Swimming Lesson Games For Beginners

There are hundreds of swimming lesson games for beginners, but only the right games will teach a child to swim while they play.  Using the fun and enjoyment of game play will distract a child away from the sometimes stressful environment of learning to swim. 

Teaching the basics of swimming is easier if you turn it all into a game, so therefore, the learning aim of the game is crucial. 

Swimming Lesson Games For Beginners That Teach The Essential Basics

The most effective swimming pool games to play also teach the essential basics of swimming.  Those basics include:

  • getting used to the water
  • breathing
  • floating
  • submerging
  • gliding
  • kicking the legs
  • pulling with the arms

Getting Used To The Water

Slide And Ski

Skill: moving through the water

Aim: to get used to moving through the water independently.

Equipment: none

This game is excellent for getting your child moving independently and confidently through the water, as they can play it in any depth of water up to chest level. From a standing position, they move forward through the pool by sliding their feet one at a time across the pool floor. They can slide in a diagonal movement as if they are skiing. They can play this without needing to lift their feet from the pool floor, which is helpful for the nervous child or child that lacks balance. 

Key phrases: ‘take your time, slowly at first’ ‘keep your feet on the floor’ ‘small movements, then make them bigger’

Progression: place objects on the pool floor for your child to seek out and collect. If the water becomes too deep for them to reach, they may have to use some breath-holding and submersion skills to retrieve them.

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Teach Your Child To Swim Through Games and Play 

Discover 60 games that use the power of play to embed basic swimming skills and help make your child a happy and confident swimmer.

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fun games for the pool


Slow Puncture

Skill: breathing

Aim: to learn and develop breath control.

Equipment: none

This game involves breathing out into the water very slowly. Explain to your child that they are pretending to be an inflatable object such as a tyre, ring or an inflatable toy with a hole in and, therefore, a slow puncture. Have them take a deep breath and inflate their lungs as much as possible. They then let the air out very slowly through their tightly pursed lips, as if the puncture is deflating them. You can time how long they can make their breath last before it runs out. The longer, the better.

Key phrases: ‘take in a huge deep breath’ ‘breathe out slowly’ ‘keep your lips tight’ ‘make your breath last as long as you can’

Progression: gradually submerge the mouth, nose, and eventually the eyes before completely submerging. 


Star Gazing

Skill: floating

Aim: to gain confidence in a floating supine (face up) position.

Equipment: none

This activity can be performed with your child using buoyancy aids as needed.  Alternatively, you can provide manual support by placing the palm of one hand under the back of their head.  Have your child lay face up in the water with arms and legs stretched outwards, adopting a star shape. Encourage them to look upwards to the stars.

Key phrases: 'look up at the stars’ ‘push your chest and hips up to the surface’ ‘let the water support you’

Progression: gradually reduce the amount of manual support and allow them to float independently.


For more swimming lesson games for beginners like this one, click here and discover the power of play! 


Pop Ups

Skill: submerging

Aim: to gain confidence in gradually submerging the face.

Equipment: none

Standing in shallow water, around chest depth, encourage your child to sink down and then, on your command, ‘pop up!’.  This game is an excellent way to get them used to holding their breath and submerging their face. The nervous child only needs to submerge their mouth. As confidence grows, they can progress to mouth, nose, eyes, and finally complete submersion. Encourage them to bend their knees as they sink so they can spring up fast like a Jack-in-a-box. 

Key phrases: ‘relax and take your time’ ‘hold your breath and slowly sink’ ‘feel the water around your mouth and nose’

Progression: keep them under the water for longer before you shout ‘pop up!’ to help them hold their breath slightly longer. 


games to play in pool



Skill: gliding

Aim: to learn how to adopt a streamlined position and travel through the water

Equipment: none

This game is about how far your child can stretch and glide across the surface of the water. Children can play this in shallow or deep water, with assistance if needed. Have your child start with one foot against the wall and one foot on the pool floor (if in shallow water). You count down ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1…torpedo!’ They push away from the poolside like a rocket taking off and glide across the surface, seeing how far they can travel. 

Children can wear buoyancy aids for this game, but be aware that some aids can cause resistance, slow the glide, and be counterproductive.

Key phrases: ‘stretch out’ ‘make your body long and thin’ ‘keep your hands and feet together’. 

Progression: play the game without any buoyancy aids if your child has used them previously. Push off and glide with face and head tucked down between their stretched out arms.  

For more games like this one, click here and discover the power of play! 

Leg Kicks

Ferry Boats

Skill: kicking

Aim: to develop an alternating leg kick action whilst moving along.

Equipment: 2 floats or kickboards and floating toys

Have your child hold a float or kickboard under each arm with their forearms resting on each float and fingers gripping over the ends. Place some floating objects in the pool and have them travel to collect them. The idea of the game is to pretend that the floats are ferries collecting cargo or passengers (the floating objects) and returning them to the poolside. While focusing on collecting floaters, they are developing an effective alternating leg kick. 

Key phrases: ‘kick with floppy feet’ ‘stretch your legs out and make them long’ ‘make a splash behind you’

Progression: have your child blow bubbles or submerge their face as they kick their legs and move through the water.  

Arm Pulls

Scooping Ice Cream

Skill: pulling the water

Aim: to learn how to use the hands to pull through the water.

Equipment: none

To play this game, your child must be lying on their front in the water. You can use buoyancy aids or hold them lightly around their waist. Explain that they are an ice cream-making machine and that they can only move if they scoop ice cream with their hands.  

Children should be encouraged to scoop using a cupped hand shape, with fingers closed together. The scooping motion should be downwards and inwards, towards themselves. As they begin scooping, move them around the pool, holding them at the surface.

Key phrases: 'make an ice cream scoop with your hand’, ‘keep your fingers together’, ‘scoop the ice cream towards you’.

Progression: have them keep their chin on the surface of the water and blow bubbles as they scoop. 

Make It Easy For You Kids To Learn To Swim

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60 games that use the power of play embed basic swimming skills and make your child a happy and confident swimmer.


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