Author Options:

Wetsuit for 5 year old With fins/paddles Answered

My nephew was born with severely clubbed feet, and lobster hands. After several surgeries he has ended up with with above the knee amputations, and tri-fingers with a very strong grasp. He receives intensive therapy and support, so he gets all the recreation he needs, plus occupational therapy. Well, he was recently introduced to a swimming pool and loves it. unfortunately, because of his amputations, he buoyancy is all screwed up. I would like to take a wet suit, and modify it to include a hard silicone leg prosthesis, and swim fins, and gloves that fit his fingers, with webbing, similar to what long distance endurance swimmers and navy seals use. I figure I can use off the shelf neoprene for the wet suit, and take very good measurements for the gloves. I have made patterns for outfits before, so I can layout the pieces, and have my wife or mother stitch them together. (they are great with sewing machines) For Bouyancy, I was toying with the idea of air bags made from cordura nylon and fillable from the outside with air attachment nozzles, and stitched inside the legs. They would be surrounded by hard plastic similar to the shape of his prosthetic legs he is getting used to. The torso of the wet suit would be stitched to the legs, so when his torso grew, I would cut along the seam, replace the torso as needed. Anything you guys think I am missing? I will start posting sketches and renderings as I get started on this project...


For bouyancy, what about using those old-school pfds that are foam dipped in plasti-coat? You could cut up the vest and plasti-coat any raw edges. That way you could Place them inside envelopes in the torso area. You could also make smaller, and more comfortable "bouyancy Pacs" that are spread all over so the suit wouldnt get too bulky. Or you could velcro them on..... but that might pose a safety concern. Or. What about 3 or 4 layers of neoprene in strategic locations?... I thought neoprene was kind of bouyant. One other thought building on crapfingers comment. Most pfds and diving b.c.s are designed to make you float on your back by putting the bouyancy on the person's chest. If you put the bouyancy on the person's back, then it will tend to float you face down in the water. Requiring the person to arch the neck to keep breathing. This would be much more likely than turning someone head- straight down. You might want to do tests with your nephew using a snorkel. I may be overly cautios as you may be planning on being in arm's reach of him at all times. Good Luck

indeed...the boyancy being higher on the front does lead to the floating somewhat on the back with a standard PFD....i wonder if you could make a modification so that there would be slightly more bouyancy towards the chest area on the front..while increasing on the back..that way you'd float in more of a diagonal position while you're on your stomach? instead of face right in the water..you'd be more like..on your stomach with your head held out of the water?

Thanks for all the replies! Someone will always be within arms reach... No concern there... I have been checking out the links Canida, thanks...I appreciate that..It has led me to rethink some of my initial ideas.


11 years ago

I'd try to make the buoyancy devices modular, so as he gets more comfortable swimming you can shift or remove them. Most of the kids' suits are designed with closed-cell foam you can add or remove from pockets around the torso and/or shoulders.

I'd start trying to keep him close to upright, and no more than 45 degrees to the water; maybe a bit of weight on the flippers and a bunch of floats near the top of his shoulders.

As a former distance swimmer, I can attest that you don't need much buoyancy about the legs- just a bit of kicking is sufficient to float them near the top of the water. I don't know how dense the prosthetic legs are, but if they're not too heavy you wouldn't really need much else.

First get the boy a kickboard, and let him practice zooming around a pool with the prosthetic leg/flipper attachments. Maybe get him a snorkel. Once he's good with all the gear, then start removing or replacing the flotation devices so he can actually swim.

There are lots of flippers available- long, short, hard, flexible, and double-footed, as well as lots of hand paddles that you can attach to your hands with adjustable rubber tubing. Check out this link for five pages of gear; particularly these or these or these for flexibility of finger placement. The middle one comes in a variety of sizes, which may be particularly useful. That would be much easier than the webbed gloves.

You can probably get away without actually using a neoprene wetsuit unless you really need it for temperature control, or for keeping the prosthetics in place. Attaching the floats to a regular girls' bathing suit or a wrestling singlet wouldn't be very hard at all.

the bouyancy would be the hardest part...because it's got to be ballanced for swimming...otherwise he will bob vertically like a cork...unfortunately he could probably bob head down...not a good place to be...there is a myriad of various PFD (personal flotation devices) designed for children of the age you are describing that are specifically designed for swim trainng..they're built for ballanced bouyancy as well as range of motion...you might want to research such a device...even if only for design cues... i assume the leg deal you're talking about is basically making prosthetic flippers? pretty nifty indeed...wouldn't make em too long or too stiff though..as it could make it harder to swim...i bet a pair of those really flexible diving fins might be the way to go? never know...haven't built something like this before good luck!

Yeah, I was thinking about that. The Bouyancy needs to help him near his center of gravity, not near his legs... last thing I need to do is flip him around like a piece of cork... Yea, long flexible dive fins, they should start off with a hard plastic, then taper off into a swim fin type of apparatus...Still looking around for some ideas.