Learning to swim using play-based strategies gives you so many opportunities to build on a child’s swimming skills as well as having tons of fun in the water. Our children’s imagination is limitless and being able to tap into this has HUGE benefits on how successful and quickly a child learns their swimming skills, without them often noticing.
Why is choosing and using the right props, equipment and toys for your swimming sessions pivotal in helping with the progress your children can make?
Benefits to using toys and other equipment in the water
Including large amounts of practice time into your swim sessions is important to ensure the skill being introduced and perfected becomes imprinted so muscle memory eventually takes over. By introducing a variety of appropriate toys, or equipment for that skill in your planning will give you the opportunity to keep repeating the same skill without it feeling repetitive for the child. Toys help you to create magical, exciting new worlds for the children to explore and become subsumed in, whilst practicing their swimming skills. As the saying goes ‘variety is the spice of life’ and introducing themes which can come alive with the equipment, toys and props will provide a great experience for the children. Your children will be more engaged, likely to listen and behave. And because of that you will probably find it is more enjoyable and motivational for you too - no two lessons will be the same!
Creating a sensory play environment in the water
Each child is different so it’s crucial to tailor your lessons with them in mind and teach in a multitude of ways to keep them all engaged during each of your sessions. It also gives children more than one way to make the neural brain connections they need to build on their learning and continuously develop. There is a wealth of toy options out there suitable for using in the pool. Adopting a theme will give you a framework, and help you to create a sensory environment, as well as choose the right toys, props and activities for practicing the skills. This also will help to reduce your potential feeling of overwhelm and focus your planning so it's progressive.
Providing multi- sensory environments during your swim lessons has a wealth of other benefits. They will also contribute to improved concentration, creativity and communications along with alertness and memory recall for the children. So you are not only teaching them to swim but there are numerous other benefits to the child’s development too.
How to use play skill stations
Using skill stations during each of your lessons will provide a fun and interactive structure to your sessions to ensure you are covering all the swimming skills. The stations and sequence to follow can be very flexible and adaptable to the pool, the age and skill of the child. Setting your lesson up this way will give the children the opportunity to choose what they would like to do (age dependent). Each station will have different toys and equipment so the children can play and participate in different games and practise a wider variety of skills. Having the different stations and letting the children visit them three to five times during a lesson provides a structure and is easier to manage. Also you will be able to keep the children moving and not waiting around for their turn to begin. For those who aren’t strong swimmers yet or just getting started we use the training aid, The Orca (these can be purchased here) which gives them the correct support to independently get around in the water. They are also designed so the children will position themselves in the natural swimming position whilst swimming and allow them to move their arms and legs more freely. If you would like more information then please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Toy ideas at the Skill stations
Here I’ve listed a variety of toy ideas for several of the skills stations. Once you get started and let your imagination run wild there is no end to the ideas you can have for encouraging the children to practice their skills in the water.
Breath control station
Ping pong balls are great to encourage children to practise their blowing skills. You can convert them into many things depending on your theme. For spring - Pollen or seeds, for a party theme they could be used as balloons, they could be food that you need to blow on as it’s hot.
Eggs like the plastic Kinder eggs are excellent to use as you can also put things inside them. You can invite the children to blow on them as they are magical to see what’s inside. They could be dinosaur eggs or birds eggs.
Mirrors are great for younger children to watch themselves blowing bubbles too.
Front and back kicking station
Anything you can think of which will get them moving from A to B. You could have plastic vases at one end of the pool and flowers at the other, then you need to water them so watering cans can be introduced too. Using foam shapes stuck to the side of the pool which the children need to collect is great for getting them moving around.
As a group activity you could ask the children (and parents if they are in the water too) to get into a circle and place a blow up beach ball in the middle which they all need to try and move using their back kicking skills.
Toys like watering cans, stacking cups or a water wheel are all great to encourage children to pour water over their bodies and faces to get them used to water being over their faces ready for submerge practice.
Sinkable pops are great for the older ones for submerge practice. How about using golden coins or gems as pirates’ treasure or glow sticks for a party theme
Games for the older ones is great to get them moving around the pool. You could introduce lots of different games like scavenger hunts; races which can be done in lots of different ways like using noodles to get across, relays or tag.
Hopefully that has given you some food for thought on how you can incorporate toys into your swimming lessons. So get your thinking caps on, what can you add to your lessons that will be a bit different and delight your audience?
Where to get the toys and equipment?
These can be used time and time again.
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