Some extracurricular activities have high overhead in terms of the equipment you need, but swimming isn’t one of them. When learning the breaststroke or butterfly, beginners need little swimming gear beyond a body of water and a bathing suit, and even that’s not always mandatory. That being said, a few additional pieces of swimming gear can be incredibly helpful in making newbies feel more confident in pools or lakes.
The pool noodle isn’t the most ubiquitous piece of pool gear for nothing ⏤ it’s basic, but it works (though it should never be used in place of a life jacket). At the end of a hot summer day, though, the most useful learning aids for teaching kids to swim are usually toys. When swimming is fun (with the help of select pool toys and swimming gear) kids are more likely to practice their strokes without dread. Swimming games help kids become more comfortable and confident in the water, ultimately making them more proficient swimmers. When they’re blowing bubbles, chasing a torpedo, or diving after sunken treasure, they’re also practicing their swimming.
These are the best pool toys and learning aids to help kids learn how to swim and become stronger swimmers, according to Cathleen Pruden, a four-time All-American swimmer at Mount Holyoke College and the assistant swim coach at Bowdoin College.
This puddle jumper looks cute, but means serious business. It has an adjustable buckle at the back for a secure fit and is designed for children weighing 30 to 50 pounds. It has been approved by the Coast Guard for use as Type V/III personal flotation device. It's easier to slide on and off than inflatable water wings and gives kids more flexibility and comfort than a life jacket. While you shouldn't mistake a puddle jumper for a lifeguard ⏤ a child can still float onto their stomach and get stuck ⏤ it's a solid option for keeping a child above the surface.
Otherwise known as a water backpack, this back float gives beginner swimmers a sense of security and stability in the water. As your swimmer gets more comfortable in the water, you can remove layers to adjust the buoyancy level of this water backpack. It helps kids build endurance and confidence. This is not meant to prevent drowning, but it's a great option for helping acclimate your child to being in water.
These fun foam noodles help kids stay afloat, and have a good (and safe) time in the pool. The most tried-and-true of all the pool toys ⏤ it’s a firehose, a seahorse, a limbo stick, a lightsaber! ⏤ the pool noodle is a reliable flotation device for beginning swimmers and a great learning/play aid. It’s the one piece of gear every kid should bring to the water with them.
Having kids pick up objects off the pool floor ⏤ whether by diving in or reaching their hands under in the shallow end ⏤ is a good way to get them comfortable putting their faces in or under the water, not to mention improve their diving skills. This set features a wide variety of shapes, some of which sink faster than others, so kids of all ages can play.
There's no better way to sour a kid on swimming than with water in their eyes. These AquaSphere goggles are easy to adjust, stay securely on a child’s head, and feature wider eye sockets than other pairs on the market, which leads to fewer leaks and less fiddling. They're made with a wraparound curved clear lens, and a silicone skirt for 180 degree visibility.
Fins are a good teaching tool because they give kids more power in their legs, thus allowing them to focus attention on proper arm motion. Not only that, but kids can travel further using less energy and won't get tired out as quickly. These fins come in various fits, to suit all kiddie feet.
Beginners can use a kickboard like this one to keep upper body afloat, while also allowing them to work on their kicking. It helps boost their confidence in the water.
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