Guppies: Playing games with toddlers

Teaching swimming to toddlers can be a rewarding and challenging experience. Toddlers are curious, energetic, and eager to learn new skills, but they also have short attention spans, limited body control, and varying levels of confidence. As a swim instructor, you need to balance safety, fun, and learning in your classes. In this blog post, we will share some tips and tricks on how to play games with toddlers in the water, based on the Guppies lesson plan from Swimming Lessons Ideas.

Toddlers are ages 2-4

Toddlers are children between the ages of 2 and 4, who are developing their motor, cognitive, and social skills. They are not yet ready for formal swimming instruction, but they can benefit from exposure to the water and basic aquatic skills. Toddlers need constant supervision and guidance from their parents and instructors, as they may not understand the risks and dangers of the water. They also need positive reinforcement and encouragement, as they may be fearful or hesitant at first.

Be goofy and dynamic

One of the best ways to engage toddlers in the water is to be goofy and dynamic. Toddlers love to laugh, play, and imitate, so you need to use your voice, facial expressions, and body language to capture their attention and interest. You can make funny noises, sing songs, tell stories, and act out scenarios with the toys and props. You can also change your tone, volume, and speed to create contrast and excitement. For example, you can whisper, shout, slow down, speed up, or pause. Be creative and have fun with it!

Keep your eyes on your herd

Toddlers are young and don’t have a lot of body control. If you’re running around in water that is up to 2ft deep you need to be careful they don’t fall over and can’t stand up. Make sure you’re paying attention to everyone in your group. We suggest limiting your class sizes to 1 instructor and 4 swimmers. Encourage the parents to remain next to the class and paying attention to their swimmers in case the child falls under and the instructor can’t pick them up immediately. You must have a lifeguard as well on duty.

Don’t lose a lamb

Toddlers are easily distracted and may wander off from the group or the instructor. This can be dangerous and disruptive, so you need to keep them close and focused. You can use games and activities that require them to stay within a certain area, such as a hula hoop, a mat, or a noodle. You can also use cues and commands that signal them to come back, such as a whistle, a clap, or a word. You can also reward them for staying close, such as giving them a high five, a sticker, or a toy. Be firm but gentle when they stray, and remind them of the rules and expectations.

Getting toddlers involved by being interesting

Toddlers are more likely to participate and learn if they find the activity interesting and enjoyable. You can make the games and skills more appealing by adding variety, challenge, and choice. You can vary the equipment, the environment, the difficulty, and the duration of the tasks. You can challenge them to try new things, to improve their performance, or to compete with themselves or others. You can also give them some options and let them choose what they want to do, such as picking a toy, a color, or a partner. This will make them feel more involved and motivated.

YouTube player

Ring around the Rosie

“Ring around the rosie, pockets full of poesy,
ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”

Make sure instructor is low in the water, not standing.
At “Fall down” all go underwater.

Swimming Game – Alligator Walk (

Swimming Game – Animal Hunt (splashpad) (

Remember the parents

Parents play a crucial role in the success of the toddler swimming classes. They provide support, comfort, and feedback to their children, as well as help with the logistics and safety. You need to communicate with them regularly and clearly, and involve them in the activities as much as possible. You can ask them to join in the games, to assist with the skills, or to cheer for their kids. You can also give them tips and suggestions on how to practice at home, how to deal with common issues, and how to reinforce the learning outcomes. You can also thank them for their participation and cooperation.

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