Best kids swimming costume: For girls, boys and babies – The Independent

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Make a splash in these stylish and sun-safe swimsuits, trunks and tankinis
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From beach to backgarden, we looked at swimsuits for all scenarios
With the sunshine finally making a more regular appearance and summer holidays firmly back on the agenda this year, the shops are awash with fresh summer outfits – including a raft of new kids’ swimwear.
For many of us, the last couple of years of pared-back travel plans haven’t really warranted a swimwear refresh. This year however, we’re taking that as permission to splurge.
When it comes to buying kids’ swimwear, you’ve got options – loads of them. If you’re heading to the beach with young children, for example, it’s worth looking for a sunsafe suit with UPF protection. A fabric must have a UPF rating of 30 to get The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation, but 50+ is the gold standard.
If you’re buying for swimming lessons, it’s worth looking for something a little more streamlined. Frills and flounces don’t lend themselves to aerodynamics, and those baggy board shorts are best saved for the beach.
But if you’re after a classic girls’ swimming costume for the paddling pool or splash park, you’re in luck, because the shops are swimming in seriously cute cossies – the best of which we’ve featured here. Whatever you choose, go for colours that will stand out in the water.
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We looked at swimwear options for all scenarios, from the beach to the back garden, splash park to pool, to find the very best swimwear for 2022. That includes boys’ and girls’ swimwear, and swimsuits for babies.
For each option we asked ourselves how easy it was for kids to dress independently, how quick-drying the fabric was after a dip, and how well each garment fitted. Extra features like good UPF ratings, chlorine-resistant fabrics, and recycled materials scored bonus points. And of course, our testers had to find each item of swimwear comfortable to wear if there was any chance of it making the shortlist. These were the ones that really made a splash.
Best: Overall
Rating: 10/10
The long-sleeved swimsuit is still very much a thing in 2022, after various celebs sparked a trend for rash guard-style suits last summer. We love this kids’ version from Next – it comes in six different designs, but the pretty mango palm print hits just the right surfer-girl vibe.
The recycled polyester fabric has a UPF rating of 50+ so it’s a great option for the beach, and the long sleeves add extra sun protection. We particularly like the fact it zips up from the front, so our tester could pull it on and off independently, and there’s an extra layer of fabric separating the zip from the wearer’s skin. Sizes go from age three to 16 and the quality is fantastic for the price.
Best: For girls’ swimming lessons
Rating: 9/10
This Speedo swimsuit was our top pick for girls’ swimming lessons. New for 2022, it’s black with a bold print on the front – it looks like a kaleidoscopic mermaid tail – and a hot pink racerback that stands out well in the pool water. Speedo’s splashback style has thick straps set in from the shoulders to give swimmers the max range of movement, and our tester found it comfortable in her lessons. Plus, it’s made from Speedo’s eco endurance+ fabric, which means it contains 50 per cent recycled materials, is quick-drying and chlorine-resistant. Sizes go from age five to six, to 15-16.
Best: For boys’ swimming lessons
Rating: 9/10
For the boys’, we found Speedo’s jammers came out on top in testing. The longer, knee-length style meant they didn’t ride up like traditional shorts did when our tester dived into the water, and the internal drawcord waist meant they stayed in place even after some pretty ferocious jumping-in at the end of the lesson. There are lots of styles available, but our tester liked the simple, black design. They dry quickly, so there’s less soggy stuff to carry home, and they work just as well at the beach teamed with a matching Speedo rash vest. Sizes go from age five to six, to 15-16.
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Best: For chic swimmers
Rating: 8/10
It was tricky to choose a favourite from Danish brand Lil’ Atelier’s swimwear designs, but this sweet striped cossie ultimately won. With tan and white vertical stripes, a cute crinkle to the fabric, and a feminine frill, it’s pretty as a vintage picture. We found the skinny crossover straps a bit of a fiddle to get on, but otherwise, the fit was fab – with just enough room for a swim nappy. There’s a matching pair of swim shorts available, and sizes run from 18-months to seven years.
Best: Tankini
Rating: 9/10
We love the cut of this colourful tankini. The top is long enough in the body for our little tester to play without worrying about it riding up, and the bottoms are a great fit. The bright wavey stripes are a fresh take on the usual rainbow motif, and little details like the plaited racer-back straps finish it off beautifully. It’s from Monsoon’s SEW Sustainable range, which means it’s made predominantly from recycled polyester. Size-wise, this one goes from age three to four to 14-15.
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Best: For babies’ first swim lesson
Rating: 9/10
If you’re looking for an alternative to disposable swim nappies for your water baby, Splashabout’s happy nappy duo is a clever solution. It’s a step up from the original happy nappy, a reusable neoprene swim nappy designed to prevent ill-timed number-twos from escaping into the pool. With the duo version, you get the same leak-proof outer layer, plus a new antibacterial inner layer that kills pathogens inside the nappy. That means cleaner water for you and baby – plus everyone else in the pool – without a disposable nappy in sight. Sizes start from zero to three months and go up to two to three years.
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Best: For fun in the sun
Rating: 8/10
New for summer 2022, Frugi’s sun safe set has a UPF rating of 40+ and comes in three bright and breezy designs. The seashell-covered set looks great on the beach, and the high neck, long sleeves and knee-length shorts offer a great amount of sun protection. Size-wise we found all the Frugi items we tested came up slightly on the larger size, so there’s room for plenty of growth. Plus, there are lots of coordinating items available including a cute bucket-style swim hat.
Best: For the paddling pool
Rating: 8/10
Baby cossies don’t come much cuter than this toucan-print swimsuit from Jojo Maman Bebe. It has a built-in nappy to contain any in-pool accidents, so you don’t need a disposable one underneath. We particularly like that this one has a soft cotton lining against baby’s skin. Elasticated leg openings add an extra layer of protection, and the simple stretchy straps meant this wasn’t too much of a faff to get on a wriggly baby. Sizes go from three to six months and two to three years, plus there’s an equally cute matching sun hat available.
Best: For older beach boys
Rating: 8/10
Hype’s odyssey board shorts look fantastic – they’re covered in a bold galaxy print and finished with a rubber Hype crest. They fit well, sitting just above the knee, although the mesh inner layer is too big to provide any real support or coverage. We particularly liked the quick-drying fabric, which meant no sopping wet shorts on the beach, and the combination of an elasticated waistband with a drawstring. Sizes go all the way from age three to four, and then up to 16.
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Best: For toddler beach style
Rating: 8/10
This shorty style one-piece from Little Bird by Jools Oliver has a UPF rating of 50+ to keep kids protected in the sun. We love the bold print – a wash of colourful sea creatures that looks great on both boys and girls. It’s also rare to find a one-piece that goes up into larger kids’ sizes – five to six years in this case – starting from three to six months. The zip at the back makes dressing easier, and an extra layer of fabric keeps it away from your little one’s delicate skin.
Best: For baby girl beachwear
Rating: 9/10
With a classic rose print, dusky pink colour, and sweet frill skirt, this little swimsuit looks a dream when it’s on. Factor in a 50+ UPF rating, high neck, and long sleeves, and it ticks the box for beach readiness, too. The fit comes up well over a disposable swim nappy, and the zip at the back makes it a tad easier to pull off when it’s wet. It’s made from 82 per cent recycled polyester as part of Monsoon’s SEW sustainable collection, and is available from three to six months up to three to four years. We only wish there were bigger kids’ sizes available.
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Best: For extra warmth in the pool
Rating: 9/10
This clever baby wetsuit is designed to keep your little one warm in the water while allowing them to splash their legs and arms around freely. Most importantly, it’s really easy to put on. It opens totally flat and secures with velcro, so you can lay baby down on it, wrap, secure, and you’re good to go. The sizes available are zero to six months and six to 18 months, and the fastenings allow for a decent amount of adjustment so you can get the fit just right as baby grows. The wetsuit also gives UPF 50+ sun protection, so it’s a fab little solution for both beach and pool.
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Best: For bright beach style
Rating: 9/10
We love the bold surfboard motif on these playful swim shorts from sustainable kidswear brand Frugi. The recycled polyester fabric is amazingly lightweight and dries in record speed once they’re out of the water. We found the fit came up quite large on our tester, so we were grateful for the drawstring on the elasticated waistband, which also means we’ll get more wear out of them. The quality is second to none and these look great teamed with the coordinating rash vest. Sizes go from six to 12-months to 11-12 years, so water babies and bigger swimmers are covered.
Next’s long-sleeved swimsuit won serious style points and ticked the sun-safe box to boot. For boys, it’s got to be Speedo’s eco endurance+ jammers – the simple style works equally well for swimming lessons as it does for the beach. And for babies, we love Splashabout’s happy nappy duo for total peace of mind in the pool.
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