Swim Lesson Toys and Games to play

The toys to buy for your swimming lesson program

These are the best swimming lesson toys that you can get for your swim lessons or swim lesson program. If you use American Red Cross, Starfish Aquatics, or Swim America, you’ll benefit from any or all of these swim lesson toys. Every game, song, or activity is possible, or made better by using these toys.

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The toys to buy for your swimming lesson program

These are the best swimming lesson toys that you can get for your swim lessons or swim lesson program. If you use American Red Cross, Starfish Aquatics, or Swim America, you’ll benefit from any or all of these swim lesson toys. Every game, song, or activity is possible, or made better by using these toys.

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Barbells are a versatile and excellent tool to use in your swim program. They hold the child at the surface and provide a stable and firm item to hold when they are doing their front crawl or back crawls. I personally like using barbells for certain situations instead of noodles because the barbells are more rigid and stiff. Noodles bend and give, and are not always ideal for true beginning swimmers.

Most often, we use barbells in our swim lessons with the following activities:

Flutter Kicking on Front

Backstroke kicking (using barbell for support)

Catchup Drill Front Crawl

Here are some games that will help you use your barbells:

Kick with Barbells

You can make this a game or an activity for learning kicking. There are two main ways to hold the barbell.


  • Beginner Barbell hold
    • Place the barbell under the armpits and have the swimmer on top of it
    • Arms should reach forward
    • Legs should be on surface behind swimmer
    • Barbell will support the shoulders and armpits
    • Head will be raised, leaning forward.


  • Advanced Barbell hold
    • Hold barbell in hands
    • Extend arms forward over the head
    • Arms remain straight
    • Avoid elbows bending as much as possible
    • Face will be in the water, ideally looking down
    • can be modified to have lips in water or nose only
    • Feet and body should be flat and as straight as possible


Use the appropriate hold for each child tailoring your directions to the individual. If the swimmer is scared or does not put their face in the water they should do the Beginner barbell hold.


Catchup Swim With Barbells

Catchup is a drill primarily used for FREESTYLE. Swimmer moves in water in position 11 and does 1 armstroke at a time. The arm that is moving catches up to the other arm still extended over the head in front of the swimmer. Once the moving arm resumes position 11, then the other arm does an arm stroke. Instead of doing position 11 without support, have the swimmer hold the barbell with both hands. Do do Catchup drill, the swimmer will then move one arm at a time, having one hand always holding the barbell.

  • Reinforce body line
    • Spine straight
    • Legs mostly straight
    • Arms straight
  • Faceshould be looking down in the water.
    • Avoid looking up
    • Minimize breaths
  • When breathing keep 1/2 of face still in the water
  • Only breathe during an arm stroke



This game is a little more advanced and for swimmers that will go underwater on their own.

  1. Do Kicking with Barbells to the deep end from their original location.
  2. Once at the deep end, have the swimmer hold the barbell in their hands.
  3. Still holding on to the barbell, go underwater and raise the barbell above your head
  4. Will look like an Olympic power lifter holding a barbell over head.
  5. Keep body straight
  6. Legs should be straight, under the person
  7. Will look like they are standing upright holding the barbell over their head.
  8. Pull down on the barbell like a pullup to come back to surface


Get your own Barbells here: Water Gear Bar Float, Non-Padded

Most Lesson programs will get about 10 – 20 depending on how large their program is.


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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Buckets to use for swimming lessons Using buckets is the best way to get newer swimmers used to getting their head wet. Most children should be comfortable having water poured over their hair, shoulders, and chest. Typically they have experienced this at home with their daily washing. You’ll notice that the children that shower or bathe regularly with water over their face are more likely to go underwater in a swim lesson. For those that are not comfortable yet, we play Buckethead! Most children enjoy seeing water pour out of the bucket and get pleasure in pouring it on themselves, on the instructor, or on the other students.


Buckethead – The Best Game Ever

The game’s success lies with how enthusiastic the instructor is. If they excitedly yell “BUCKETHEAD” every time, then the game is met with excitement and laughter.

Allay children’s fears of water on their face by offering 3 choices: 1) “Shoulderhead” – pourwater on their shoulders 2) Hair- Yell “Buckethead” but pour on their hair, they should look up slightly so the water falls down back. 3) BUCKETHEAD! Pour water all over their head and face.


Fill a Bucket Game

  • Have one huge bucket on the side of the pool, or have 1 child hold the “Master Bucket.”
  • Give each swimmer a bucket, or rotate a second bucket
  • Each person gets to fill the 2nd bucket with water from the “well.”
    • Well =differentlocation nearby
      • Get there by swimming a specific stroke, or walking with bucket
      • Can put bucket on head, or on belly and kick on back
  • With filled 2nd bucket, return to “Master Bucket” and fill it up
  • Once Master Bucket filled, holding person has to:
    • Pour it over their head
    • Face plant into the bucket to “drink the water”



Get your own buckets here: 12 Sand Pail Beach Play Sets, small 3.25″ Bucket w/Rake, Scoop and Shovel- 12 sets


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Diving Rings

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]If you walk into a pool outside, inside, anywhere you have a very good chance of stepping on a diving ring either in the pool or on the deck. These are a staple of swimming today. You can find all manner of diving rings: Sticks, sinkers, floating ones, colored, numbered. While their purpose is typically to go underwater and get them, we’ve found some creative ways to integrate them into your lesson through games and activities. One of those not listed below is using the rings as an aide for doing catchup drill. Have the swimmer hold onto the ring with both hands and then swim freestyle always having one hand hold the ring in front of them. You can have the swimmer hold on to the ring with both hands and do a streamline through a hula hoop pretending they’re super man.

Diving rings can also be swimmer’s own personal cake mixers. Play Bake A Cake, and give each child their own “cake” to make inside each ring.

Ring Retrieval

Swim game where you throw the rings, or drop them nearby. Have the swimmers then go get them.

Challenge mode: Front crawl to the rings, back crawl with the rings back to start area.

You can help beginner swimmers in three ways:

  • Put the rings just under the surface so they can reach them without going underwater
    • can ask them to use their feet to lift it higher if they need it
  • Hold a swimmer’s hand as they go down a little deeper.
    • Instructor can help push them down, and lift them back up safely
  • Push their back and gently push them deep to the bottom and let go.
    • Swimmer will then get ring and jump back up to surface
    • Instructor can then assist them at the surface


Treasure Hunt

This is one of my favorite games to play and it works best in a zero depth pool. You can do a variety of things with this game and its strength is how well the instructor creates the scene with their words and actions. Play pretend and it will be a blast!

 Get your own diving rings for your swim program now: Intex Underwater Swimming/Diving Pool Toy Rings – Assorted Colors


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Diving Sticks

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Most games you play with rings can also be played with the diving sticks. I find it is nice to have a variety of toys available.

Throw and Get

Throw all the diving sticks around the pool area. If you have a beginner keep them closer to the starting area.

1 swimmer then has 30 seconds to get as many as they can. If you have the rings featured here, you can then count how many points they earned.

The person that gets the most points wins!


Get your own Diving Sticks here: Swimline Flex-Sticks Dive Game


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Diving Torpedo

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Diving torpedo is one of the most fun toys in the water. It is weighted so when you drop or push it, it goes through the water like a torpedo or a missile. Swimmers love going underwater and throwing it to each other, or throwing it and going to get it.

Hit the Target

Set up a hula hoop a few feet away. It can be horizontal laying on bottom, or vertical suspended by someone or weights.

Goal is to throw the torpedo shark through or on the target.

This can be very challenging because the torpedo does not always go straight, and can sometimes move very quickly or go off course due to water currents.


Get your own Diving Torpedo toy here: Swimways Dive ‘N Glide Shark


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Hula Hoops

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Most games involve going through the hula hoop in some fashion. You can hold the hula hoop at the surface and have beginners walk through the hoop to do something fun. Lower the top of the hoop so they have to put their face in the water in order to go through. You can require certain “Tolls” in order to pass through: Lips in water. 3 bubbles, Nose wet, an ear in the water, etc.


Bake a Cake

This is one of my favorite games to play after Buckethead. The game is mostly focused on using the hula hoop as a giant mixing bowl. The more energy the instructor puts into the pretend world, the better the results. Make sure you move quickly through each part.


Streamline through Hula Hoop

Play this game with your more advanced swimmers. Have one person hold the hula hoop vertically on the bottom from the side. Other person does a streamline underwater through the hula hoop. Avoid looking and guess where the hoop is!


Glide through Hula Hoop

For beginners, have them stand on a platform or in chest deep water. Hold the hula hoop vertically and have 1/2 above the water. Swimmers then go through the hoop ideally on their bellies or on their backs, though they can walk and jump through too.


Superman through Hula Hoop

Pretend you are super man and you’re flying through the hula hoop. Throw hands forward and “fly” through the hoop held vertically.


Ring around the Rosie

Have everyone grab the sides of the hoop and hold it on the surface in a circle.

Sing the song, Ring around the Rosie, and then all go underwater at the end.

“Ring-a-round the rosie,

A pocket full of posies,
Ashes! Ashes!

We all fall down.”




Like these games? Get your own Hula Hoops here: Classic Hula Hoop Set of 3


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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Swim teams use kick boards. Lap swimmers love kickboards, and generally, if you’re at the pool there is a stack of jumbled kick boards somewhere in a corner or closet.  Kick boards are generally used to build an aerobic base in kicking, or getting used to the repetitive kicking motion by solely kicking a lot. In lessons, we use boards to help aide newer swimmers learning how to kick without sinking under the water. We can also use it as a tool to play games and help swim different strokes.

Legs on Fire

Great game to play with your group of more advanced swimmers.

Relay Race

Play a relay race with the kickboards. 1 kickboard per team, they need to hand off the board to the next person in the relay.

You can even have 1 person kicking and 1 person pulling the same board.



Play with different items in the pool as the flag posts, or put people there and the swimmer has to kick around them in a zig zag pattern


Catchup Swim with Board

Swim Catch up drill with the kick board out in front of the swimmer’s head.

1 hand stays locked on the kick board the whole time, other hand does an arm stroke.

Focus on kicking and keeping head down when not taking a quick breath.

Partner Sandwich with Board

Form partners. Each person has 1 board. The partners sandwich the board vertically and kick on their sides across the pool. Kickboards must remain sandwiched together horizontally / vertically as they go

Turtle Swim

Use the boards in this creative game!

Treasure Hunt with Board

Use the kickboard as the pirate ship, or the explorer’s ship. Have swimmers go on expeditions and find treasure. When they return they have to balance it on the kickboard. Be careful of waves it might capsize the ship and all the treasure will be lost!!!



Enjoy these games?  Outfit your swim team or your lesson program with either of these boards: TYR SPORT Kickboard
Speedo Adult Kickboard (Black)



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The Noodle is probably the most versitle and best toy that you can possibly get in a pool and a swim lesson program. You can use it for almost anything. Starfish aquatics us their guard tubes like noodles, and most swim instructors have some sort of aide and drill or activity that they use the noodle for. If there is one item on this list you’re unsure of, this is not it. Buy the noodles.

Noodle Race Partners

Relay race with partners and with noodles. Give a free ride, push or pull.

Hold behind back and work on Breaststroke Kick

Lay on the noodle with it under the arm pits and look at your breaststroke kick. This is more a drill than a game. Do 10 scissors with the knees straight, then do 10 BR kicks. Make sure your swimmer is always LOOKING at their feet while doing this. You’ll see a huge improvement in your struggling breaststroke kick swimmers.

Child in water laying on back relaxing on noodles
Child in water laying on back relaxing on noodles

Ride the Bull

Your swimmer will hold onto the noodle any way they can. Instructor then drags them around the pool quickly in a wobbly noodle pattern trying to dislodge them from the noodle and make them fall off. Go in fast circles, buck the noodle wildly.

Make a Raft

Stack or bundle as many noodles as you can and lay across them all. Then have someone else push swimmer around. Switch off.

Pretzel Float / Swim

If your noodle is large enough, wrap it around the waist and then tie it in a pretzel shape. Swimmer will have their own personal floaty. Be careful! A noodle is not a safe swimming aid alone. Be sure to supervise as pretzel can come undone quickly.


Tandem Kick

Find a partner. Stand in line both facing same direction. Hold 1 noodle in same hand. Both partners hold 1 noodle in their right hands, and they each hold the other noodle in their left hand. Swimmers kick. Noodles are like parallel bars.

Need some noodles of your own? Buy these! Tundra Water Noodles (12-Pack)

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