For as long as I could remember, swimming has always been a part of my life. I grew up with kids swimming laps beside me every Saturday morning. Endurance swims, diving exercises, and strengthening pool games dominated my weekends. It evolved into carrying and diving for heavy five- and then later ten-pound bricks at the bottom of the deep end. And eventually, I learned life-guarding skills which boosted my confidence as a swimmer.

All of this is thanks to my ever-watchful mom, who rooted me on at the top of the bleachers. Despite not having ever learned how to swim herself, she was determined to keep me safe and strong. Thanks to her decision, I learned life-long lessons on drowning prevention and what to do in emergencies. Every child should know swimming basics to protect themselves from the time they are infants. By the time they are older, they’ll play water sports aimed to up their confidence and strengthen their muscles. We’ll go through some important notes on kids swimming basics and some fun games to get your kids splish-splashing.

Why It's Important to Teach Kids How to Swim

Arming your children with as much knowledge as possible strengthens their future no matter what they do. If you’re already pushing for your kids to get good grades in history, math, and English, why not give them potentially life-saving swimming skills?

Teaching your kids how to swim is vital to their safety. In 2015, an estimated 360,000 people died from drowning. The highest drowning rates being amongst infants and children ages 1 to 4 years. The next high-risk age is just a step above that at 5 to 9 years old. Getting your child in a pool and teaching them something as simple as laying on their back and keeping their head up above water could save their life. And once they're older, they could even save someone else’s life too.

Warning: Always Watch Your Kids When in Water

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Most drowning causes are due to a lack of adult supervision. Accidents and mistakes happen. Sometimes we turn around to check something in the kitchen, and before you know it, something awful happens in your backyard pool. No parent would ever want to put their child or themselves in that situation. Therefore, it’s important to start kids swimming lessons as soon as they are able.

However, you should always watch your child whether or not they know how to swim. Even if they know how to swim, accidents happen. They could hit their heads on the shallow end of the pool or get themselves stuck on something at the bottom of the deep end. A kid’s swimming skills won’t matter if they are unconscious or stuck. If you ever need to step away from the pool or lake, always make sure there is an adult present. But make sure the adult in question knows how to swim! The adult supervision is for naught if they are unable to help the drowning child.

How to Get All Your Kids Swimming at an Early Age

Getting your child into a pool as early as possible is essential to keeping them safe. Doctors recommend staying away from chlorinated swimming pools until your infant is at least six months old. After they are six months old, one of the best things you could do is enroll your child in Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) classes. This program teaches infants as young as six months old to flip onto their back and hold their head above water should they fall into a pool. While it may look a little intimidating at first, it is a technique that could potentially save your child’s life. Plus, the sooner your child gets their feet wet, the more positive their interaction with water will be.

Once your child is older, keep them active by enrolling them in more swimming classes. The YMCA, for example, offers plenty of kids swimming lessons to push your child’s swimming skills. They offer three kinds of classes: L’il Dippers (ages 6 months to 5 years), Learn to Swim (6 to 12 years old) and the Star Program. The Star Program teaches competent swimmers advanced swimming techniques as well as first aid and lifesaving skills.

While they are in swimming classes, don’t forget to give them some fun time as well. While kids swimming classes focus on perfecting strokes and achieving goals, it’s important never to forget the fun of playing in the water. Go to your communal pool during free swim hours and accept as many pool party invitations as possible!

Swimming Is Not Only Fun but Also Beneficial

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Enrolling in kids swimming lessons not only ensures they are safe in the water, but it also makes your child a more well-rounded individual. Swimming is a high-intensity, low-impact sport which keeps their heart pumping and healthy when they are having a ball of fun. But it also teaches them valuable life lessons such as time management and teamwork. Kids who are always in the pool turn into adults who rely on the water to keep them healthy. As you grow older, your schedule becomes hectic. But if you love swimming, you’ll understand how to manage your time to get the swimming exercise you need. Furthermore, you’ll form bonds with local swimmers who feel the same way.

Fun Kids Swimming Activities

We looked online in search of the most popular and most exciting pool activities. A strong-swimming adult should always supervise these games regardless of whether the children know how to swim or not.

Chicken fight

This is a classic pool game for both kids and adults. The chicken fight game involves four to eight players in the shallow. One player sits atop their partner’s shoulders, and everyone tries to knock the person off the other’s shoulders. This game could become a little aggressive and dangerous, so make sure you have plenty of room around the pool to maneuver. Be careful with pool ledges and other potential dangers such as a diving board and pool stairs. Whoever stays sitting on their partner’s shoulders gets a point. You could play multiple rounds in which the victor of each round passes into the semi-finals, and then finals. Or you could play for points where the person who gets the most points after several rounds receives a prize.

What time is it, Mr. Wolf?

This is the pool version of the classic child’s game often played during recess in schoolyards. One person has to play the wolf (or fox, shark, etc…whichever you choose) while the other players (4 to 6) play the unsuspecting victims. The wolf is standing with their back facing the other players in the middle of the pool between the shallow and deep end (or wherever they feel comfortable). The victims ask, “What time is it, Mr. Wolf?” and the wolf has to answer with a number. For example, if the wolf says “It’s three o’clock,” the victims take three steps forward. That happens a few more times, getting closer and closer to the wolf’s back.

When the wolf answers with “It's lunchtime,” the victims must turn around and run to the starting line. Meanwhile, the wolf turns around and tries to tag one of the victims before they get to the starting line. The person caught by the wolf then becomes the wolf, and the game starts all over again! This game is made extra difficult because of the water, as it is much harder to run or even walk quickly in waist- or thigh-deep water.

Scavenger hunt

This game is only suitable for kids who are comfortable diving underwater. Younger kids can stay in the shallow end while stronger swimmers can dive for submerged objects in the deep end. The object must be easy to spot underwater, so choose something brightly colored and easy to grasp. They could be heavy pool rings or batons.

This game is very flexible depending on the strength of your swimmers. You could place the rings in different places in the pool, with the deeper items worth more points. Alternatively, you could have several rings in the pool, and whoever grabs the most rings wins.

Invisi-bottle

This game is very similar to a regular pool scavenger hunt -- but with a twist. Instead of diving for multiple brightly-colored rings, use a full water bottle without a label. Although it may look easy to find above water, it is practically invisible underwater. Whoever finds the near-invisible water bottle first is the victor! This game requires strong swimmers and goggles, as children must open their eyes underwater for as long as they can hold their breath.

The classic swimming race

Racing across the pool is an excellent test of speed, strength, and endurance. Kids swimming wildly through a busy pool during free swim time is not the best idea. This game plays best in a personal backyard pool. Younger kids who are not confident swimming should stay in the shallow end and race across the pool’s width. Otherwise, whoever gets to the other end of the pool and back is the winner.

Of course, there are multiple variations to this easy game. Make it a little bit more interesting by having the kids select the funniest floatie they could find. Or make the race harder for strong swimmers by doing the race with pants and a t-shirt. Racing with wet clothes not only makes swimming harder, but it is also a learning experience in case of emergencies.

Watermelon race

The watermelon race is just another version of the classic pool race. However, instead of kids swimming across the pool, they’ll have to walk. Oh, and they’re doing it with a strange object: a watermelon! This game is best played with kids ages 4 to 12 in your own backyard pool (not a community pool).

Purchase as many similarly-sized watermelons as there are kids. Starting at one side of the pool, hand each child a watermelon. Whoever reaches the other side of the pool with their watermelon intact is the victor! Although it seems easy, carrying a round watermelon across the pool’s width is no walk in the park!

Simon Says

The classic Simon Says game is a staple in every kid’s childhood during recess. The pool version is not much different, except made more difficult because of the water. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, let us explain. Kids ages two and up can play Simon Says. This game is best with a group of three or more. Facing the rest of the group, the leader gives out instructions such as “Simon says, wave your right hand.” All other participants must follow the instructions.

But since you’re in a pool, things can get creative. Simon can ask everyone to run underwater or make a circle with their right food. But remember -- they have to say “Simon says!" If the leader tells the group to do something without having said “Simon Says,” that person is out of the game. The last participant is the winner and gets to be the leader next round.

Kids swimming through legs

Kids swimming through legs teaches them controlled swimming techniques and how to hold their breath longer. Any child who is confident in their abilities can excel at this game. I’ve personally played this game well into my adult years because it is so fun yet hard at the same time! The point of the game is to swim through as many legs as possible. The more people involved, the more interesting the game.

You are not allowed to touch the legs and use them to propel you forward. No swimming fins or anything that makes this game easier is permitted. Despite those rules, the game is straightforward. First swim through two pairs of legs, then three, then four, etc. Whoever swims through the most legs is the winner!

Final Thoughts

Several kids swimming games may seem easy and straightforward, but that doesn’t mean kids should be alone in the pool. Always ensure you’re watching out for children who are underwater for too long or look to be in distress. But remember that swimming games are not only to improve a kids swimming abilities, it's also to have fun! If your kid thinks the game is boring or too dull, switch it up. There are thousands of games just waiting to be played — be creative!

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