to Colour Theory and the Color Wheel.
5. Selected swim accessories
When you take your kid to swimming lessons, or on a pool play date, or on holiday to the sea, you don’t just take their swimsuits. And this happens whether they’re having indoor lessons around Christmas, or in an outdoor pool in the summer months. That bag is full of all sorts of other accessories and outerwear, too. Let’s take a look at necessary accessories to take with you in a bag or basket to the beach or the indoor pool. Remember: these make great Christmas gifts, in fact they make super gifts at any time of the year, too!
- Flipflops instead of shoes for when they’re on the beach and other summer-appropriate shoes to play in (sandals or sneakers are the best shoes for the beach or for shoes by the pool)
- Sunscreen: No matter how much the swimming costume protects your child, you also need plenty of sunscreen that you apply often, no matter the season and whether it’s cloudy or not
- Sunhats:Even when they’re in the pool, unless they’re confident swimmers, make them keep a hat on
- Water bottles: Make sure they drink plenty of water when it’s hot
- Snacks: Fresh fruit and vegetables cut up small, sandwiches, etc
- Beach balls and other toys
- Beach towels for the pool and the beach: Choose a soft, absorbent cotton towel that dries fast and is breathable
- Multipacks of wet wipes
- Cover-ups for over their swimsuits, as we mentioned above. If you’re on a Christmas holiday and there’s an indoor pool at your resort, make sure you have a warm cover-up (these make great gifts, too and you can also double up and use your cover-up as nightwear). In summer, a light cover-up and light shoes are all you need.
5 important questions to ask when you shop for a kids swim product
Ask yourself the following questions before you purchase swimsuits or nightwear as gifts or necessities for children at Christmas or any time of the year:
1. Is the suit easy to swim in?
Is the swimsuit easy for your kid to swim in? Make sure that the bathing suit is easy to move in. It needs to be a quality fabric, and if it’s a one-piece, the mid-section needs to have mobility.
2. Is the product hard-wearing?
Pool chlorine can wear out your child’s swimsuit – another reason to look for quality fabric that is resistant to chemicals and is long-lasting. Choose a nylon or Poly/spandex fabric with a polyester lining for swimsuits and swim trunks that resist both chlorine and saltwater.
3. Is the fabric quick drying?
Wet swimsuits are likely to be heavy and uncomfortable, especially when it’s cold outside on a Christmas holiday. Children love to spend hours in the water, so the fabric used to make the swimming costume should be quick drying. Don’t forget: after use, rinse the swimsuit, dry and store away till next time.
4. Does the fabric have UV protection?
Water reflects the sun, so your child’s skin is extremely vulnerable whilst swimming. Swimsuits for children made of fabric with a UPF50 rating will block 98% of the sun’s harsh rays. To get the best sun protection, make sure you also apply sunscreen to your child’s skin. Remember: even when the sun isn’t shining, harsh UV rays are still likely to harm your child’s skin.
5. Does your child have a cover-up?
It’s great choosing swimsuits for children that tick all the boxes, but make sure that when your kid gets out of the water, you add a protective cover-up and a pair of shoes.
For these important swimming accessories, comfort is most important and if the fabric has sun protection, that’s a big plus. Of course, as we mentioned earlier, a Christmas holiday in a ski resort requires a completely different type of cover-up – something warm and cosy, much like nightwear or a dressing gown and light shoes. Cover-ups and nightwear always make great gifts, too.
For summer, we make many swim cover-ups out of polyester and spandex. But whichever type of accessories you choose, do check the labels carefully to see how effective they will be.
For trends in kids swimsuits and accessories like cover-ups, take a look at Australian brands: they are very conscious of protecting their kids’ skin from the sun and come up with innovative garments, shoes and accessories for them to wear that not only do the trick, but look great as well. This applies to nightwear for summer and winter, too.
Why size is so important
Ill-fitting swimsuits, nightwear and accessories will make swimming uncomfortable and unenjoyable for children. Remember this when you buy swimsuits at Christmas or in a summer sale for gifts or for necessity. So make sure kids swimming clothing and cover-ups fit well. First step is to measure your child:
- Sizing for girls: Measure under the arms and around the back and bust, as well as the waist, hips and inseam. Also measure weight and height, as tall or bigger children may need a longer suit, and junior girls sizes may need to go down a size in swimming clothing. For swimming shorts, see ‘Sizing for boys’ below.
- Sizing for boys: Measure around the waist to get the perfect fit. If the kid is between sizes, or the waist is too tight, rather go up to the next size. Make sure that the waist is comfortable. Remember: elasticated waists can be comfortable for all children’s swim shorts, including junior boys sizes, but a drawstring waist on a pair of shorts will give a custom fit.
Quick tips for sizing
Christmas gifts just got really easy! Check out these size guidelines for swimsuits, swim clothing and accessories that make perfect gifts year-round. Note: Some brands offer size guidelines based on age, while others offer sizing from extra-small (XS) to extra-large (XL). Rule of thumb if you’re buying Christmas gifts is to make sure the swimsuits will still fit when summer comes.
A rough sizing guide
(The list includes junior sizes for boys and girls, bathing suits for 12 year old boys and girls and other large sizes to fit boys and girls as they grow up to be teens.)
- XS – 4 to 5 years with a 20 to 21.5-inch waist
- S – 6 to 7 years, with a 22 to 23.5-inch waist
- M – size 8 years and sizes 9-10 years, 11 -12 yrs if with a 24 to 25.5-inch waist
- L – 11 to 12 years with a 26 to 27.5-inch waist
- XL – 13 to 14 years with a 28 to 30-inch waist.
Explore selected prints, patterns and colours
Boys and girls often have very decided opinions about what type of swimsuits and accessories they want to wear, depending on their personality and the latest trends, as well as where they plan to go swimming – on a Christmas holiday in the Southern hemisphere, or at home when the weather is warm. But there are those children who don’t care at all about swimsuits. Here we offer some popular choices for Christmas gifts or nightwear for any time of the year:
- Navy and black are ideal for school swimsuits and accessories.
- Bright red and orange, or a pattern using cheerful summer colours, are very popular.
- Blue is another very popular choice, especially blue shades that match the ocean and turquoise.
- Designs include plenty of sea creatures, beach scenes, stripes and spots. Colour-blocking is a major trend right now.
- Children love bright colours, especially neon orange, green and yellow.
Common swimwear for kids
- Rash vests: Often made from spandex and nylon, these swim shirts are used to protect children against chafing and sun exposure. Choose one that is good value for money.
- Wetsuits and dry suits: Commonly made out of neoprene, shop for these close-fitting suits if you need one for snorkelling and board sports. Also great for cooler weather, so choose these for gifts for a Christmas holiday.
- A one piece swimsuit: This collection is often made out of technologically advanced fabric that withstands the elements (salt water, sun and chlorine), keeps the suit’s shape and comes in various styles.
- Boys’ swim briefs: Often called a Speedo, because the brand is so popular, this type of swimming collection is usually made of a blend of nylon and spandex, although some brands use polyester, which is longer-lasting. They usually feature a lining on the inside front made of a similar fabric.
- Boys board shorts: A longer version of a swimming trunk, these shorts reach over the knee or even past the knee. Preferably have a non-elastic waistband. Shop for these particular shorts when you kid partakes in board sports like paddle-boarding, wake-boarding and surfing.
- Boys swim trunks: Commonly known as board shorts in the UK, these shorts are designed to be slightly longer than boxer shorts. Swim trunks are loose shorts that reach mid-thigh. These shorts often have a polyester inner lining. They are extremely popular swim shorts to shop for.
- Swim shirts: These protective shirts are great for children when they swim and also keep children warm on Christmas holidays, no matter where you go. Parents choose to buy these shirts for their children to wear when the sun is at its most deadly (11am to 2.30pm) or when the kid has sensitive skin and is prone to sunburn.
The best swimming gear for every age
- Baby swimwear:This depends on whether the baby is still wearing nappies. For instance, if your baby girl is still wearing nappies instead of knickers, you would need to find swim nappies on sale, which baby can wear on its own or under babies’ swimwear. When wet, these nappies do not swell. Manufacturers also design them with special elastic side guards and side flaps that are easy to remove. Baby boys can wear cute board shorts, and for baby girls, choose a pair of knickers or the bottoms of bikinis, even if you have to buy the entire bikini on sale. If your kid is going to be having swimming lessons when it’s cold outside, wetsuits are an ideal product for babies.
- Toddler swimsuit boy and girl 3 to 5 years: It’s time to invest in swimming trunks for the boys and a one-piece swimming costume for the girls, especially if they’re learning to swim. Swim shirts are important if the child’s skin is fair and sensitive to the sun.
- Kids aged 5 years and upwards:Swimwear for boys and girls comes in various styles, colours and patterns. A girls swimming costume is easier, as there are so many styles to choose from when you shop, including 1- and 2-piece swimsuits for girls, whilst boys have to stick to swim shorts, briefs or trunks. Also note: young teens will need swimming costumes with bras inside. And as we mentioned in a previous point: swim shirts for either boys or girls may be ideal if your kid’s skin is sun-sensitive. Also, if you need a warm cover-up for a winter holiday, double up and shop for nightwear.
The business side of swimwear
The market in the UK
According to Statistica:
- Most of the revenue in this niche market is generated in the United States (UK Pound Sterling 9.67 billion in 2023), but the UK is also doing very well, with £749 million.
- It’s expected that the swimming and sports segment of the market will grow 3.3% in 2024 and will amount to 41.4% in 2027.
The bottom line:
Although swimwear for children are considered a saturated market, they can be very lucrative for small niche businesses. The secret to success? Make sure you do extensive research about fabric, design and what children want. And be sure you don’t make the garment too expensive and out price yourself. Also, don’t be afraid to sell these as great Christmas gifts, or gifts any time of the year. Many kids go on holiday to warmer countries over Christmas and other holidays, and swimsuits make excellent gifts at this time, as do cover-ups that can double as nightwear.
- Concentrate on providing a quality item.
- Become an expert in your field. This will set you apart from the rest.
- Focus on giving customers something different from your competitors – like special prices at Christmas time for great gifts.
- Be innovative and think out of the box.
- Deliver what you promise every single working day.
How to make kids swimwear
Choose your maake fabric
- Active Eco Lycra: A beautiful eco blend of recycled polyester and elastane, this mediumweight lycra fabric is ideal for kids swimwear, with its smooth surface and excellent stretch. One can pull this fabric in any direction and it will spring right back every time. Both sides of the fabric are identical; it prints vibrant, strong colours. UPF50 certified and chlorine and pill-resistant, this is one of our most popular swim fabrics.
- Recycled Eco Lycra: A very popular high quality, eco blend of recycled polyester and elastane, this medium weight lycra fabric has a little less stretch than the Active Eco Lycra for a taughter body contour, and a slightly glossier finish. One can pull this fabric in any direction and it will spring right back every time. Both sides of the fabric are identical; it prints vibrant, strong colours. UPF50 certified and chlorine and pill-resistant, this is a popular swim fabric.
- Eco Glitter Dot Lycra: We make it out from a blend of recycled polyester and elastane with a glittery multi-coloured foil dot effect to make your swimwear shine and shimmer in the sun. We use this stretchy eco lycra fabric widely for swimsuits. Eco-conscious business owners find it ideal, as they can use recycled polyester. The material prints beautifully and vibrantly.
- Scuba BodyFit: A special combination of polyester and elastane fibres, this soft double-knit fabric is very similar to neoprene. Composition: PES EL Scuba BodyFit is a double knit fabric similar to neoprene. It’s ideal for thicker swimming as it’s easy to care for and long-lasting with a springy, smooth feel.
- Eco Sprint Knit: A mid-weight 100% recycled polyester wicking sports jersey. Fantastic for rash vests, swimming shirts and more. Its a very popular fabric for the summer sports and outdoor market, and prints fantastically.
- Heavy Lycra 210: The heaviest lycra fabric in the maake range, which makes this polyester fabric ideal for activewear like swimwear. This smooth, stretchy fabric can be pulled in any direction and springs back to shape every time. Print face and backing are the same and colours print vibrantly.
Get creative with maake
We have an exceptional 15,000+ exclusive designs and patterns to inspire you for kids swimsuits as gifts or necessities in our Design Library. Check it out.
Independent designers have created every single pattern. When you include one of these designs for printing and shipping in your cart, we pay the designer.
Alternatively, you can design your own fabric for gifts or business products. Follow the link below and see how easy it is to upload your own creation before printing and shipping the fabric or products.