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When Is Swimwear Inappropriate For Toddlers?

By Naomi Odes |

toddler bikini mermaid

Vegas, baby!

In my search for toddler swimwear yesterday, I came across tons of cute stuff. I also came across a lot of suits that made my jaw drop. We want our toddlers to look cute, and sometimes, making a toddler look like an adult can be downright adorable in a mini-me kind of way. However, in my eyes, when it comes to swimwear, there’s cute and fine, and then there’s crossing the line.

Remember last year’s Abercrombie push-up bikini  controversy? While I haven’t found any push-up bras for toddlers, many of the suits I saw were emulating breasts, even though the wearers of the bathing suits wouldn’t have them for a dozen years or so.  Some of them weren’t really sexy, just hideously uncomfortable-looking and not pool or beach appropriate. Think Toddlers and Tiaras, instead of sand and surf.  The idea of sticking chunky one year-olds in suits like these is comical, but even with my love of comedy, I’d still never do that to my toddler.

Here are some suits I would never let my toddler girl wear. Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have one.

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String Bikinis And Other Inappropriate Toddler Bathing Suits

Juicy Couture Sailor Babe Halter $85

You read that right. Not "baby" halter, "BABE" halter. I can see a Kardashian wearing this in Malibu.
From Zappos

Tell me, do you agree with my assessments? I’d love to read in the comments.

More by Naomi
12 Adorable Toddler Swim Suits for Summer 2012
8 Benefits To Taking A Parenting Break For A Weekend
How The Time Magazine Cover Made Me Take Up Knitting

Read more of my posts on Toddler Times.
Check out my personal blog. I Am Still Awake.
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About Naomi Odes


Naomi Odes

Naomi Odes Aytur is a blogger who's contributed on the parenting channel of Babble. She chronicles her experiences of being a new mom on her personal website, I Am Still Awake. Read bio and latest posts → Read Naomi's latest posts →

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30 thoughts on “When Is Swimwear Inappropriate For Toddlers?

  1. The Mommy Psychologist says:

    I agree that there are some times I am really grateful that I don’t have a girl. A few months back I met a girl on the playground whose real legal name was Princess. I’m not even kidding. I wish that I was. What are we doing to our little girls and how do they even stand a chance? I talk about the experience here:

  2. Meagan says:

    Swim diaper + lightweight t-shirt. Done. Although I don’t think the ruffles are too terrible, maybe not on the beach, but a pool? Personally I think any kind of a bikini top for a toddler would be too much of a pain which brings me back to… Swim diaper. T-shirt. Done.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I think all bikinis are inappropriate for little girls so it’s a good thing I have boys too!

  4. Abbey Vizelka says:

    I can’t believe that parents actually put their girls in these! I tease that my daughter who is 3, will be 18 before wearing a bikini. I just see anything other than a tankini, which are great for toddlers, or one piece kind of inappropriate. I love my daughter and she has plenty of time when she’s older to wear suits that are sexy when she’s older. Now though, she wears a swim suit to swim.

  5. Enderzshadow says:

    I have 4 children, 2 of them girls. One of my greatest fears as a mother, which I’m sure most parents share, is that my children will be targeted by some incredibly sick person who will take advantage of them and destroy their innocence. I simply don’t understand dressing a child as a small adult, and I ESPECIALLY despise clothes that seem to sexualize young children. In my view, you might as well hang a sign on their necks that says, Hey, Sickos! Look At My Kid!

    While I realize that the children of good, vigilant parents can become victims, why risk drawing attention to your child by packaging them this way? I agree with Meagan. Swim diaper, T-shirt. Comfy, protected from the sun, looking exactly like a sweet baby, not a mini-sex pot.

  6. mommmma12 says:

    i don’t mind 2 piece suits-especially for little ones that are potty training (learned a very valuable lesson involving a once piece swimsuit, swim diaper and a life jacket!!)-Two pieces are great for that- I don’t like the “triangle” or string bikini looks for little ones. Now that my girls are older (7, 6) we do the boy short swim bottoms and either tankini style top or the t-shirt style top…

  7. TK says:

    I’m of the mindset that ANY bikini (tankini included) is inappropriate for a child under 18. And seriously – would if be so hard for children’s clothing makers to design a LONG SLEEVED, one-piece swinsuit for a girl?

    1. Naomi says:

      TK- they actually do make long-sleeved ones for toddlers- I featured one on my other bathing suit post- (the ones I think are cute and appropriate

      Mommmmma12 (did I get enough m’s in there?) I agree that 2 pieces are much better for potty training- heck that’s why I never wear one pieces anymore- tankinis are my friend.

  8. Jenny says:

    Somebody must be buying them, but not me. I was really disappointment when I went to Target to buy my daughter a swimsuit because the majority of them were bikinis which I think are totally inappropriate for little girls. They only had a couple of one pieces and no tankinis so we wound up with a purple onepiece. It still had a halter top though which I’m not crazy about. I just ordered a tankini from Lands End. (Which is generally were I can find one the past few years that I think is appropriate)

  9. nicole says:

    Honestly, I would let my daughter wear these. Why? As a child, it may be her only time she will be comfy in a bikini. Why not? They’re covering what needs to be covered.

  10. Laura says:

    I’m more outraged by the prices than I am by the swimsuits.

    1. Naomi says:

      @Laura- I know, right???

      @Nicole- I get your point, but toddlers are comfortable in everything and nothing. I’d rather have mine wear nothing than something that I could picture on a sexy swimsuit model.

  11. Saramama says:

    I agree with most of these assessments but I have to confess: I think the little mermaid one with the sequined tail at the back is positively adorable. Sorry if I’m in the minority, but I do. Maybe because I only have boys….

  12. Stacey says:

    Hell to the NO! The bikini my MIL gave my 12 month old was never worn. I’m on Maui and she wears swim diapers and rash guards. Like most moms here, there’s plenty of time for her to show off. While I’m buying her swimsuits I’m putting her in more age appropriate clothes.

  13. lee lee says:

    i really like the little bottoms with a little fish tail, however, i would choose a different top….lol…..with that said, thank god i have a little boy….super hero trunks and thats it….

  14. Adriana Phillips says:

    I have 4 girls. I struggle to find normal 1 piece swim suites for them all. A few years back I did find some nice 2 pieces that the top almost came down to my daughters belly button.

    I also like the little mermaid tail bottoms, but I didn’t like the top that came with it. I would have found a t-shirt to go with it.

  15. Amy says:

    personally i think it is much better for my toddler girl to wear a bikini than my teenage daughter to do so. I prefer the tankinis really, but will let her wear a bikini, though not one that has those stupid triangle tops. They are little, it is not sexual to them so as long as they are in a safe area being watched carefully, it is fine. A one piece is terrible when they are young and trying to go potty.

  16. Michelle says:

    I have a preschool aged girl and I flat refuse to buy swimsuits that look like they belong on a “model”. I want to instill modesty in my little one, and one pieces are hard to do when it comes to bathrooming. So I love the Old Navy tankini’s for the younger set. Very modest, the top comes down (and a little below) the top of the bottom piece to look like a one piece. I am finding that anything anymore is trying to play up the sex aspect.. talk about the daisy duke shorts lining every aisle of every clothing department out there. I have a 3 year old.. I don’t want to be seeing her panties through the legs of the shorts. I really wish clothing manufactures would get a hint and start making clothing appropriate to fit the ages of these girls. My daughter will be looked at with different eyes soon enough.. please don’t make her grow up too fast! Keep them young and innocent while you can!

  17. Briana says:

    sorry i think a big fat toddler belly sticking out of a bikini is adorable and in no way sexualizing them

  18. tegen says:

    I have to say when looking at the way people dress there little girls and how hard it was to find are last foster child kid appropriate clothing. It not just the swim suit that are to skimpy its most of the things for little girls.

  19. Terri Povitch says:

    Really? Me and my sisters were brought up in these and we are as modest as can be, we are all in our 50′s now. Give me a break. I must be the only one that let my kids just wear the bottom only at the beach til both of mine were 3. Or just a diaper. Whoever considers this to be sexy attire is ass backwards. How does a small child show their body off? I seriously don’t believe they are thinking along those terms, I know we did not. They don’t understand that concept unless they hear Mom talking.

  20. casey says:

    I totally agree. My daughter is 3 and has one tankini that barely shows any mid-section and I mainly bought it in case she does like she did last year and gets taller and her bathing suits barely fit by the end of summer. (at least in the length,width wise she was fine) As far as I’m concerned bikini’s are for teenagers not babies,toddlers,or little girls. I want my little girl to look like a little girl not a mini teenager. She’ll have plenty of time for that stuff when she’s a teenager. Most of those bikinis they couldn’t even wear a swim diaper with anyways. Ridiculous.

  21. Jamie says:

    I’m not a fan of this story or a lot of the comments I’m seeing on here and facebook. Some of it’s down right verging on victim blaming. Most of these look just fine to me. I would never look at them in a sexual way. Refusing to let little girls wear 2 piece suits is just early teaching of body shame. Kids aren’t being sexual. If a adult is looking at them in a sexual way it’s because that adult is defective. Not because that 3 year old is dressed like a “slut”. It doesn’t matter if she is wearing a mermaid fin. She wants to be a mermaid! Little boys go shirtless and parents don’t worry it’s too sexual. Perverts aren’t after children because of the outfit they wear. This line of thinking and parenting is what makes girls afraid to report rap and molestation. It teaches girls that they are the ones that they did something wrong.

  22. jessica says:

    My 3 year old daughter just got her first tankini from grandma and while my heart sank to the ground in about a million little pieces it wasn’t because she had a 2 pieces it is because my baby is growing up. Now she isn’t ready to walk out the door for her first date(which honestly I will never be prepared for) but a swim suit is a swim suit at 3 she wants it cause it is pretty and not ugly. Then I think to myself we as a society tend to be swarmed with over sexualized pictures of adults and non adults a like. My daughter can appreciate the suit for what it is, “TO SWIM, TO SWIM” (done in her best sing song voice). The sad reality of our world is there are people that can see a 3 year old in a shirt and shorts and be turned on, what you put your child in won’t change there thoughts so I am going to let my baby “SWIM, SWIM” in the pretty suit of her choosing and not worry about society pressures and/or misgivings because this mommy carries a GLOCK and knows how to aim!

  23. Abbie Florence says:

    I’m not sure why this is even an issue. In many places in the World little girls and women swim topless. I think teaching your daughter to respect herself and her body is way more important. Teach a girl to embrace her body… and love it.

  24. Siobhan says:

    I am one hundred percent against toddler bikinis. I do like two pieces for diaper changes and potty training, though. The t-shirt/ rashguard style two pieces are perfect. Cute and modest. The problem with baby bikinis is, then would you let your 6,7,8 year old wear a bikini? Girls are starting to develop breasts as young as 9 these days, so yes, I DO think it is sexualizing them to have a bikini on. I have a toddler and a tall 6 year old (and a 2 month old). If I wouldn’t let my 6 year old wear it, I’m not going to let my toddler wear it (or the baby!).

  25. Sara says:

    I actually kinda love the mermaid one with the tail, I think it’s hystercially cute. but if I put my baby in that we’d have to swim in the shade cuz I wouldn’t want her to get burnt.

  26. Baby Girl Swimwear says:

    Hi Actually a great article regarding the swimwear and bikini for the kids and if you want to buy or explore some more variety apart from this range then visit our website:

  27. Bina says:

    WOW..can we say coocoo? WHO CARES WHAT YOUR TODDLER WEARS!!! Get a life. Just because you are insecure with your bodies doesn’t mean your children are.

    1. Naomi says:

      @Bina- it’s not about being insecure with our bodies, it’s about differentiating children and adults. It’s awkward. Personally, I’m not even going down the sexual perpetrator route. Adults should wear adult bathing suits, children should wear children’s bathing suits. I’m not against 2 piece bathing suits at all, but like I say in the post, when I can picture a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model in one of these suits, perhaps I should keep looking.

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