Parents always ask me what their child should work on between lessons and while that’s different for every child, my best answer is to just sit with your child while they’re in the water (even if you’re on the edge of the pool). Ask them what they learned in swim lessons and to show you. Having the appropriate pool toys we use from lessons can help with this activity.
Getting in the water and repeating our activities helps commit the motion to muscle memory. Having swim skills reserved in muscle memory is what will save them when they panic because they can’t touch the bottom of the pool, ocean, lake, or pond in the future. I can teach swim lessons and hone in on technique, but I can’t make your child’s swim skills practiced and confident without them spending the time in the water.
I’ve compiled this list of pool toys to help you find the toys we use in swim lesson instruction and to explain some activities you can do with your child with these tools so you actually can help your child practice through play between and after swim lessons.
This ball comes with a hose attachment that you use to fill the ball with water. When filled to the right level (it’s easy!) the ball will float just under the surface of the water, much like a real watermelon would. These balls are great to pass back and forth while your child practices treading water. It’s just distracting and fun enough that the challenge of treading water gets forgotten about.
Diving rings are great for children learning to submerge underwater and resurface. The rings will often stay vertical in the water making it easier for a child to grab them. Additionally, they make great steering wheels for when you support your kiddo’s waist and ask them to “give the car gas” by kicking their feet. (Remember to throw in a couple of speed ramps or tunnels for some extra fun!) Our top swimmers can’t get enough of these and like to scatter them all over the pool for a treasure hunt. BUY NOW>>
These diving sticks are more fun than the regular diving sticks because they’re made of fabric. They won’t break down or leak sand like many other divings sticks will in the Arizona summer heat and they’re a little harder to smack a sibling in the face with since they aren’t actual sticks. These will stand up vertically in the water every time making them a great game for new swimmers who are on the fence about sticking their faces under water. Start by putting them on your pool steps for little ones to grab and then gradually make them deeper with practice. BUY NOW>>
4) Rubber Ducks
Floating rubber ducks are great fun for chasing around in the pool. Throw them across the pool and practice swimming without floaties of any kind. These do have a hole in the bottom so you’ll want to make sure you squeeze all the water out of them after playing in the pool with them, but they do dry out fairly quickly outside. When the kids get bored of chasing ducks on the surface, you can squeeze all the air out of the duck and make them fill with water then let them sink to the bottom.
This package of ducks includes 12 ducks with different colored surf boards. You can add some extra fun to the duck hunt by asking your child to get ducks with a certain colored board. Write numbers on the ducks with a permanent marker before getting them wet and you can ask the child to find a certain duck, odd numbers, or even numbers. BUY NOW>>
The kickboard helps children practice kicks while not having to scoop water with their arms to stay afloat. When using a kickboard, we’re practicing long straight kicks and not making bends at the knee while kicking.
A kickboard with multiple handle points is important for different sized children. An older more confident child can hold on to a kickboard with no handles. Smaller hands generally call for a spot for the child to grip. This kickboard has three different handholds making it perfect for a child as they develop their skills. BUY NOW>>
6) Pool Noodles
Pool noodles used with the right means can be an excellent tool for learning to swim, but they can also be our biggest barrier. Children LOVE floaties of any sort when they’re learning to swim, but pool noodles and arm floaties are essentially reversing all the work we do in swim lessons when used casually.
We use pool noodles for new swimmers, but during lessons, you’ll notice we’ll put them under the hips rather than the arms. Putting them under the hips helps children learn a horizontal swim position and store it to muscle memory. Putting noodles under your child’s arms creates a vertical position – this is the position most drownings occur in.
More confident swimmers will use the pool noodle for support until they submerge to the bottom of the pool to get a toy. Pool noodles can be used for rest, but please don’t use them as your child’s flotation device. BUY NOW>>
These work much like diving sticks and rings but are a little more fun in the shape of well known Finding Nemo characters. The net can add an extra challenge since it limits a child’s hand mobility if they’re swimming with it. Many diving pool toys can be substituted for the same skill here. BUY NOW>>
Disclaimer: Some of the links above I get a small percentage of the sales of pool toys in return at no additional cost to you. Some of these companies may also provide complimentary toys for our swim lesson buckets.
Jackie Follmuth is a swim lesson instructor who loves to teach children and adults about water safety. She’s been teaching swim lessons for nearly a decade and while initially started teaching at public pools, she now teaches private lessons in the homes of families on evenings and weekends.
Jackie has a passion for people and public service and completed her Master of Public Administration degree with a focus in Environmental Policy from Texas Tech University in 2017. She earned her B.S. in Public Management & Policy from the University of Arizona with minors in Philosophy (ethics courses), Sociology, and Information, Sciences, Technology & Arts.