Swimming is a minimal equipment sport. All you need is a body of water and a bathing suit, and even that’s not mandatory. And while beginners may want goggles or earplugs, swimming doesn’t require any pricey gear.
When it comes to teaching kids how to swim, however, some 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.
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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.
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.
If you’re taking more kids to the pool than you can keep your hands on, flotation devices are key ⏤ even if they’re not always the best for actually learning to swim. Still, swimming with a puddle jumper is better than no swimming at all. 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.
These swim goggles have a scratch-resistant anti-fog lens, and are ideal for indoor swimming. They're made with a wraparound curved clear lens, and a silicone skirt for 180 degree visibility.
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.
This is meant for crafting, but the foam does double-duty in the pool.
For younger kids who aren’t keen on swimming and/or are still getting comfortable with water, a simple paintbrush from your local hardware or arts and crafts store is the perfect tool to draw them closer to the edge. Using pool water, they can “paint” the sides of the pool and practice writing their letters and their numbers on the deck. If you supervise from in the water, you may even persuade them to eventually hop in and join you.
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.
Cathleen Pruden is a four-time All-American swimmer at Mount Holyoke College and the Assistant Swim Coach at Bowdoin College. She spent five years as the Head Coach of a summer league swim team for children ages 4- to- 18-year-olds and has taught over 600 private swim lessons to children and adults of all ages.
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