Part of teaching children to swim is to make water play fun. Pool toys have been a fixture of the backyard pool for many years. Kids (and adults) naturally gravitate to the bright colours and buoyancy that they bring to the water. They become the centre of incredible flights of imagination, feats of skill and daring and sometimes epic battles.
Here are five great pool toys that have been present in our pools for years and have enriched our water play experiences from childhood.
The Pool Pony is a deceptively simple bean shaped inflatable. My memories of them were yellow or purple blobs with black designs giving them a faint equine look, but these days I have seen them in fluorescent orange, green and pink as well. They look like a very simple ride on toy for the water – they are not! It requires a huge amount of skill and balance to stay astride a pool pony. They rival their rodeo counterparts when it comes to flipping their riders. Having a race with one is virtually impossible and the results are, more often than not, hilarious for both observers and participants. They are definitely NOT calming or relaxing pool toys, but they will occupy a group of children, teenagers or unruly adults for hours.
The Pool Noodle – or the Water Woggle as it is sometimes referred to –is an absolutely incredible invention. They are often used in swimming lessons for young children, as part of many an aquatic aerobics program, and as a very simple and affordable toy in the backyard pool. They can be used in a similar way to the pool pony, ridden astride in a race across the pool, or as a float for grandma as she relaxes in the cool water with the kids (this is particularly good if you attach a net to the pool noodle and use it like a floating underwater lounge chair). They are versatile and their use in the pool is only limited by the imagination.
Technically, the Boogie Board is for the surf, but paddling about whilst lying on a boogie board is often the first opportunity for young swimmers to head across the water on their own. It’s a great tool (or toy) that promotes independence and confidence in the still waters of the backyard pool.
Part of the joy of having a pool is being able to play with neighbours and friends on hot afternoons. Dive dudes are a great little set of toys that play to the competitive nature of neighbourhood kids. Dropping them into the water and diving for them is a great way to spend the afternoon getting used to goggles and beating your brother at something. My favourite game was to have someone throw them in the pool while you had your back turned, then go for a mad scramble to find as many as you could to win and have a turn at throwing.
The Beach Ball is the amazingly versatile classic that has been played with and used across the board with adults and children alike in all water sport environments. Whatever you can do with a ball on land can be adapted by a creative imaginative mind to work in the water. Beach balls have the added bonus of acting as a floatation device that is ridiculously hard to push under water and sit on, resulting in a great deal of amusement and often competition.
You don’t need pool toys in the pool to have a great time, but they certainly help. Any or all of these are great for kids and adults to play with together, and continue the tradition of backyard pool toy collection and appreciation.
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