How do you feel trying to learn new skills? Maybe you are doing so now, teaching yourself to make a mask from t-shirts, or learning to sew during this time of social distancing. Perhaps you are doing so while nervous or distracted. I don’t have to tell you that it’s hard. Although for different reasons,learning to swim can elicit nerves and boredom in young students, too. The good news? It doesn’t have to! We can help keep our swimmers engaged and learn through play.
Check out these five swimming games for kids to help make them stronger and safer in the water.
Games to Teach Kids How to Swim:
1. The Submarine/ Treasure Hunt Challenge:
Required: A few small water torpedoes, or toys that sink.
Who: This game is for children who are not comfortable putting their face in the water, or who are still learning to blow bubbles and hold their breath.
The Game: Place the torpedoes and/or sinking toys on various steps in the shallow end of the pool. Then, tell your swimmer that they need to find and collect the ‘submarines’ and/or ‘the treasure.’ Start by having them blow bubbles and reach for the toys on the top step. Then, slowly challenge them to reach for the toys on lower steps, so that incrementally they must put more of their face in the water. This game helps young swimmers get comfortable exhaling underwater, blowing bubbles. I find this game an especially effective tool tohelp children overcome their fear of the water.
2. The Obstacle Course:
Required: Small plastic toys or balls and a kickboard.
Who: This game can be modified to fit all swimming levels. The swimmers should be able to walk and talk.
The Game: Set up toys around the pool. You can tell your swimmer a story while you do so. I like to pretend an evil wizard has separated my rubber ducks and cast spells on different parts of the pool to lock them away. My swimmer needs to accomplish a special task at each station to rescue them all. The swimmer must kick or swim to each toy or group of toys, and complete a challenge, such as jumping in the pool, or treading water. They complete these different challenges at each station, and swim or kick in between stations. When they collect all the toys, they ‘win’ and are allowed a reward, like a minute in the hot-tub or two minutes of free swim. This game help swimmers develop a range of skills, such as endurance, being able to climb in and out of the pool, and swimming to the bottom of the pool.
Fun Pool Games for Kids who Can Swim
The Duck Rescue
Required: Rubber ducks and a kickboard. You can purchase small rubber ducks online or at a store for under $10.
Who: This game works well for students who are comfortable swimming short distances and know how to kick.
The Game: Throw the ducks around the pool. For younger students, it helps to tell a story, like “all the ducks went on a picnic and got swept out to sea. We have to rescue them!” Let your student name the ducks. Then, challenge your student to kick with a kickboard to all of the ducks, and rescue them one by one. Swim alongside them, so that when they reach a duck, they can hand it to you and continue to kick to the next duck. This game is great for strengthening a swimmer’s kick, which is a fundamental part of all strokes. It also requires young swimmers to balance themselves in the water as they reach for the duck while holding onto the kickboard. This action strengthens their core.
2. The Torpedo Challenge:
Required: A few small watertorpedoes. These little pool toys are available at many big-box stores and cost about $10.
Who: Kids who are already comfortable putting their heads underwater and swimming on their own.
The game: Give your swimmer a challenge. For example, tell them they need to practice kicking with straight legs, or challenge them to breathe twice on their side as they swim from point A to point B. Tailor the distance swum in these challenges to your swimmer’s ability. If they succeed in their challenge, they get a chance to dive for a torpedo. If they do an extra good job, let them throw the torpedo themself. This game not only gives kids a break from stroke-work but strengthens their lung capacity. Further, this game helps kids learn to feel comfortable underwater for periods of time – a skill which ensure they do not panic if they find themselves unexpectedly submerged.
Swimming Lesson Game for Older Kids
Required: Just your brain.
Who: This game works well for intermediate level swimmers who need to build up their endurance. It is also great for group lessons, where students must work in teams to answer questions.
The Game: A student or students answer questions from a category that they choose. You can give them options like, ‘movies’ or ‘places.’ A correct answer results in a short distance swum, followed by the opportunity to do something fun (for example, jump in the pool or get a toy from the bottom of the pool). An incorrect answer requires a longer distance to be swum. I like to celebrate how smart my swimmers are when they answer a question correctly. This game is particularly good for building a swimmer’s endurance and helping them practice stroke movements.
Christina McDermott’s bio:
I am a swimmer with fourteen years of competitive experience. I have a passion for water safety and have taught swim lessons for seven years. I am constantly rewarded, seeing my students grow and succeed. In my free time, I enjoy writing poetry and baking.