If you’ve been paying attention to my blog posts you know that I am a big fan of “play” and “fun” in the water. Though I grew up on summer swim teams and went to more than my fair share of swim practices, I believe a great deal of my confidence and ability in the water was developed not when I was “learning” to swim – but rather when I was just playing in the water. I was learning how to be a better swimmer and didn’t even know it was happening.
I may have learned proper swim mechanics on the swim team, but my real confidence in the water came from hours simply at play with my family and friends. Exploring underwater with my goggles or dive mask conditioned my breath-holding ability. Playing games like Water Polo and “Underwater Basketball” built my skills with treading water. And I remember how much fun I had diving after pennies and how that time was as valuable to my comfort in water above my head as any lap my coaches made me swim. The play was just as important as the practice.
Parents should encourage structured and unstructured supervised play as an integral part of the learn-to-swim process for their children. But as fond a memory as diving for pennies is for me, you really don’t want your kids taking loose coins into the pool. In this article I have matched up some great SwimWays pool toys with ideas for games that will help your child build confidence in the water without them even knowing it.
Now, on to the toys!
Disney and Marvel Swimming Goggles
Swimming goggles are an excellent device for encouraging a swimmer to put their face in the water. Kids are natural explorers and with goggles, the ability to see clearly above and below the surface will take advantage of their curiosity while protecting their eyes from irritation and the unintended pokes that can happen anytime kids play.
Just about every game and toy highlighted in this article is made more fun by the use of properly fitted swim goggles, but a good set of goggles alone will help your child gain confidence having their face in the water and can improve breath control.
Underwater Dive Toys
Swimming underwater is a life skill that often takes a back seat to traditional swimming like freestyle and other surface strokes. Being good at surface swimming is vital, but being fast and efficient on the surface won’t help if later in life they need to duck under a wave at the beach, or jump from a high dive at a larger pool and find themselves ten feet underwater.
Being confident in the water means being confident under the water too. Other dive toys like the Toypedo or the Zoom Ray make for great underwater fun; kids will even enjoy swimming to retrieve these toys for another round of play.
I want one of everything in the Rainbow Reef line. Watch this video below and tell me you don’t want one of those sharks. I don’t think you can do it. Okay well, at least one of those swimming fish? I must be getting old, though, because my first thought was, “You kids today don’t know how good you’ve got it! Why when I was your age, we used coins for pool toys!”
But seriously, cool toys mean more reasons to get in the water and have fun and that can and will transform young swimmers into better young swimmers. Anything that makes them move in the water will help them get better at moving in the water and help them develop breath-control and balance, too.
Spring Float Kid’s Boat
That’s right: I’m suggesting a pool float as a water-confidence-building pool toy. No, I’m not suggesting that lying around builds water confidence, but put one of these things in the water with two or more kids and see what happens. Eventually, all kids will break into the aquatic version of “King of The Hill,” turning these pool floats into serious deep water toys.
Of course, you should encourage them to “play nice” and can organize the fun into an aquatic musical chairs round. Two Spring Float Kid’s Boats, three kids, and you’ve got yourself a game.
You wouldn’t immediately think that a game like Poolside Volleyball played while standing on the bottom builds in-water skill, but it does. Jumping and reaching for the save, kids are sometimes forced to submerge at odd angles while their hands are busy. There is no nose-pinching or face-covering going on and kids develop tolerance for the occasional discomfort of water up the nose or submerging with less than a full breath. It may seem silly and definitely this game is more about volleyball than anything else, but that’s the point. While playing a game, kids develop secondary skills that help them in other areas and that makes them more confident and safer swimmers.
So far, everything I’ve mentioned is for more advanced junior swimmers and teens (and me with that whole shark thing), but even the youngest can gain confidence and comfort in the water through the use of toys and games.
Gobble Gobble Guppies
I promise, I’m not suggesting the Gobble Gobble Guppies pool toy just because of the shark (though he is pretty cool), but because it’s a great toy to get young swimmers to move through the water, even if they still need to stay in the shallow end where they can touch bottom. Space the guppies out and watch as your kids chase them through the water. Have them alternate holding the shark in either hand with each round and the fun of play becomes a serious tool for building balance, hand-eye coordination, and general ease in the water.
Supervised toys and games are an important part of any child’s development as a confident and safer swimmer. Remember that the next time you’re in the store and they drag you into pool toy aisle and say, “Please!” Whatever they want that will get them playing in the water will do good that they aren’t even aware of. Just make sure you remind them how lucky they are — “Why, when I was a kid, we had to play with pennies!”
From the editor: This article was published on our main website last year. We’re sharing this with you again as pool season is approaching, and we thought you might like to start thinking about toys that can help increase water confidence in your child!
Mario Vittone is a nationally recognized expert on water safety. His writing on aquatic risk and drowning prevention has appeared in magazines, websites, and newspapers around the world. Mario is a former Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue Swimmer and instructor and has lectured on boating and water safety across the United States. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance and the Joshua Collingsworth Memorial Foundation.
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