pool toys

This webpage is for my Water Safety Instructor classes or for any swim teacher or parent.

cover water safety 2009: cover of the water safety 2009 textbook Outside users can also see pages 50-51 in the American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor’s Manual.

It might be still downloadable for free. Go to
scroll down to Participant Materials and click on and open Swimming and Water Safety Manual.


Swim instructors need a variety of toys to create games and races and engage children,

encourage them to explore the water and help them adjust to the water.


You need some things that float and some that sink.

weighted dive stick on pool bottom: weighted dive stick upright on pool bottomYou can buy various weighted or floating toys, or get some for low cost or even for free.

bottle caps and pingpong balls: bottle caps and pingpong balls with numbers written on them Milk bottle caps and pingpong balls float.

numbered poker chips: numbered poker chips sitting on a tiled pool deck Poker chips sink.

They can be numbered in various colors for an almost limitless number of competitions. Collecting the most, or collecting numbers in order is an easy competition. Simple math can be a part of a game for younger kids, older ones can try to collect the right digits to create the longest prime number. A set with vowels can be used for a competition in which each team collects them and then tries to spell the longest word using them and imaginary consonants.

Ping pong balls can be easily blown across the water, a trick to get some kids to put their faces closer to or even in the water.

Poker chips are just big enough to be visible in shallow water, but try them at your pool depth before you invent a game and find that your swim students can’t see their targets.

bags for pool toys made from net bags for fruit: two net bags with twine as drawstrings Save some net bags that fruit came in, wind some twine through to make a drawstring and you have practically free bags for the small toys that will dry easily.

marbles on pool deck: eight marbles on a pool deck Marbles have glorious color combinations, but the bottom of your pool is sloped and the marbles will roll away before the kids can get down to the bottom and get them. Plus they are small enough to be swallowed and little ones put everything in their mouths/noses.

Toothpicks are quite cheap but not recommended because they are a lot of trouble to clean up after a game and again, because kids like to put things in their mouths/noses. Likewise other toys you choose should not have parts that come off or break off easily or sharp edges.

Toys that squirt, spray, squawk or squeak can divert attention from fearfulness and make us laugh.

We can get our faces wet without actually putting them in the water. We can start if we need to, by getting our instructor’s face wet. Huge foam balls can be soaked in water and the swim student can squish them out over the head of the instructor. Non-breakable plastic cups/small plastic buckets/garden watering cans can be used to help our instructor (pretend to, no shampoo in the pool) wash/rinse his hair. Even better if the instructor is capable of blowing bubbles and making wondrous noises/animal sounds as the water goes across his lips.

Kick boards and other equipment commonly used by swimmers in practice at pools can be used in games and races

alan and george with kickboards:

but kick boards can be dangerous. When a person tries to stand on, kneel on or sit on a kickboard and loses control of it, it can come to the surface with enough force to knock out teeth or even blind someone.


Rubber duckies are great to engage young children.

spotted rubber ducky on red kickboard.: rubber duck goes for a ride on a kickboard in a poolyellow rubber ducky on green kickboard: rubber ducky going for a ride on a kickboardA child can take one for a ride on a kickboard, either facing the child or leading the way.

They can be held just under the water to encourage putting one’s face in the water to see them.

But take a good look at each one before you invest in a large number, because rubber duckies are not all made equal.

not all rubber duckies float upright.: rubber duckies floating in pool, some upright, some upside downMany low cost rubber ducks do not float upright.

rubber ducky line of sight.: five rubber ducks on a kickboardSome make better eye contact by looking up at a person in the water, some do not look at a child at all.


All toys should be disinfected on a regular basis. Keep them stored out of reach and out of sight when not in use in class.


While treading water

Mitchell Conley juggles while treading water: man juggles three balls while in a swimming pool A swim teacher who can juggle while treading water is a great role model. More advanced students can try to juggle two or three balls while treading to keep them occupied and working hard while the instructor works with others who need more help with their treading.

More advanced students can also tread water with a partner while playing ‘tennis’ trying to hit a ping pong ball back and forth with kickboards, trying to see how many times they can hit the ball without letting it drop in the water.


Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater.

Gail Godwin


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