Exploring more of Florida this year has meant lots of time in the water, and plenty of time under the water! Teaching a child to snorkel isn’t always easy so I wanted to share all of my kids snorkel tips from teaching my kids to snorkel this past year, including the best kids snorkel sets we found, safety tips, and how we went from snorkeling in the bath tub to snorkeling with manatees!
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase an item after clicking on the link, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This is at no extra cost to you, and as always, all opinions and recommendations are my own.
The best snorkel sets for kids
When I first bought my son a snorkel set, I think I probably just picked up the first set I saw when I was out shopping. While this worked fine for a while, it became obvious that I needed to shop around a little bit to find a better snorkel set for kids.
Kids snorkel set for toddlers and preschool kids
If you have a toddler or a preschool aged child interested in snorkeling, then it can be a bit harder to find a kids snorkel set that will fit them correctly. It’s also not easy to get kids that age to understand how to properly bite down on a mouthpiece and breathe through the tube.
Instead, it might be better to go for a full face snorkel. These have been controversial in the past due to accidents; there have been concerns over CO² build up in the masks and lack of oxygen.
In my opinion, these masks are safe as long as they’re only used for a short period of time, and the child using them is observed constantly to make sure they’re OK.
Toddlers and preschool kids probably aren’t going to have a particularly long attention span when it comes to snorkeling anyway, plus they’re obviously not going to be left unattended, so I feel comfortable recommending them but I would also suggest doing your own research.
Kids snorkel set for grade school kids
Harrison was seven years old when he started snorkeling, and is about average size. The set we bought for him was this WACOOL kids snorkel set, which comes with an anti fog mask. The strap on the mask is adjustable for a nice tight fit, and the silicone mouth guard worked perfectly for a child’s mouth.
The quick release mask strap is also great for Harrison to be able to take the snorkel itself off easily if it gets water in it, and the set comes with a travel bag for easy transportation. The anti fog mask also meant I didn’t have to worry about condensation on the mask preventing him seeing properly.
In the end this set worked really well for us; it fits well, and is easy enough for a grade school aged child to use without too much help.
Other kids snorkel gear
A kids snorkel set that includes a mask and snorkel tube is really all you need for kids to learn how to snorkel, but there is other gear you could consider adding on as well.
If you think your child might need a little help in the water, especially floating with their face down, then a good quality life vest is a good idea. We use this kids life vest whenever we’re in water that’s very deep; Harrison has never struggled in the water but this just gives me extra piece of mind.
If you’re going to be snorkeling in a large area where your child might want to swim around a bit more, then kids fins would be a good idea as well. I’ll be honest and say we’ve never needed them, but they’re an option.
Since we started snorkeling in more interesting places, Harrison has been asking to take a waterproof camera in the water to take photos of everything he’s getting to see. I’ve had this waterproof camera for years and it still works really well, capturing some great photos.
Start kids snorkeling small
The first thing to do when helping to teach kids how to snorkel is to have them get used to actually wearing the mask and breathing through the tube. It’s not an easy thing to learn straight away, especially for a child, so give them some time to learn how to do it.
The big thing I had to get Harrison to understand was to bite down on the mouthpiece and close his mouth tightly to prevent water getting in. This is why a kids snorkel set that fits well is so important; the whole mouthpiece needs to be in their mouth and if it’s too big, it’s going to be uncomfortable.
Once they’ve gotten used to breathing through the snorkel tube out of the water, the next step is having them put their head under the water.
The easiest place to do this is in a really small space with shallow water. The first place we practiced was in the bath; I had Harrison put his face in the water and just take a few breaths through the tube before coming back up.
It took some getting used to, but being able to sit up and put his hands on the side of the tub made him feel safer.
Our next step was the paddling pool in the backyard. This time Harrison was able to lay face down in the water – which was still very shallow – and practice breathing while his whole body was submerged.
We spent a couple of days doing this before Harrison was ready to try an actual pool. If you don’t have a paddling pool or a backyard or the weather just isn’t right, then you could just skip this step and go straight from the bath tub into a real pool.
Practice in a pool first
Our next step was a swimming pool. Harrison is a good swimmer and is used to wearing goggles in the pool so this wasn’t a huge step up.
Once he got used to being in the deeper water and using the snorkel, we had him practice floating on his stomach and breathing for longer periods of time.
We wanted to practice floating, rather than have him swimming, because if he was actually going to go in the ocean to see fish then he’d be floating and not splashing around.
It actually took him a while to get used to floating on his stomach and breathing using the snorkel; he kept trying to turn over to take a breath or I’d catch him holding his breath instead. It’s OK if this takes some time to get used to; I’m an adult and I find myself holding my breath wearing a snorkel all the time!
Adjusting to kids snorkeling in the ocean
Snorkeling in a pool is very different to snorkeling in the ocean, and that takes a little adjustment as well. Our first time snorkeling in the ocean, Harrison hated it because he hadn’t expected the salty taste on the mouthpiece.
Obviously snorkeling in the ocean requires relatively calm waters, which will make it easier to float as well as snorkel. If waters are calm, visibility will also be better. We visited Sebastian Inlet State Park where they have a tide pool with warm, calm, shallow waters that were perfect to practice.
If you’ll be out in deeper water, then it’s worth practicing adjusting your snorkel equipment while treading water. Some kids might find this trickier than others, so it’s a good thing to try to do while they’re still learning.
Have a goal destination in mind
Although Harrison was the one who wanted to learn to snorkel in the first place, I decided that having a goal in mind might help encourage him if he got frustrated (which he did at times!)
Harrison has been asking about swimming with manatees for a while so I decided that would be the goal; if he could learn to snorkel, then we could swim with manatees. We finally got the opportunity to do that last week and it was absolutely worth all the practice; you can read more about our experience swimming with manatees in Florida here.
Kids snorkel safety tips
– Never leave kids unattended when snorkeling. This is an obvious one when kids are in the water anyway, but even if you have a strong swimmer it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them if they’re snorkeling, especially if they’re new to it. They might struggle with their breathing or take in water and panic, so keep them within arms reach.
– Double check the conditions. If you’re snorkeling out in the ocean, make sure you’re aware of the weather and water conditions and that you have a way to get safely back to shore.
– Don’t touch the wildlife. This is another obvious one for adults, but it’s easy for kids to get overexcited and forget sometimes. Remind kids not to touch the animals and if you come across any that seem like they want to be left alone, be respectful and move away.
– Make sure the mouthpiece of the snorkel is cleaned after every use. I know I’m guilty of throwing the snorkel set in a bag after use and forgetting all about it, but it’s better to sanitize it as soon as it’s been used rather than letting germs sit on it.