Boys on deck: Cool, comfortable swimwear

Hannah Crawford says she always assumed her seven- and nine-year old sons weren’t that concerned with what they would wear at the beach until they went to the beach in St. Joe’s, Michigan, last summer, and realized she left their swimsuits in a bag back at the house.

“I figured I’d make a quick trip to a store, grab a couple of suits on sale and head back to the beach,” says the Naperville resident. “It didn’t work out that way.”

Instead of the grab-and-go Crawford expected, she spent more than 45 minutes picking up every boys swimsuit in the store.

“One of my boys didn’t want any cartoon characters because his friend called him a baby the week before for wearing swim trunks with Lightning McQueen from the Cars movie on them,” she says. “And then my other son insisted on boardshorts, like he saw the guys wearing in “Soul Surfer.”

Crawford finally walked out of the store with two “good-enough” pairs of trunks – at least she thought they were good enough.

“The thing about boys who spend all day in their bathing suits is that they better fit right and they better have netting that isn’t going to make them uncomfortable,” she says.

Taking a cue from Crawford’s boys, boardshorts should continue to be all the rage this summer. But there’s no shortage of choices — from bold graphics, to stylish plaids and bright florals. Kids swimwear has more style than ever. Here are some ways to choose boardshorts that let a boy’s personality shine:

Be different

There are still plenty of options of solid colors and stripes out there for boys, but for those who want something a little more daring there are some fun, edgy floral prints out there — like Epic Threads Floral Swim Trunks — that throws in a few skulls to keep things real.

Epic Threads, Little Boys Floral Swim Trunks

Be bold

Graphic boardshorts are making a big splash this season. Not just in color, but in design as well. While clothing is minimal for boys of summer, your young guy can still stand out and make a statement with choices such as Hurley Kids Tribe Boardshorts or Quicksilver Little Boys Talkabout Boardshorts. The other upside is they’ll be easy to spot on the beach or in a crowded pool.

Hurley Boys Tribe Boardshorts

Be stylish

Guys like ease and comfort, especially when it comes to their clothing, but that doesn’t have to mean a style sacrifice. What could be simpler than a pair of boardshorts that would look great while hanging out with friends and take you right to the edge of the diving platform? Styles like Hurley Boys Puerto Rico Boardshorts and Quicksilver Boys Amphibian Shorts go from passive to poolside without ever having to change clothes.

Quicksilver Boys Amphibian Shorts

Once your child is at the beach or pool, moms and dads should be aware that uncomfortable swimsuits and fashion faux pas are only two of the potential hazards from a day in the sun.

Before packing up your pool bag, keep in mind the following tips on skin-care basics from two experts in the field: doctors Nancy Thomas, associate professor at the University of North Carolina's Department of Dermatology Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Kelly Nelson, assistant professor at Duke University Medical Center's Department of Dermatology.

  • • Everybody needs protection from the sun, both doctors agree. The sun can damage your skin throughout your life, from immediate harm, such as sunburns, to longer-term effects, such as age spots and cancer, which is why sun protection is important for everyone, especially young boys and girls who would play all day in the sun if they could.

    Know your sun-protection terminology. UVB rays are ultraviolet rays that penetrate the upper layers of the skin. They cause the more immediate sunburn effect. UVA rays penetrate deeper and contribute to aging the skin. These rays have recently caught the attention of scientists, and more sunscreens now protect against them. SPF is a measuring system for how long a product protects the skin against the sun. The higher the SPF, the more protection it offers. Look for the words "Broad-spectrum sunscreen" or "protects against UVA and UVB rays."

  • There are basically two types of sunscreens to choose from: chemical-based and physical blockers. Chemical-based sunscreens use a formulation of chemicals to ward off the sun's damaging rays. Such products are plentiful, easy to put on and effective. There is concern about parabens, preservatives that some scientists feel may have estrogen-mimicking properties. For small children, it may be prudent to seek out paraben-free sunscreens. Physical blockers include the ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which physically reflect the sun off your face. They have no problematic chemicals, but they can be more bulky.
  • The FDA recommends a 15 SPF or higher, but both doctors say to go with at least a 30, if not a 45. Higher is better, because most people put their sunscreen on too thinly, which makes a 30 SPF turn into something like a 10 SPF. Hedge your bets and start strong. If your children are going to be active that day and sweat a lot, or plan to be in the water, get a waterproof version.
  • The longtime rule still stands: about 2 ounces. If your child is going to be active and get sweaty or wet, reapply about every two hours. Put sunscreen on about 20 minutes before going outside. Don't put their sunscreen on two minutes before they jump in the water. It will wash off.
  • • The fairly new line of shirts and swimsuits woven with special sun-blocking properties do work. Such clothing is UPF rated, which is similar to the SPF ratings for sunscreens. The higher the number, the better it protects. Most are somewhere between 30 and 50 UPF. Be sure to follow the care instructions.
  • Put a hat on that kid. Any hat made of woven material can protect the head, which can also get burned.