Post Summary: The ultimate guide to the best snorkeling gear for kids, including a section on essential toddler snorkeling gear.
Are you on the hunt for the best snorkeling gear for kids and wondering where to start? After looking through countless snorkels, fins, masks, defogging spray, and more, you might be inclined to throw your hands up in the air and buy whatever comes up first on Amazon.
Don’t do it!
Is there really a difference between one kid’s snorkel set to the next? Yes, there is. While we spend the majority of our life outdoors hiking and exploring the best national parks with kids, our first love is snorkeling. It’s true. So much so that we considered writing a snorkeling blog before creating this site.
Here’s our complete guide to kids snorkel gear, including the best snorkel sets for kids and what to look out for when purchasing kids snorkeling equipment.
*This Best Snorkel Gear For Kids post contains affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you purchase from them. This is at no extra cost to you. We only suggest what we think is helpful to you.
GUIDE TO SNORKELING GEAR FOR KIDS
Before we jump headfirst into the best snorkeling gear for kids, let’s break down the various stuff you need and what to look for so you can better understand the different types of snorkeling equipment for kids.
While there are plenty of cheaply made snorkeling sets for kids, we always recommend going for high-quality gear. Children are notoriously rough and fickle creatures. You’ll want children’s snorkel gear that is durable and comfortable. Two things that cheap snorkeling equipment will NOT offer.
Dry Snorkel For Kids: Throughout this guide to kids’ snorkeling gear, you’ll see me reference a “dry snorkel.” Snorkels come in three choices: a classic snorkel, a semi-dry snorkel, and a dry snorkel. For first-timers or young kids, you’ll want to use a dry snorkel. The reason why is a splash guard at the top of the dry snorkel stops water from getting inside the tube. A semi-dry or wet snorkel is better for people who want to be able to dive down into the water since the dry snorkel creates extra buoyancy. If you want to get into all the nitty-gritty details of a dry vs. wet snorkel, you can read this article here.
Snorkel Mask For Kids: When looking for a kids snorkel mask, you can choose from a single lens mask or a two-window mask. I always prefer a single-lens mask when I snorkel since it allows for greater visibility. For kids, the best snorkel mask is the best-fitting mask. The standard test for seeing if a mask fits is to put the mask near your child’s face (without the straps attached and hair pulled away from the face) and have them breathe in to see if the mask attaches to their face effortlessly. Once they exhale, the mask should easily come off.
Full-Face Snorkel Mask For Kids: A full-face snorkel mask is a mask that covers the entire face. While it may seem like a natural choice since it’s an easier mask to use, the mask has a bit of controversy surrounding it. The main concern is the fear of CO2 buildup in the mask. This theory has largely been debunked by a study done by Hawaii to investigate the cause of snorkel-related deaths. Unfortunately, once a fear has been set, it’s hard to take it out of public consciousness. My husband and I use full-face snorkel masks and love them. But I’m an adult, and I make sure to snorkel at a leisurely pace and to breathe slowly in the mask. For your child, that might be a lot to expect from them. At this time, I wouldn’t advise using a full-face snorkeling mask for kids. It’s just not worth it. You can read more about full-face masks and the controversy surrounding them in my post about snorkeling gear for beginners.
Snorkeling Fins For Kids: Snorkel fins for kids come in a closed fin or open heel fin. Because kids are in a constant growing stage, it’s best to get open-heel fins since they have adjustable backs for growing feet. Flexible fins are also better choices than rigid fins since they require more muscle power and will cause them to tire out sooner.
FAQS About Snorkeling With Kids
Do kids need flippers to snorkel?
No, flippers are not essential to snorkeling, but they allow you to swim more without overexerting yourself. The surface area of the fin provides a thrust that enables you to have more power and speed. They also allow for extra buoyancy, which can be advantageous for young swimmers. Also, they’re really fun!
If you’re traveling and want to cut down on what to pack, it is not necessary to bring fins, but you’ll want to be aware of their exhaustion levels in the water.
How old should a kid be to snorkel?
There’s no universal number for when a child can start snorkeling, but you can begin experimenting with snorkeling equipment to get them comfortable with the gear as early as three years old. I say three years old because there’s not much snorkeling equipment available to them before that age. We started when our son was four, and it mainly consisted of him putting it on, trying it out, and then taking it off. Other kids may react differently and be more comfortable. They may love it. There’s really no way to predict it until you try it out.
In general, older kids (6 and up) will take to it sooner. While snorkeling is not a complex activity, slowly breathing, not chomping down on the snorkel, and clearing out the mask might be too much to juggle for young ones.
BEST SNORKELING GEAR FOR KIDS
Here are our straightforward recommendations on what kids need for snorkeling. We tried to simplify it so that your parent brain doesn’t go into overload with options.
Best Kids Snorkel Set
While I broke down the children’s snorkel gear above into their individual pieces, it makes more sense to buy all of it as a complete mask, snorkel, and fin set. There are two brands that I would suggest buying from, Mare and Cressi. I am a big fan of Cressi and first bought their snorkeling equipment for myself in 2002, and it still holds up! Cressi and Mare are well-known Italian brands famous for their SCUBA and snorkel gear.
The Cressi Junior Snorkeling Kit is a fantastic snorkeling set for kids 3-8. It comes with a dry snorkel, a soft mouthpiece, quick-release buckles for the mask (a godsend!), tempered glass, adjustable soft fins, and a net bag for easy storage. It comes in a variety of colors to suit the personality of different kids. The set comes in two different sizes that typically fit the age range of 3-5 and 6-10. Be sure to look at the size guide photo to get the best fit for your child.
The Mares Sea Pals Kids Snorkel Set is also a well-rated youth snorkel set. While we don’t personally use the set, I do love the cute sea animal bags the snorkel set comes with. That’s the kind of special detail that can make a difference to your kid. I know my child would love the shark set.
Best Snorkel Mask For Kids
If you don’t need to buy the fins or are looking to travel with a lighter load, you can opt to buy the snorkel and mask separately. Our pick for the best snorkel mask for kids is the Cressi Marea Junior Mask and Snorkel Set. It has an adjustable two-window mask, a dry snorkel, and a bag for easy storage. The recommended ages for the set are 5-8.
A runner-up option is the Cressi Kids Snorkeling Kit. Comparable to the above product, it has a two-window mask and a dry snorkel but fits a greater age range of 3-8. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for something more affordable since it doesn’t include a bag for storage. While a storage bag is nice, you can opt to buy a wet bag like this that’s machine washable and can be used for other things making it a better purchase.
Best Snorkeling Fins For Kids
If you only need fins for your child, the Cressi Rock Fins can fit toddler shoe sizes from 9.5 to 13.5 and young kids sizes from 1-6, so roughly ages 3-10. It has an adjustable strap allowing growing bodies to use it for years. Small enough to fit in luggage or day bags, you can easily travel with them. Swim fins are great for swimmers who aren’t as confident in the water and could use the extra help. Plus, they help you swim faster.
Snorkeling Shoes For Kids
If your child won’t be wearing fins, you might want to have them wear kids water shoes if the water has sharp coral or a rocky bottom that is hard on young feet. You can opt for classic water shoes that are lightweight and flexible. They can also be worn with the fins above if you will be using snorkel fins.
For us, we always use our Jefferson shoes from Native. We love these shoes, and I like that he can wear them in the water and transition right into wearing them as everyday shoes. I like a multi-purpose item! Plus, they are adorable and come in an array of stylish patterns. I suggest buying Natives directly from Native, but you can also browse their selection on Amazon.
READ NEXT: Want to snorkel with your kids? Check out our post on visiting the island of St. John With Kids and why it’s a fantastic snorkeling destination.
Best Snorkeling Vest For Kids
If you think your child will be uncomfortable in the water or isn’t a strong enough swimmer yet, you might want the extra assistance of floaties or a life jacket. The issue with using regular life vests is that the point of a life jacket is to keep you upright and above the water. When snorkeling, you’re trying to stay horizontal to the water.
If your child can swim, I suggest getting an actual snorkeling vest that will keep them prone and assist them so they don’t have to swim so hard. Snorkeling vests are typically inflatable, which is nice since you can inflate and deflate according to each swimmer’s ability. The Scuba Choice Snorkel Vest is an inflatable vest with a crotch strap to keep it from riding up. Since it can deflate, it’s the perfect choice for travel since you can easily roll it up and pack it in your bag.
If your child is still learning how to swim and needs something with extra protection, a GoGo Kids Life Vest will offer better buoyancy. It might not be as comfortable as the above choice, but it’s a better choice for safety. These life vests are intended for kids who need extra support for swimming since it’s not a life-saving device. You’ll still need to be present at all times when they are using this life vest.
Lastly, if your child is toddler-aged and you don’t feel comfortable with the above choices, go with Body Glove, the only Coast guard approved life-saving device. Our son used this when he didn’t know how to swim, and we felt confident knowing he would be safe. The caveat is that it will be difficult to snorkel in, but if it’s for an older toddler that you’re trying to get comfortable with snorkeling in the water, it can be a good choice.
Lastly, you can always opt for a good old-fashioned pool noodle for extra flotation.
Reef Safe Sunblock
Time spent splashing around in the water means time spent basking in the rays of the sun. Be sure to use reef-safe sunscreen to minimize the harm done to sea life. While the verdict is still out on if sunscreen is harming sea life, at this point, it’s better to be safe and use reef-safe mineral sunscreen.
We like Badger Mineral SPF 40 sunscreen and Blue Lizard Sensitive Skin Sunscreen. I like Blue Lizard a bit more since it’s fragrance-free. Both will leave a white cast on your skin, but I found it disappeared if I gave it a good rub.
An even better choice for sun protection is to wear a UPF50+ shirt in the water. Swim shirts offer better protection than sunscreen, and you won’t have to use as much sunscreen. We love the quick-dry shirts from Vapor Apparel that are lightweight and machine washable. I prefer these shirts over tight-fitting swim shirts because they are more comfortable and can be used as regular everyday clothes when hiking, playing sports, or just hanging out in the sun. Again, I love a multi-purpose item!
If you’ll be swimming in colder water and snorkeling a lot, you can invest in a UPF50+ neoprene wetsuit like this, which will provide excellent sun protection, warmth, and a little bit of extra buoyancy.
My ultimate pet peeve when snorkeling is when my mask fogs up. I learned the old-fashioned way of defogging your mask (spitting in it and rubbing it around the glass), but I prefer not to have my kid spit in his mask. Instead, use an anti-fog spray to help reduce fog. With this spray, it’s important not to touch the area where you have sprayed, so you’ll have to be clear about that so little fingers don’t deactivate the spray.
When putting a mask on, you want absolutely no hair between the silicone mask and the face. Even the tiniest bit of hair will cause a break in the seal and let water into the mask. This is an issue I always come up against with my long hair. If your child has long hair, be sure to use some no-snag hair ties.
TODDLER SNORKELING GEAR
While some of the above snorkeling equipment for kids could work for toddlers, here are a few extra recommendations geared specifically toward toddlers.
For our toddler, we used the Aqua Sphere Mask made especially for toddlers. It fits him perfectly and is a great mask for getting them used to looking under the water. We paired it up with the Cressi Dry Top Snorkel. We didn’t use fins for our son, but the Cressi Short Floating Fins are designed for ages one and up.
You might also want to use a raft floatie with an open window for viewing the water. All ages can use it, but it’s ideal for babies who can lay on their bellies and look down at the water or for toddlers who are learning about snorkeling and might like the assistance of a snorkeling raft.
READ NEXT: Beach Essentials For Toddlers
That’s our guide to finding the best snorkeling gear for kids! We hope you have a fun time snorkeling with your kids. Drop us a line in the comments below if you have any questions.
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