Break out your sunscreen, floaties, and rubber duckies, and try out some of these fun and engaging water-based activities! ---
Due to the unique properties of water, the pool is the perfect place to work on sensory processing, coordination, strengthening, and many other goal areas. As an added benefit, most kids think water play is super fun!
Safety first! If your child is not a confident swimmer, make sure to use an appropriate flotation device and never leave a child unattended in the pool, even for “just a minute”
Have your child straddle a pool noodle and jump from the pool floor to “ride a horse” to work on lower body strength and coordination. For strong swimmers, they can straddle the noodle in the deep end to challenge their balance. You can challenge them further by tossing a beach ball back and forth, making it a competition to see who can stay on their “horse” longer.
Work on visual scanning and fine motor skills by bringing a foam puzzle into the pool. Puzzle pieces can be scattered across the water or stuck to the pool wall.
Use a pool noodle as a jump rope – this is a challenging activity to work on upper body strength.
Bring cups and pitchers into the pool to work on pouring skills in a fun, mess-free way.
Turkey basters, eye droppers, empty glue bottles, and ketchup bottles make great alternative squirt guns that also work on hand strength.
Add an extra dimension to kicking by playing Red Light, Green Light or requesting fast/loud kicks and slow/quiet kicks to work on impulse control and following directions.
Blow bubbles to work on breath control and oral motor strength.
Bring a towel into the pool! The resistance of dragging the towel through the water, raising it up and down with a partner, and swimming with a towel cape provides proprioceptive input. End by having the child wring out the towel for a bonus bilateral coordination and upper body exercise. Kids love bringing towels into the pool because something is not where it belongs. Just make sure to have an extra, dry towel for when the fun is done!
Crawl along the pool wall with feet on the wall and hands gripping the edge for upper body and core strengthening.
Play dress up in the pool! This is another silly activity that kids enjoy. Work on dressing skills in the shallow end by having your child put on various clothing items (that you don’t mind being exposed to chlorine and that are a little bigger). The clothing also creates extra resistance and can be incorporated into a relay race walking across the floor in the shallow end of the pool.
Sarah Ruplinger, MS, OTR/L