Sharing the wonder of the underwater world with your children is a hugely pleasurable experience. Many kids are natural water babies, adventurous and comfortable in the fourth natural element. Learning to snorkel or dive will change their life forever!
A child’s development will influence finding the correct equipment, so they can be truly comfortable. While they can learn to dive at 10 years old, kids are still growing both mentally and physically. Here is our guide to choosing the right gear to enhance the love of their hobby, giving parents more time to relax and less time to worry.
Smaller faces, bigger smiles! Always try on a mask. The “sniff” test is crucial for a child as not all masks come in small sizes. Water ingress and a foggy view could turn a nervous child into a panicked one at depth, so a good fit is essential to enhance their experience. See below for our top tips:
- Don’t overtighten the strap as this can pinch the skin causing leaks (a comfort or “slap” strap is a good alternative to a silicone one like these from Scubapro and Hollis).
- Choose a soft silicone skirt, preferably made from a hypo-allergenic material like the Scubapro Mini VU.
- Choose a low volume mask as they are easier to clear when practicing skills or in the event that any water does enter. We like the Aqua Lung Mistique DS Mask or Micromask.
- Keep hair out of seals. A hood like the Scubapro Rebel Kids 5mm is a good way to keep it hidden.
- Ensure the strap has an easy adjust mechanism that can be operated by the young diver while underwater, like the one on the TUSA Mini Kleio Junior Mask and Snorkel Set.
- Choose a proper child’s mask or a designated small or medium fit like the Mares Comet Kids Mask or TUSA Freedom Tina.
- Mask boxes keep masks safe from accidents which can happen with heavy equipment around like cylinders. Make sure your mask is made from Tempered glass which does not shatter in the event of it being accidently smashed.
- A full face mask for snorkelling reduces jaw fatigue as there is no need to grip a snorkel. Breathing through the nose is also a more natural experience. The Ocean Reef Aria Jnr is specifically designed for children.
While a simple J shaped snorkel is what you normally learn to snorkel with, there are other types that kids will love as they reduce the effort required to purge them of minor leaks:
- Dry top snorkels prevent water from entering if the snorkel top goes below the surface or if the water is choppy. We like the Mares Rebel Dry Snorkel for its range of colour combinations.
- The one-way valve on a purge snorkel requires the user to simply exhale to drain away any water in the mouthpiece, like that on the TUSA Imprex II Hyperdry Snorkel.
- For younger children choose a snorkel specially designed for smaller mouths. The Scubapro Mini Dry Kids Snorkel has a soft allergy-free silicone mouthpiece and is suitable for children aged 4 upwards.
- Ever tried to talk to your buddy through your snorkel? Well to ensure they understand you, upgrade to the Ocean Reef Snorkie Talkie. This wicked piece of technology is designed to go on the Aria range of full face snorkelling masks. Share the awesome marine life you see with family members who are also fitted out with the same comms device!
Kids go through shoes like wildfire when they are growing. Diving and snorkelling fins usually fit between 2-3 shoe sizes, which will allow for an element of growth. While us adults enjoy a slow excursion around the reef, younger mermaids and mermen tend to cover more area and burn a few extra calories! Comfort is therefore key when it comes to choosing the right fins:
- Closed fins tend to be cheaper, lighter and pack well if travelling. They are easy to don and doff and work well in a sandy beach environment like the Oceanic Viper Full Foot Fins which start at size 3XS in blue.
- Shorter fins require less strength and are less cumbersome but are surprisingly powerful like the TUSA Sport Snorkelling Fins.
- Open heel fins have an adjustable strap that allows for growth, however they do tend to be for bigger shoe sizes. These are best for diving and snorkelling in a rocky environment.
- Bungee fins are easy to don and doff. The black Scubapro GO Travel Fins start at youth size 10-13. Black Aqua Lung Storm fins have a similar design and start at kids UK size 13. These can both be worn bare foot or with socks.
- Socks reduce rubbing and blisters. These go well with closed or bungee fins like these Fourth Element Xerotherm Socks. Shoes like the TUSA Sport Aqua Shoes (which come in kids sizes from size 10-11) work with open or bungee fins.
Wetsuits and Rash Vests
Kids lose heat faster than adults in water. This is because they have less body fat to insulate them. It is important to have a snug fitting wetsuit to avoid water flushing in and out. It should also be flexible. Wetsuits and rash vests also protect from UV rays and sunburn. See our guide below:
- A long wetsuit is not only suitable for cooler water but gives extra protection from cuts and scrapes which can occur whilst learning the fundamentals of buoyancy control. We love the Scubapro Rebel Kid's 6mm Steamer Wetsuit.
- Many kid’s wetsuits are made from non-toxic materials such as X Foam. The Scubapro Rebel Range uses a non-toxic neoprene formula that complies with the very strict P.A.H. (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) test requirements.
- Stretch panels in key body areas allow for growth and reinforced kneepads protect the legs of both suit and diver when kneeling down like those on the Scubapro Rebel Kid's 3mm Steamer.
- Rash vests protect from marine life stings and offer additional environmental protection when worn underneath a wetsuit like the Scubapro Wizard Rebel Rash Guard.
- Consider hoods and gloves that can keep the extremities warm if your child is spending lengthy periods in the water. Mike’s Dive Store stocks other Scubapro kid’s accessories such as the Rebel Kids Hooded 5mm Vest Jacket, D-Flex 2mm Kid’s Gloves and 5mm Hood.
The breathing apparatus you choose for your children is their life-support system. Maintaining them and keeping them clean and sterile is just as important as the breathe quality they deliver at depth:
- There are regulators on the market designed especially for children. The Scubapro MK2+ EVO R095 Kids Regulator has shorter hoses. This ensures they can’t get snagged over the shoulder and avoids the second stage getting pulled out of the mouth. A smaller mouthpiece has also been fitted.
- Choose a small regulator second stage to reduce jaw fatigue,particularly on long dives. British manufacturer Apeks have 2 lightweight regulators that are ideal for use by children. The XL4 is suitable for cold water and is very compact. The second stage weighs just 154 grams. The Apeks Flight is a warm water regulator and is actually the lightest in the world! The reduced size of the second stage offers less drag and it was developed to be as neutrally buoyant as possible. Thereby excessive grip on the mouthpiece is not necessary. Both regulators have lightweight, flexi hoses. Their parent company Aqua Lung also has a similar warm water product called the Mikron.
- Small mouthpieces reduce the risk of gag reflex for smaller mouths. They are readily available as an accessory. At Mike’s we stock small mouthpiece kits from Mares and Scubapro.
- Auto closure devices are a really clever feature that seals the regulator’s inlet fitting on the first stage. If user forgets to replace the dust cap prior to washing, the ACD keeps water and contaminants out. It is also sometimes called AST (Auto Sealing Technology). While young divers should be taught correct practice regarding their equipment from the off, they do occasionally forget. An ACD avoids an expensive service. They can be found on the Aqua Lung Core Supreme and Mares Ultra ADJ 82X Regulator (among others).
- Choose a selection of rainbow colours for your child’s regulator hoses. They make all this technical equipment more appealing and their gear will be easy to identify. Miflex have a wide range of colours which can be seen in the Diving Hoses section on our website.
BCDs and Snorkelling Vests
Some manufacturers produce kid-specific BCDs, others have jackets available in a broad range of small sizes. Front adjustable buoyancy jackets are easy to tighten underwater as wetsuits compress. They also have a Velcro cummerbund that can be loosened as your child grows. A BCD that is too big will ride up past their ears underwater, affecting buoyancy and obstructing their view. Our list below is recommended for older children:
- Lightweight travel BCDs are ideal for kids as many BCDs are often heavy and bulky to carry. The Aqua Lung Zuma is available in XXS. It can be folded and rolled for easy packing. It has padded shoulder straps for comfort and an adjustable chest strap which can be raised or lowered depending on your child’s height.
- Choose a BCD with easy to locate dump valves and inflators. This will avoid runaway ascents and descents. We like the Scubapro GO with its classic red button power inflator and multiple triangular pull dumps. It also has rotating quick-release shoulder buckles which allow better manoeuvrability. It is available in XS.
- Removable weight integrated pockets are perfect for kids who struggle to climb ladders in heavy dive gear. The Mares Kalia goes down to size 2XS for girls and is fitted with the latest Mares SLS weight system. It uses a pull to release mechanism and has a visual indicator to show correct positioning and locking of the weight pouches.
- Choose a BCD made from a robust material that will endure multiple use and stand the test of time! The Mares Magellan is available in size 2XS and is made from a mix of high quality, durable materials including Cordura.
- Snorkelling vests help the user to stay at the surface easier which requires less effort. They should be brightly coloured to ensure you are easily visible to boat traffic. The TUSA Snorkelling Vest has a crotch strap to avoid it riding up over the head.
Diving and snorkelling can be an enjoyable shared family experience. More important than all the equipment you can buy is the discipline and responsibility that comes with owning it. Set good examples and teach your children how to rinse and safely store their equipment so it lasts for years. Have them practice good buoyancy, follow the rules and care for the environment, so the sea will provide them with rewarding memories for years to come!