Swimming Game – Smile Face Float Boat and Push

  • Category: Group / Individual
  • Core Skill: Getting comfortable with the water.
  • Name: Smile Face Float Boat

This is another game you can use with the floating smile faces. We use it as an introduction to getting in the water with hesitant 3 year-olds. It doesn’t hold up to anyone older as they’ll get a little bored, but it is wonderful for those young swimmers that are just a little afraid of getting in the water without their parents.

Smile face float toys available at the lifeguard store.

Aqua Disk (thelifeguardstore.com)


Give everyone one of the smiley face floats. You can give them green ones or the oranges. Everyone needs one.

Tell every swimmer to get:

  • A floating toy
  • A sinking toy

Sit on the edge of the pool with toys next to each person. Put feet in the water.

  1. Put the smile face float on the surface, and using 1 foot, push it underwater.
  2. Do it again, but using 2 feet.
  3. Do it again, using your hands.
  4. Put a floating toy on the smile face, put a sinking toy on the smile face like its a boat.
  5. Do kicking to push the smile face boat out to “sea” with splashing kicks. Do not tip it over!
  6. Instructor collects “boats” and returns them to the swimmers on the edge.
  7. Throw the sinking toy as far as you can in the water.
  8. Put the floating toy in the water, and do splashing kicks to get it as far as the sunk toy.


Take your time with this. The whole point is to slowly get the swimmers involved with touching the water and distracted with a myriad of small easy tasks to forget their parents.

We want them to have fun doing something on the edge with a very low bar for success. This should be small achievable tasks that a 3 year old can do without too much difficulty.

Sit on the edge with your toys next to you.

Put the smiley face in the water. Push it underwater with your hand .

Keeping the smiley face in the water, push it underwater with one foot. This is not that easy, but requires attention and focus. If it falls out, the instructor should help give it back to the swimmer.

Use two feet to sink the smiley face.

Load up the smiley face with the toys. Let the 3 year olds struggle to balance them on the smile. Use kicks to push the boat out to sea.

Be splashy! The wetter they get on the side, the easier it will be for them to get in the water later (they’ll be wet and cooler, and the water will seem warmer).

Return the smiley face, and have the swimmer, still from the side, throw their sinking toy. Then, using kicks, get the floating toy to get as far as the thrown toy. Again, simple and may not be very far.

CELEBRATE EVERYTHING! The more you get into this, the more you are having fun with these simple little tasks the more the swimmer is getting used to following directions and getting comfortable being praised by the instructor.


This game is designed for 3 year olds, maybe 4. The older swimmers can do variations of this but it will not entertain or distract them like it will a younger swimmer.

This game is perfect for the kid that is crying for their parents and are refusing to get in the water. It is a very low “ask” for the 3 year-old to do.

Better swimming.
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