Summer is h-e-r-e, ladies, and with it comes tons of fun stuff: Lots of outdoor time, days spent splashing in the backyard pool or water table, yummy ice cream treats, and… too much sun exposure, overheating-induced meltdowns, and bringing the whole beach home with you no matter how hard you try to shake out that beloved beach towel. YAY. And while we can’t help with any of the above (sorry Charlie), we can help mitigate the inevitable battles over kids’ sunscreen applications.
You see, the key is in the outfit — stock your toddlers’ closets with boys and girls swimwear and rash guard sets that provide sun protection and make them look like teeny tiny surfers (so stinking cute), and you’ll have less area to cover with that white sunblock cream they hate so much for no apparent reason. We’re considering these essentials, for boys and girls AND mom and dad because there is nothing worse (or more damaging) than sunburn. These are actual clothing pieces with UPF 50 built-in.
No more worries when your LO spends a sunny day at the beach or does laps on your family’s inflatable water slide. Read on for our favorite boys rash guards and girls rash guards— each looks adorable and function beautifully. And for rash guards for women and men, check out that list, too.
Do toddlers need rash guards?
Rash guards are an excellent idea for toddlers and little kids, especially, because they offer extra coverage from the sun (which can easily burn that delicate skin). Pair it with a shady sun hat, and don’t forget the beach towels!
Is a rash guard a swimsuit?
Yes, they’re essentially fuller-coverage swimsuits. Some come in shirt-and-short sets while others are unitard-style with long sleeves on top and a classic bathing suit cut on the bottom.
Now, scroll on for our favorite picks that your water babies will want to wear all summer!
Best Toddler Girl Rash Guard Swimsuits
This rash guard swimsuit set is top-rated on Amazon. With over 2,000 reviews, parents are raving about the style, the quality, and the UV protection. One reviewer said, “Really cute on! My daughter looks like surfer girl in it. Most importantly it protects her skin from the sun. If you have an average to larger child you may want to size up. My daughter is small for her age and it fits her perfectly and not tight either. The drawstring is nice to adjust size to your child’s waist. My daughter is 5 and LOVES this suit!”
And speaking of keeping your little ones’ skin safe, it’s always a good idea to consider the sun protection when you’re picking their clothing out for the summer. This UPF 50+ swim tee has RAVE reviews from happy customers (“My daughter wears this rash guard all the time. It’s her favorite!”) and will keep their torso from getting crispy in the sun. There are also a whole array of colors to choose from (more than 10 to swap on the reg), so they can do the whole “I’m expressing myself with my fashion choices” thing without losing that safety factor you love. Peace in the kingdom.
We’re firm believers that there are two types of girl parents in this world: first, the type who embrace all things bows and ruffles and ribbons and pinks, and, second, (though no less legitimate), the more subtle, muted-color-friendly (read: neutrals, galore!) type. And while neither is right or wrong, if you fall into the second category, you may want to opt for the seersucker/gingham options of this set, because this rainbow suit is for the girliest girl. A bright striped rash guard on top paired with a ruffle-laden swim bottom, all by a brand called, literally, RuffleButts, makes for the most fru-fru-cutesy-gotta-have-it lewk of all time.
The mermaid trend is speaking to us right now, and no one knows how to stay on-trend more than Maisonette, the most adorable kids clothing & gear shop this side of Timbuktu. (Speaking of, did you know Timbuktu is an actual city, in Mali? Not just some made up place our parents would reference as “far away” when we were kids? Thank you, Google.) Anywho, your little lady will totally appreciate the metallic pink ruffled front mermaid bottom on this two-piece Shade Critters pick available for 4 mos to 4 years. And if she doesn’t, you will, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Best Toddler Boy Rash Guard Swimsuits
Here’s the thing about a short-sleeved rash guard: It doesn’t protect the lower portion of the arm, sure, but it’s so damn versatile, it can be worn when the temps are in the 70s just as well as when the temps are in the 90s. Plus, this perfect aqua blue color is, basically, everything we dream of to keep our littles looking gorge and making them just totally irresistible to kiss and hug and smooch, because what kid doesn’t love being smothered in parental love during a beach day with friends? Embarrassment and family fun in the sun, check, check, check.
If your little guy or gal has declared themselves an official beach bum, don’t fight it — embrace it. In fact, go all “You can be anything you want to be, Kevin!” on it. Just be sure to get them the right gear, too. And what screams surfer dude or dudette more than Quiksilver? This long sleeved rash guard will keep them looking all Kelly Slater-fly, even if their skills are less than pro-level. And while it *may* be smart to rent a board until they’ve figured out if the wave life is really for them, you can rest assured they’ll get a ton of wear out of a staple swim tee like this one, even if it’s more dig-in-the-sand than ride-the-waves.
Your little beach bum will have full protection in this rash guard set from MiYang. You’ll also have a choice between this navy and yellow fish design, or seven other options including sharks, fish, waves and more. One mom reviewed, “This swim outfit fit my son perfectly. Super cute also! Very happy with this purchase. Made well and good material.”
When it comes to getting kids dressed, sometimes it’s easiest to get them excited about the process, even if it’s just for the little (and we mean tiny) things. Our go-to move? Purchasing practical items that make them feel like superheroes (or, in this case, big and brave and scary alligators). This adorable trunks-and-rash-top combo will keep him protected from the sun, warm when he gets out of the pool — because we’ll be damned if we hear that whole the wind blew once and now I’m going to freeze to death thing one more time — and looking super badass. Plus, they’re made by Carter’s, so you know it’s high quality stuff.
In the age of Marie Kondo, some mamas are all about the #keepitsimple and #keepitminimal life. And while, ahem, some of us can’t commit to spring cleaning anything in our lives (be it our kitchen, our basement, or our kids’ closets), we don’t judge. If this sounds like you, then basic, solid-color swim gear serves perfectly. You can mix and match pieces, and stock their drawers with basic pieces that will stand the test of time (both fashionably and practically). Kanu Surf comes through for us with a long-sleeved, well-priced option that comes in a huge array of colors to suit any aesthetic you’re curating for your mini.
Best Toddler Long Sleeve Swimsuits
Gap is known for having some pretty great rash guard pieces for kids, and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s long sleeve, light weight, and comfortable. Your little one will love the floral print too! One reviewer said, “This is the perfect summer time bathing suit. Beautiful, bright colors, made from quality material. I always size up for my child in swim suits, and it fit her just fine!”
Here’s the thing about taking your brand little babe to the pool or beach: It’s totally adorable, and one of those milestone moments that, as a new mom, you look forward to and cherish and take approximately one billion pictures of, but it’s also a lot of work. There’s all the gear you have to bring, there’s keeping the damn hat on their freakin’ heads, and making sure your little nugget does eat so much sand that they end up vomiting. (Yes, it’s happened to us.) Keep the dressing process easy, at least, with an easy zip-up onesie from Old Navy that a) looks rad and b) is quick-drying. Plus, it offers UV protection, to help keep that baby-soft skin primed and precious.
Yes, it’s possible to stay warm even in the cold ocean and chilly pools. With this rash guard swimsuit from Boden, your little one feel bundled up with the UPF 50+ protection fabric and central zipper that will make it super easy for a quick change.
And since summer really does feel never-ending sometimes, shop more of our kids summer picks here!