Pool play

Most kids love water. Babies splash in it, toddlers pour it from cup to cup, older children dive through it like dolphins. As temperatures rise this summer, most families will find themselves spending untold hours sitting on the pool deck or lounging by the lake.

But instead of watching the kids from the comfort of a lounge chair (even though that sounds oh so tempting), dive in with your children and play. Lay the foundation for a love of swimming by singing to your baby while slowly swaying her through the water."Ring Around the Rosie” is usually a hit. Teach your toddlers the essential skill of how to blow bubbles by blowing floating toys across the shallow end.

Children who can swim can improve their breath control by diving for‘treasure’ such as sunken toys or large coins. Even teenagers can’t resist calling out"Marco?” as they blindly swim toward the sounds of"Polo!”

Water play is a great way to bond with your kids while helping them feel comfortable in water.

The Chicago Park District and the YMCA of the USA, located in Chicago, recommend these songs and games:

Lisa Applegate is a first-time mom and freelance writer living in Chicago.

Red light, Green light

Age: All ages

Benefits: Gain kicking skills

How to play: Have your child hold on to the wall or sit on the edge. Tell them to kick when you say"green light” and stop when you say"red light.” When you say"yellow light,” they should slow their kicking.

Diving Dolphins

Age: Ages 3 and older

Benefits: Motivates children to put face in water and swim underwater

How to play: Hold a hoop vertically with the top at water level or above. When your child goes through the hoop, they have to duck underwater. Keep lowering the hoop as their skill improves.

Follow the Leader

Age: School-aged children

Benefits: Reinforces skills

How to play: You are the first leader, performing a few skills that the child imitates, such as bobbing up and down, opening eyes underwater or touching the pool floor. Then your child gets a turn as leader.

Sharks and Minnows

Age: School-aged children

Benefits: Builds stamina, improves treading water skills if played in the deep end

How to play: In this game, the side walls are safe zones and the middle of the pool is the shark pit. One swimmer stands or treads water in the middle and calls out"Shark.” The other swimmers, who are minnows, have to swim from one side of the pool to the other. If any minnows are caught, they become sharks and help catch the rest of the minnows.

Jack and Jill

Age: 18 months and older

Benefits: Teaches children to enter the pool, turn around and reach for the wall

How to play: Sit on the edge of the pool with your child. Parents fall in first, then they help the child fall in, turn them around and reach for the wall. Children 3 years or older could do this on their own.

“(Parent’s name) and (child’s name) went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water.

(Parent’s name) fell down and broke his crown

And (child’s name) came tumbling after.”

Everybody Splash Your Hands

Age: All young children

Benefit: Reinforces skills

How to play: Sing the song (to the tune of"Mary Had a Little Lamb”) and act out the motions.

“Everybody splash your hands, splash your hands, splash your hands,

Everybody splash your hands in the swimming pool.

Everybody kick your feet, kick your feet, kick your feet,

Everybody kick your feet in the swimming pool.

Everybody turn around, turn around, turn around,

Everybody turn around and give a great big cheer. Yay!”

At the Races

Age: School-aged children

Benefits: Reinforces skills

How to play: Races are limited only by your imagination and the ability of your racers. For young children, kickboard or noodle races are fun. For older children, swimming races using different strokes are challenging, as are relay races.

Wheels on the Bus

Age: A classic for all young children

Benefits: Explores movement, improves comfort level in water

How to play: Parents can help with motions or children can do them independently.

“Wheels on the bus go round and round,

Round and round, round and round.

Wheels on the bus go round and round

All through the town.”

(Move the hands in circular motion in water or turn around)

“Doors on the bus go open and shut” (Parents push small children forward, then pull them back through water, or children move arms back and forth in the water.)

“Windows on the bus go up and down” (Lift children up and down, or kids jump up and down.)

“Driver on the bus says move on back” (Lay children on their backs with their head resting on your shoulder at or just above water level.)

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