Your Complete Guide to Float Suits

The huge variety of floatation aids now available for children mean that you’re no longer limited to just putting armbands on your child before they go into the pool. Float suits are one of the most popular swimming aids available and are ideal for helping little ones gain confidence in water whilst being supported by the suits’ integrated floats.

This guide takes a closer look at what float suits are and how they can benefit family swimming sessions:

float-suit

What are float suits?

Float suits are swimming costumes with integrated floats to help children stay afloat in water and position them correctly when they are learning to swim. The design features foam floats that are inserted into pockets in the suit around the tummy and back. These individual floats can be removed gradually as a child becomes more confident in the water.

Float suits are available in a classic swimming costume design, such as the pretty Pink Blossom float suit, or in designs with fabric covering arms and legs to aid sun protection, like our Set Sail UV float suit.

What age can children wear float suits?

Children can wear floatation suits in the water from one year old, right up to six years old. Younger babies may not be able to balance themselves or have the strength to keep their body above water, meaning they may tip forwards or backwards when wearing a float suit.

When choosing the right size suit for your child, measure their chest circumference, body length and weight, rather than just going by their age, to ensure the best fit possible.

The options for floatation devices for babies under one are armbands and float seats.

What makes float suits so good?

Float suits are essentially a swimsuit and swimming aid in one, which means you don’t need to worry about getting your child to wear armbands or rely on them to hold onto floats when they are in the water.

Foam floats are integrated into the swimming costume, which means the buoyancy can be adjusted as children become more confident in the water and as their swimming abilities improve. As the floats are integrated, this also means they can’t be easily removed by the child, which is a potential hazard with armbands.

As the floats are positioned around a child’s torso, this leaves their arms unrestricted and helps them develop a more natural swimming position in the water, rather than lifting them out of the water in an upright position, which is what arm bands do.

A further bonus is that some suits feature UPF 50+ fabric that covers arms and legs too, making them ideal for swimming outdoors in warmer weather.

Are float suits safe?

Float suits work with your child’s natural buoyancy, so they help to prevent them from going under the water, whilst enabling them to put their head under if they want to. A float suit does help to increase general safety levels when a child is in water, however they are a swimming aid and are not intended to be a safety device.

A float suit won’t turn a child the right way up if they are struggling in the water, or keep their head above water in the same way a life jacket would. These suits are not a substitute for adult supervision.

Floatation swimsuit safety tips

  • Babies should have the strength and balance to sit up confidently before they are able to use a float suit. Splash About float suits start at age one. However, older babies and even toddlers may find it difficult to stay upright in a float suit, so if you find your child is struggling to stay upright (for example if they are tipping forwards or backwards), then you should start with the minimum of floats and gradually introduce them two at a time until your child is positioned so that just their head and shoulders are above the water. Then hold both their hands out in front of them and gently steady them until they find their balance. This may take a few attempts.
  • Float suits should not be used as a substitute for a life jacket on boats or during water sports.
  • Choosing the correct size float suit will help ensure optimum safety, so choose a suit based on weight, chest circumference and height recommendations, rather than just by age.
  • Children should be closely supervised when on or near water, preferably on a one-to-one basis.
  • Check that the suit you choose has a British safety standard mark. This means that the suits have been tested to a rigorous safety standard to ensure they perform as the labelling states.

Float suits vs armbands

Armbands have been the go-to buoyancy aid for parents taking children swimming for decades. However, float suits have many more advantages over these traditional swimming aids.

Float suits

Arm bands

Support child’s natural buoyancy and helps achieve a more natural swimming position

Difficult to achieve a natural swimming position as armbands raise arms out of the water

Integrated foam floats can be gradually removed as child’s water confidence increases

The inflatability of armbands is not adjustable, however, there are float disc armband systems available where float discs can be gradually removed.

UPF protection can be integrated into the suit

No sun protection

Arms free to move naturally in the water

Arm movement restricted by bands

Easy change zip and soft fabric

Awkward to get on and off and plastic can cause chafing

Integrated floats makes them difficult for children to remove easily

Not secure and can be more easily removed by children

Robust and durable

Susceptible to punctures and air leaks

Varied, colourful and fun designs available

Usually orange or yellow, some different colours and patterns available

Can be bulky to pack in a bag or suitcase

Small when deflated so easy to pack

More expensive than armbands – retailing at around £20 - £30

Very affordable – can be bought for as little as a few pounds

How to care for float suits

Splash About’s float suits are made from chlorine resistant fabric but they still need to be cared for in a similar way to regular swimwear.

  • Simply rinse thoroughly in cool water after use and leave to dry naturally, out of the way of direct sunlight.
  • Regularly check zips for sand - sand stuck in the zip could cause it to deteriorate over time.
  • Soiled suits can be washed in a washing machine in a warm wash with a gentle detergent. Don’t use fabric conditioner as this can damage the material’s UPF coating.

Float suit FAQs

Can float suits be worn with armbands?

No, wearing float suits with armbands will provide too much buoyancy which could be dangerous.

Can floatation suits be worn with swim nappies?

Yes, if your child isn’t potty trained then they will need to wear a swim nappy under their float suit. Splash About’s reusable Happy Nappy range can also be worn under a float suit for a confident, leak-free swim.

What floatation suits are available for children over six?

Swim float jackets are suitable for children aged six to ten and are ideal for supporting older children when learning to swim. They are worn on top of a swimming costume and, as with float suits, feature adjustable floats which can be removed as your child’s water confidence grows.

Are baby floatation suits available for babies aged 6-12 months?

No, this is because babies under one year old tend not to have the balance and strength required to support themselves in water with the assistance of a float suit.

What alternatives are there to swimsuits with integrated floats?

Float jackets are a superb alternative to float suits and are suitable for older children, and even adults. Float jackets feature adjustable floats that are integrated into the vest and can be removed gradually as the swimmer’s confidence grows.

What if my child won’t wear a float suit?

If your child isn’t keen on wearing a float suit then these tips should help them feel more comfortable:

  • Let them choose the style they prefer – there are plenty of options available, including bright patterns and colours to suit every child’s taste. Many of Splash About’s designs come in classic or long arm and sleeve designs, for example our navy with white strip design is available as a sun protection float suit and in a classic swimsuit design.
  • Let your child see how a float suit feels when compared to armbands – they tend to be much more comfortable and less restrictive than armbands.
  • The floats are integrated into the swimming costume so everything they need to wear in the pool is put on in one go, rather than having to negotiate a swimming costume and a floatation device.

You can view Splash About’s full range of float suits here.

You can find out more about buoyancy swimwear with our Buoyancy Master Class – Float Jacket and Float Suit.