Last Updated on June 23, 2021 by worldoftravelswithkids
Where we live – on the coast of Western Australia – the ocean is cold for many months of the year. If the children do ocean surf lessons (which are heavily subsidized by the government), and a great way to get them used to the ocean, they are in the water from 30 to 45 minutes at a time. Much of this time they will be standing still as each kid takes their turn. That is why finding the best kids wetsuit is ideal.
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Why Do Kids Need A Wetsuit?
The children can get very cold, so they always wear a kids’ wetsuit. As kids don’t have the same amount of fat and muscle as adults, they can go from warm to cold far more rapidly. A wetsuit insulates them, both in and out of the water.
As a family, we rarely ever use the children’s wetsuits for surfing or boogie boarding. Instead, their junior wetsuits used for keeping the kids warmer in the water when we want to swim in the cold Southern Ocean. Where there’s an arctic wind chill factor to consider.
When Should They Wear A Wetsuit?
We use wetsuits for much of the year when spending time in the Southern Ocean. Our kids have started wearing them around 3 years old, so we’ve started each off with a toddler wetsuit. They don’t only guard against the cold – they also protect them against jellyfish, abrasions, and UV rays. A wetsuit that fits properly can also add buoyancy when in the water, which in turn adds to their confidence levels.
Our kids’ wetsuits tend to be ‘hand-me-downs’ from friends, though when we have bought them we have made all the common errors, buying cheap, substandard wetsuits that have workout quickly or opted for a size bigger than they need. Buying wetsuits for children can be fraught with problems.
I love the O’Neill Youth Reactor Shorty. From the original wetsuit manufacturer, this entry-level wetsuit is affordable, comfortable, and made to last.
What Not To Do When Buying A Kids’ Wetsuit
You definitely cannot buy one size too big for them to grow into, as we found out the hard way. If you do this, the child’s wetsuit will be too baggy and hang low around the crotch. Wetsuits for kids and adults alike create heat by trapping a layer of warm water between your body and the suit. That’s why you don’t want a junior wetsuit that is too big, as excess water will weigh them down. Or it may just run straight through it, providing no insulation at all.
Kids do grow so fast, though, so you know that if you buy the ‘right size’ this year, it is a sure thing that they will outgrow it by next summer. A good quality wetsuit for a kid is not cheap, either. Another issue is that kids like to look good – even when wearing a child wetsuit – and there can be those annoying blue and pink connotations for girls and boys. As a result, I have actively tried to avoid buying a ‘girl’s wetsuit’ or a ‘boy’s wetsuit’ so that my eldest (a girl) can pass her wetsuit on to her brother (a boy).
How To Find A Wetsuit That Fits
Just as bad as a baggy wetsuit is a wetsuit that’s too tight. Even one that is just slightly tight-fitting can be very limiting for active kids! How can you test if it’s too tight?
- Ask them to lift their arms over their head – like when they are swimming. If they haven’t got a full range of movement, the juniors’ wetsuit is too tight.
- If they actually wear it, and there are marks on their legs after swimming, then the wetsuit for kids is definitely tighter than it should be.
In our experience, children’s full-length wetsuits can be limiting. Even when the ocean is cold, they’ve always rejected these on the basis that they are difficult to move in. A kids’ shorty wetsuit can thus be preferable.
After being in the water for a long time – especially when it’s cold – I’ve found that my young ones get rather irritated with even the best kids’ wetsuits. We are always on hand to help peel them off. This is not that easy to do, especially for younger kids.
Best Kids’ Wetsuit Comparison Table
|O’Neill Youth Reactor Full||Full length||3/2mm||
Original brand, super stretch, hidden pocket
|O’Neill Youth Reactor Shorty||Shorty||2mm||Ultraflex, UV protection, top brand||Click Here||4.8|
|O’Neill Toddler & Kids||Full length||2mm||Fluid foam, leading brand, child-proof zip||Click Here||4.7|
|O’Neill Junior Reactor||Shorty||2mm||Anatomical fit, easy on, major brand||Click Here||4.6|
|Cressi Junior||Shorty||3mm||Respected brand, super smooth, thicker||Click Here||4.7|
|Realon Kids Wetsuit||Shorty or full length||2 or 3mm||Soft neoprene, stretch panels, great value||Click Here||4.6|
|Billabong Junior||Full length||5/4mm||Chest zip, winter suit, eco-friendly||Click Here||—|
|Scuba Donkey Kids Wetsuit||Full length||2.5mm||Experienced maker, low price, 2.5mm||Click Here||4.6|
|Rip Curl G Bomb||Swimsuit||1mm||Great brand, 1mm thick, unique shape||Click Here||5|
|Dive & Sail Kids Wetsuit||Shorty or full length||2.5mm||Lots of choices, 30-day refund guarantee||Click Here||4.6|
What To Look For In A Kids’ Wetsuit
This is the first factor to consider when finding the best wetsuit for your child. Especially if you want a kids’ winter wetsuit. Most summer wetsuits should have a thickness of 2 to 3mm, while a kids’ 5mm wetsuit can keep children warmest in colder weather. The most popular summer thickness is 2-3mm, while 4-5mm is best for winter. Most families will only require 2-3mm wetsuits, as kids are unlikely to enter very chilly water.
Kids can get cold very quickly, which left unchecked could lead to hypothermia. A wetsuit provides the extra insulation they need, given that they have less muscle and fat than grown-ups. This applies when in the water and by the ocean when it’s chilly or windy. Think about how they feel when they’re cold, too. They could miss out on lots of fun if they fear feeling the chill too much!
Wetsuits are graded by manufacturers according to thickness, usually as follows:
- 2mm summer wetsuit (also known as a 2 mil)
- 3mm/2mm summer wetsuit (also known as a 3/2)
- 4mm/3mm winter wetsuit (also known as a 4/3)
- 5/4mm winter wetsuit (also known as a 5/4)
Do you want a wetsuit with long arms and legs or a kids’ shorty wetsuit? Our kids tend to prefer the latter, as they offer more freedom of movement. They are not as warm as full-length wetsuits, however. Which to choose may depend on where you live or spend your holidays. A good, thick shorty can provide the required insulation and doesn’t restrict movement.
If you’re looking for a kids’ surf suit, then a long one is best as it protects them from abrasions that can be caused by rocks, reefs, or rubbing against the surfboard. Whether or not they are likely to surf is definitely worth bearing in mind when buying youth wetsuits in particular. Kids’ and teens’ triathlons are also becoming very popular, and a full-sized wetsuit is best for taking part in these.
We’ve also included a long-sleeved legless wetsuit in this guide as an alternative option. This type offers a great compromise between a swimsuit and a wetsuit for kids who are active but need more insulation than swimwear alone provides.
As mentioned in the intro, getting the right fit is crucial when buying wet suits for kids. An ill-fitting wetsuit isn’t just uncomfortable, it can also weigh them down when too much water gets trapped. Or provide no warmth as the water is flushed right through. As well as being baggy around the crotch.
Kids need to ability to move around freely when spending time in the ocean, so do make sure the toddler, child, or youth wetsuit will fit well. It should be snug, not restrictive. This will mean they can move through the water effortlessly while benefiting from the insulation it provides.
Note their measurements when you’re looking to buy any wetsuit for kids. Refer to any sizing chart provided by the manufacturer to help you decide the ideal wetsuit size. Remember, a good fit will also help them to put on and remove the wetsuit more easily!
It’s best to buy the most durable wet suit for kids that you can find or afford. A wetsuit with strong, robust seams is best, as it does get battered about by the waves. As well as during washing.
Wetsuits with durable seams offer more stretch, and the best ones have a flat lock or ‘blind’ stitching so they don’t stick out or feel uncomfortable. Overlock stitching is not desirable, as it can feel lumpy and even cause leaks. Flatlock or blind stitching is the best choice, with the former generally being the more affordable option.
Looking After A Kids’ Wetsuit
Once you’ve spent your hard-earned dollars on a good quality children’s wetsuit, it’s important to keep it in good condition for its next outing. If you do this, there is far more chance that you can pass it on to a younger sibling or cousin – or even sell it to someone else.
Just like adult ones, juniors’ wetsuits need to be kept clean to preserve the neoprene’s durability. They also need to keep their shape. Cleaning will also help to prevent bad smells. Even if you tell them not to, do you really believe that your kids won’t pee in their wetsuits?
After every beach trip, we take the following simple steps to keep the wetsuits in great condition.
- Turn all the kids’ wet suits inside out. Open all zips.
- Give each wetsuit a thorough rinsing in cold, fresh, flowing water. Check to ensure all sand has been washed away.
- Hang the wetsuit out to dry in a shady spot. Hang it from the waist rather than by the shoulders, as the latter can negatively impact the shaping.
- Once the outer side is dry, turn the wetsuit so the outside can also dry out.
- At the end of the season, it’s worth giving the wetsuits a proper wash before storage. Follow steps 1 and 2, then place the wetsuit in a tub of cold water. Using a specially formulated wetsuit shampoo, wash the wetsuit then rinse thoroughly. You can then hang it out to dry as before. We like the eco-friendly Jaws Slosh Wetsuit Shampoo, which is both highly rated and hypo-allergenic.
The Top 10 Kids’ Wetsuit Options
- Summer 3/2mm wetsuit
- Full length
- Age 4 -16
This O’Neill kids’ wetsuit is a versatile choice from the original wetsuit brand. It comes in sizes to fit age 4 right through to 16 and has full-length arms and legs. This 3/2mm wetsuit is ideal for the spring and summer seasons.
Although O’Neill classes this as an entry-level wetsuit, it’s made from superior ultra stretchy neoprene for a comfortable fit. Smoothskin technology insulates against cold and wind, and a seamless paddle zone adds extra freedom. It has flexible flatlock seams and even a concealed key pocket.
- Original wetsuit brand
- Ultra-smooth, seamless and stretchy
- Hidden pocket
- Not the cheapest option
- Summer 2mm wetsuit
- Shorty length
- Age 4 -16
This is the shorter version of the above product. It is also available in age 4 to 16 sizes, and this one has short arms and legs for added freedom. This 2mm wetsuit is great for the warmer months of the year – or more balmy climates.
O’Neill’s Ultraflex neoprene ensures a comfortable fit and great flexibility. This wetsuit also has flatlock seams and offers 100% protection from UV rays. The fluid movement of this O’Neill shorty wetsuit should lead to hours of water-based fun.
- Ultraflex neoprene for fluid movement
- 100% UV protection
- Top wetsuit brand
- Less affordable than some
- Summer 2mm wetsuit
- Full length
- Age 1 – 6
This O’Neill wetsuit is ideal for slimmer kids, as it features a slender fit. It comes in a selection of bright shades that will appeal to kids aged between 1 and 6. With full-length arms and legs, you won’t need to apply much sunscreen when they’re wearing this wetsuit.
The back zipper is designed to stop young kids from undoing it themselves, and the suit features an anatomical fit to ensure flexibility and comfort. O’Neill’s own Fluid Foam will keep even the youngest members of the family warm when swimming and playing.
- Fluid Foam for movement and warmth
- Leading wetsuit brand
- Child-proof zipper
- Not ideal for kids above average build
- Summer 2mm wetsuit
- Shorty length
- Age 1 – 6
A shorty O’Neill wetsuit that’s also made for more slender children. It’s ideal for spring and summer use at the beach and again comes in several color options. A neoprene shorty like this retains body heat while allowing little ones more freedom.
The anatomical fit and fluid foam construction ensures it feels good and allows for natural movement in the water. It also features a child-proof back zipper. Do note that this wetsuit also has a slim fit for kids with a more slender to average build.
- Anatomical fit and Fluid Foam
- Easy to put on and take off
- Major wetsuit brand
- Not the best for bigger built kids
- Summer 3mm wetsuit
- Shorty length
- Age 3 – 13
From the Italian brand Cressi, this is this shorty wetsuit for boys and girls aged between 3 and 13. It comes in a couple of color options to suit all. The 3mm thickness of the double-lined neoprene makes this one suitable for medium to cold waters.
Cressi has specialized in scuba, swim, and snorkel equipment since the mid-1940s, and their expertise shows in the smooth stretch construction and soft, comfortable neoprene inserts to the waist and leg ends.
- Super smooth, stretchy fit
- Top water sports brand
- Lightweight yet thicker than some
- Seam type not specified
- Summer 2 or 3mm wetsuit
- Shorty or full length
- Age 3 – 16
Whatever you want, this Realon kids’ wetsuit has got it. It comes in a range of sizes, and you can order a short or full-length wetsuit as required. There is a good selection of colors, and you can also pick between 2 and 3mm thicknesses.
Again this is a highly rated wetsuit with lots going for it. Including an easy pull zipper with built-in protection against pinching. The neoprene fabric is soft, comfortable, breathable, and stretchy. The panels to the underarms, ankles, and sides are also designed for added give.
- Soft, flexible neoprene
- Ankle, underarm, and side stretch panels
- Great value for money
- Not the best-known brand
- Winter 5/4mm wetsuit
- Full length
- Age 12 – 16
This Billabong kids’ wetsuit is aimed at those intrepid types seeking one for use in colder water. Made from recycled Superflex material, this is the ideal choice for the eco-conscious surfer in the family.
This is a youth wetsuit rather than one for kids, but as it fits from age 12 – or younger if they’re bigger built – it should suit most older children who want to surf or swim in winter. A chest zip makes this thicker – yet surprisingly lightweight and stretchy – winter wetsuit easier to put on and remove.
- Winter thickness
- Chest zip for easy access
- Recycled materials
- Most expensive option
- Summer 2.5mm wetsuit
- Full length
- Age 2 – 14
This Scuba Donkey full-length wetsuit for kids offers another budget alternative to the Realon one. It fits ages 2 to 14 and comes in 3 colors. With a 2.5mm thickness, this one is a good compromise between a 3mm wetsuit and a thinner 2mm one.
It’s a reliable and robust wetsuit for the money and is ideal for swimming as well as surfing or snorkeling. Flatlock stitching lends flexibility and strength to the seams. This wetsuit is apparently made by a manufacturer who supplies many of the big surf brands.
- Low price for high quality
- 5mm thickness offers warmth and flexibility
- Made by an experienced manufacturer
- Relatively unknown brand
- Summer girls’ wetsuit
- Neoprene swimsuit
- Age 12 – 16
This Rip Curl kids’ wetsuit is a bit of a wild card, as it has no legs in it at all. Rather, it is built like a swimsuit but made from neoprene for added warmth. For older girls who care about what they look like when at the beach, it could be the ideal compromise.
The Neoprene is just 1mm thick, giving greater flexibility. While it’s not the warmest wetsuit by any stretch of the imagination, it offers considerably more insulation than a simple swimsuit. For the tween or teen who wants to stand out, this one should make her smile. It’s a great option for gifting.
- Unique design
- 1mm thickness for summer swimming
- Respected surfing brand
- Not as warm as other wetsuits
- Summer wetsuit
- Full or shorty length
- Size Small – XXL
Our final listing in this top 10 kids’ wetsuits comes from Dive and Sail. It offers another more affordable option – and also comes in that 2.5mm thickness. With various sizes, colors, and lengths available, there should be a great blue wetsuit here for every kid.
The zipper features an anti-scratch, easy pull design, while the neoprene is lightweight, flexible, and soft. A 30-day unconditional refund is offered by Dive & Sail for peace of mind. The listing also includes advice on measuring for the perfect fit.
- Lots of colors, styles, and sizes
- 30-day unconditional refund
- Easy pull, anti-snag zipper
- Not a ‘top’ wetsuit brand
The Verdict – Which Is The Best Kids’ Wetsuit For Your Child?
I hope this guide to buying the best kids’ wetsuit has been helpful. Finding the right wetsuit for a kid can make so much difference to how much fun they have in the water, and how long they stay in there. Which can make beach trips more relaxing for you!
If you enjoyed this guide to finding the right wetsuit for your kid, don’t miss our posts on the best beach essentials for younger kids, or finding the Best Snorkeling Sets For Kids.
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