- Leah Fischer, PT, DPT
Playing in the Pool
Pool time is a great way to spend a hot spring or summer afternoon. The water is not only a very fun environment, but it can also be therapeutic. The various properties of water allow for a child to feel like they are weightless. This can make some activities that are more challenging on land easier. The water can also add resistance, which is great for strengthening. The water is a way for kids to get exercise while having a great time. Below are a few suggestions of games to try in the pool.
Games with pool noodles:
If possible, get pool noodles with different textures. This provides children with a variety of sensory experiences, which can allow a child to become accustomed to different textures.
Have your kids pull their siblings or friends around. Each kid holds 1 side of the noodle and they can take turns pulling the other for a ride. This is a great strengthening activity.
Children can ride the noodle like it is a horse and move around the pool as if it were a field. They could also pretend to “feed” the horse by riding to a bucket on the other side with water for drinking.
Play catch with your child as they sit on a noodle to challenge their balance. If it is too hard to throw and catch a ball, then just have your child sit on the noodle.
A child could also practice balance activities by standing on the noodle on 1 or 2 feet. The noodle could be floating in the water for a greater challenge, or this can be done in shallow water with the noodle at the bottom of the pool.
Games with a kick board:
Kicking with a kick board is a great way to practice strength and endurance. It also engages the core if the child is not laying across the kick board, but rather, only holding onto it with their hands. Children can play lots of games using the board to kick around the pool. Sharks and minnows and relay races are a couple of suggestions for fun games on a kick board.
A kid can increase arm strength by pushing the kick board under the water and watching it pop up.
To practice balance, a child could try sitting on the kick board. When this gets easy, play catch while sitting on the board.
Games on a pool raft:
Pool rafts are fun for practicing balance and strength. A child can sit, kneel, crawl, or walk across the raft while maintaining balance. A child could also play in kneeling or crawling position while another friend or parent moves the raft in different directions to add instability. Put toys on the raft so that the children are encouraged to reach for them.
Games without equipment:
Jump or hop around the pool like a bunny or frog. Doing jumping jacks is also fun with splashing.
Stand like a flamingo on one foot. See who can stand the longest.
Run in the water. The resistance increases the challenge in deep water. If your child has decreased balance, this activity is also safe in deeper (waist high) water because a child will not trip and fall on a hard surface, but rather into the water.
Practice throwing with different balls or rings. Then dive underwater to retrieve the rings or balls.
If there are stairs to enter and exit the water, have your child practice using them. For safety, you may want to be close by to help them.
Practice kicking. If needed the child can hang onto the wall or their parent to focus on their legs only.
Helpful flotation devices:
In addition to pool noodles and kick boards, there are numerous flotation devices that can help if your child is learning how to swim. Below are a few suggestions. They all come in a variety of sizes, so find one that fits your child.
There are so many ways that playing in the pool can help with strengthening, balance, coordination, and endurance. Get creative. If you need more suggestions, ask a physical therapist. At Synergy, we are here to help your children get the most of a fun summer activity while enjoying time with friends and family!
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