Finding a non-bikini bathing suit for my preschooler – why is this so hard?

Who came up with the concept that 4 year olds should wear bikinis? And with ruffles on the bum and the chest? Really, people, come on. My daughter had outgrown her swimsuits and I though buying new ones would be easy – boy was I wrong. She is in preschool and they do a lot of water play, so I was most concerned about suits that provided sun coverage, would survive heavy wearing, and were not tremendously ugly (in that order). I also was reluctant to order online except for brands that I had purchased before and knew the sizing to be true – the last thing I wanted was for the bottoms to slide down or the top to squeeze too tightly during a a rousing game of water tag. So the brands I looked at for this post were Gymboree, Hanna Andersson, Carter’s, Old Navy, Mini Boden, Speedo, and Tuga. There are tons of other great brands out there but this was an extensive sample.

Some factors to consider:


  • One piece vs. two-piece. I am not talking bikini versus sport, I’ve already nixed those. I’m talking about a rashguard and swim bottoms or a one-piece rashguard one-piece.
  • UPF or non-UPF: I actually didn’t realize that this was a choice (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t when we were kids). For the past two summers she has worn the Old Navy Printed Swim One-Pieces for Baby. These have a choice of designs, go up to 5T, are $12.99, and wear incredibly well, so were pretty much my ideal. . . until another mom on the playground sniffed “you know those aren’t rashguards, dear? They don’t have any UV protection or SPF”. So I experienced mom guilt and decided that I needed to buy the UV block/SPF kind this year. Although I will have to say the Old Navy ones were awesome and it’s not like she got a sunburn through them, so if you are less paranoid (or prone to mom-shaming) than I am, that would be my number one recommendation.
  • Short-sleeves and short bottoms or long-sleeves and long bottoms. I go for short sleeves and short bottoms – I want her to be protected from the sun but not feel like she’s wearing a snowsuit.

So what did I end up buying? (and where?)


General thoughts:

  • There are a lot of cute swim sets out there that met half of my criteria – a rashguard top and bikini bottoms or a tankini top and boy-style shorts. Sadly, many places (Old Navy, Carters, etc, Gymboree) only sold these suits as sets. Hanna Andersson lets you buy the tops and bottoms separately (there is a tankini top in the same navy floral pattern that “goes” with the flowers boy-style shorts I ended up buying, above, but I was able to buy the shorts and a rashguard from a different set that looked nice separately). Mini Boden lets you do the same, and they are also excellent quality but even pricier than Hanna (and Hanna you can get more cheaply at the outlets or on sale).
  • Think about what your kid will use the swimwear for. If your child actually swims well and will be swimming at a pool, or you do some indoor swim lessons, then a regular one piece without the rashguard parts might be the best fit. I am having a hard time thinking of when you’d choose a ruffly bikini, though). Likewise, if your family goes snorkeling or on beaches with a lot of rocks you may want long sleeves or full leg coverage to prevent scrapes and scratches (the last time I went snorkeling was pre-kids, though, so what do I know?!).
  • There are a plethora of great brands out there – this is just a small sampling as these happen to be brands I could either have her try on in person or know run true to size.

Happy splashing!

*All photos are directly from manufacturer websites with the exception of author photography and the last pic which is from


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