Swimming Game – Challenge: Otter Eating


Otter Eating

Core Skill

Back Float


This challenge is suitable for 3 – 5 year-old swimmers who are in level 1 or 2.


The goal of this challenge is to have the swimmer float on their back while holding 2-3 floating toys on their belly without letting them float or splash away. The instructor supports their neck in a supported back float with Swimming Ideas’ head in hand holding position. The instructor pulls the child in the supported back glide position head in hand off the bench, a short distance and back to the bench. If the swimmer keeps their belly or chest up and keeps the 2-3 toys from floating away then they’ve completed the otter eating challenge.


To perform this challenge, the instructor and the swimmer need the following equipment and steps:

  • A bench or a platform that is close to the water level and has enough space for the swimmer to lie down on their back.
  • 2-3 floating toys of different shapes, colors, and sizes that are easy to hold and can fit on the swimmer’s belly.
  • The instructor stands next to the bench and helps the swimmer lie down on their back with their head facing the water. The instructor places one hand under the swimmer’s head and the other hand under their lower back to support their body. The instructor reminds the swimmer to relax their neck and shoulders and look up at the sky or the ceiling.
  • The instructor gives the swimmer 2-3 floating toys and asks them to place them on their belly. The instructor tells the swimmer that they are going to pretend to be an otter eating their food on their belly. The instructor asks the swimmer to hold the toys on their stomach and not let them float or splash away.
  • The instructor gently slides the swimmer off the bench and into the water, keeping their head and hand position. The instructor pulls the swimmer in a straight line for a short distance and then back to the bench. The instructor praises the swimmer for keeping their belly or chest up and their toys on their belly. The instructor repeats this step a few times, increasing the distance and the speed as the swimmer becomes more comfortable and confident.
  • The instructor challenges the swimmer to try different variations of the otter eating challenge, such as:
    • Holding different combinations of toys on their belly.
    • Singing a song or counting while holding the toys on their belly.
    • Moving their legs in a flutter kick or a scissor kick while holding the toys on their belly.
    • Rolling over from their back to their front and back again while holding the toys on their belly.

Difficulties instructors might face

Some possible difficulties that instructors might face while conducting this challenge are:

  • The swimmer might be scared or nervous to lie on their back or go into the water. The instructor can help the swimmer overcome their fear by:
    • Explaining what they are going to do and why it is fun and safe.
    • Demonstrating the challenge themselves or with another swimmer.
    • Using positive reinforcement and encouragement throughout the challenge.
    • Allowing the swimmer to choose their own toys and the distance they want to go.
  • The swimmer might have trouble holding the toys on their belly or keeping their belly or chest up. The instructor can help the swimmer improve their skills by:
    • Adjusting the size, shape, and number of toys to suit the swimmer’s ability and preference.
    • Reminding the swimmer to keep their chin up and their eyes on the sky or the ceiling.
    • Providing gentle feedback and correction on the swimmer’s body position and hand grip.
    • Using cues and prompts such as “squeeze your toys” or “show me your belly button” to help the swimmer maintain their posture and balance.
  • The swimmer might get bored or lose interest in the challenge. The instructor can help the swimmer stay engaged and motivated by:
    • Varying the difficulty and the duration of the challenge according to the swimmer’s progress and readiness.
    • Adding elements of fun and creativity to the challenge, such as using different toys, songs, or movements.
    • Making the challenge a game or a competition with themselves or others, such as seeing how many times they can do the challenge without dropping the toys or how fast they can go from the bench and back.
    • Celebrating the swimmer’s achievements and rewarding them with stickers, certificates, or high fives.

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