When we’re picking out our kids’ swimsuits for the season, we often think mostly about style, age-appropriateness, and comfort. We want something they like, something that isn’t too mature, and something that fits well. But we may not be giving enough weight to another factor that can actually help keep them safer in the water — the suit’s colour.
ALIVE Solutions, a company that specialises in aquatic safety, training, and risk assessment, tested more than a dozen swimsuits in varying colours first in a pool and then in a lake. The degree to which a swimsuit becomes difficult, if not impossible, to spot varied widely based on its colour. Let’s first look at the swimsuits in a pool, which ALIVE Solutions writes on its blog had a light-coloured bottom:
The top photo in each section is the fabric underwater, and the bottom photo is the fabric with surface agitation.
Our bottom two colours are white and light blue (check out how they disappear) and our top choices would be neon pink and neon orange.
The writer of the blog also notes that although the darker colours tend to show up against the light colour of the bottom of the pool, they steer clear of them because they can be mistaken for a pile of leaves, dirt, or a shadow.
You might think you’d get the same results in a lake, but you’d only be partially correct:
We placed each colour on the surface (first row images), second row images were from shore level perspective, and third row are from a slightly elevated perspective – simulating standing on a boat/dock view.
We conducted the testing in 18” of water — visibility was pretty much zero at 2ft for all colours in this environment. The lake bottom was a brownish / grey colour, and it was partly sunny outside.
Here the top colours were neon yellow, neon green, and bright orange — but not neon pink, which performed well in the pool test. Even so, the brighter neon colours do seem to do better overall, and these comparisons are a stark reminder that looking into water is much different than looking through air. Water distorts and reflects, and depending on the body of water or how deep a person goes under, you can lose visibility quicker than you might think.
Trained lifeguards will obviously be looking out for much more than swimsuits in varying colours and shades, but particularly for the untrained eye, a brighter coloured suit may help you more quickly spot a child who has fallen into the water or notice they’ve been under longer than they should be.
Whatever colour your child’s swimsuit happens to be, you should make a mental note of how it looks whenever they begin playing in any type of water, whether a pool, ocean, or lake. That way, if you find yourself searching for them later, you’ll have a clearer idea of what exactly you’re looking for.
And of course, the colour of a child’s swimsuit alone is not even close to being enough to ensure their safety in the water. You can read much more about that in our guide for keeping kids safe while swimming.