Some extracurricular activities have a high overhead, in terms of the equipment you need. When learning the breaststroke or butterfly, kids need some basic swimming gear. Beyond that, to get kids swimming, all you need is a body of water and a bathing suit, and even that’s not always mandatory.
That said, key pieces of swim gear can be incredibly helpful. The pool noodle isn’t the most ubiquitous flotation device in the world for nothing ⏤ it’s basic, but it works. At the end of a hot summer day, though, the most useful learning aids for helping teach kids swimming are usually toys. Simply, kids become more proficient swimmers and learn new skills when they’re comfortable and confident in the water, often playing swimming games. If they’re blowing bubbles, chasing a torpedo, or diving after sunken treasure, they’re likely practicing their swimming.
With that in mind, here’s a mix of the best pool toys and learning aids to help teach kids how to swim or 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.
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.
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.
Kids dive for loot thanks to this set. They learn to feel comfortable underwater, and grab the weighted items after they sink to the bottom of the pool. 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 is great for kids eight and older.
These rubber, full-foot pocket 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 kids, to fit all kiddie feet.
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.
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