Smith & KidsStylish family travel: child-friendly hotels, family holiday tips and insider guides

Family beach fun with SaltskinPersuading a reluctant dipper into the water is easy: transform them into a tiger, cow, ladybird or giraffe.

Saltskin co-founder Cheryl ToolanFormer international director Nick Toolan and his wife Cheryl (right) set up their fun children’s wetsuit business with friends in 2012. These days, you’re most likely to catch the Saltskin founders corralling the biggest fans of their new venture – Hal, Rafe and Eva (7, 5 and 1) – on beaches, at triathlons and in the surf, clad in bright animal-print neoprene.

They share their story, their beach-holiday tips and a handy guide to wetsuit-wearing

In the beginning…
Saltskin was born when we asked ourselves ‘Why hasn’t anyone made a tiger-print wetsuit before? Wouldn’t that be brilliant?’ So we set about making great wetsuits that were fun and that kids would really enjoy themselves in.

Any hiccups/hilarity along the way?
Yep, too many to mention and maintain any degree of integrity! Our first prototype should have been gold-plated, the amount of money it cost us – but that’s what product development is all about.

Dream family weekend?
We’d be outside enjoying great weather somewhere. There are a few places in the world where, for short periods of the year, we could be on the beach or lakeside one day, then skiing in the mountains the next. That’s what we’d do.

Essential beach kit?
We always have sun cream. Eva doesn’t care as long as there is sand to eat; and a boat of any sort is great fun.

Beach holiday fun | Saltskin foundersBest family travel tip?
A bit of food, water and sleep get you through anything – plenty of snacks and a comfy shoulder can work wonders.

How can we encourage our kids to get in the water and get active?
The fundamental is to feel relaxed and comfortable in the water – just playing and messing around in it before you get anywhere near learning to swim for real. Learning to swim then becomes much more enjoyable, which in turn allows kids to take part in so many more activities.

Tips for wannabe surfers?
Start with a board the size of a bed on a wave the height of a pillow; and watch the film Chasing Mavericks.

What’s next?
Our brand new shorty wetsuits are launching in the first week of May, in Bumble Bee, Leopard and Zebra prints.


Why do I need one?
If your child is warm, they can to stay in the water and have more fun for longer, so the whole family is happy. Wetsuits are also great for protecting children from the sun, both in and out of the water; and Saltskin suits can be seen from miles away… it’s much easier to keep an eye on a zebra and a giraffe!

How do I choose the right one?
A full-length suit will keep your kids warmer longer in the water; a shorty is easier to get on and off if you’re mucking around on the beach. For a wetsuit to do its job, it needs to fit snugly. This means it should be tight without being restrictive (it will also give a little when wet). The length of the arms and legs is less critical than the fit overall; and the fit of the suit is aided by the quality of materials used – ours are really flexible, and soft to touch.

How do you wrangle a child into a wetsuit?
It’s not difficult, but there is a knack to it… It helps if the child is not too hot and their skin is dry. Some people find popping plastic bags over the feet helps them slide through the ankle openings more easily.

Family beach holiday funGetting it on:
1 Feet and ankles through the legs first.
2 Pull it up over the knees to the waist.
3 Hands and wrists into the arms next…
4 … then up, over the shoulders and zip it up.
5 Stretch the arms up as high as they will go.
6 Now crouch down, bending the knees…
7 … the wetsuit should adapt to the form of the body.

Taking it off:
Unzip, and roll down from the top – turning the arms inside out as you do so. Do the same with the legs, and step out. Rinse in clean water, and hang it up to drip-dry out of the sun. With proper care, Saltskins will last long enough to be handed down or passed on.

Saltskin wetsuits, from £38 at, Selfridges and independent retailers. Smith members get a discount, too!

Inspired? Check out our Beach in reach collection of coastal family hotels…



2 Responses to “How do you wrangle a wriggly child into a wetsuit? Ask Saltskin, makers of the coolest kit for kids”

  1. Eva is so adorable! I remember my son’s first sand-eating holidays: it took him at least 9 mouthfuls to work out that the beach wasn’t in fact made from crumbled-up biscuits…

    By Lucy Fennings

  2. News just in: the bumblebee and zebra suits also (by brilliant coincidence) may REPEL SHARKS

    By Lucy Fennings

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