Playing games in the pool with your toddler helps her become comfortable being in the water, getting her face wet and hopefully, eventually learning to swim. It's important to note that no matter how much your little one loves being in the pool, young children should never be left in or near a swimming pool without an adult close enough to touch them, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That's why even if your toddler is wearing a properly-fitted flotation device, pool games are only for playing when you or another responsible adult are in the water with her.
1. Entering the Water
The simple act of being submerged in a large pool of water can be intimidating for even the most fearless toddlers. Try singing small songs that bring your toddler into the pool at a particular time; for example, singing "Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posy, ashes, ashes we all fall doooown" [at which point you'd lower your toddler from the side of the pool into the water]. This gives your little one some sense of what's coming and makes the transition more entertaining than simply placing her in the pool, according to Huggies Parenting Resource page. Try this tactic with her favorite rhythms or count to three.
2. Blowing Bubbles
Blowing bubbles helps toddlers practice exhaling under water. Practice by holding your toddler while you both lower your faces in the water and see who can blow the biggest bubbles. You can also dance your toddler around in a circle while holding her and singing a song, and at a particular point, pause to put your faces in the water and blow bubbles. Wait for your child to put her face in on her own, never force her head -- or any other part of her body -- under water.
Kicking is a fundamental skill to developing strong swimming skills. Have your toddler rest her head on your shoulder and float on her back. Ask her to push her belly out so her back stays straight, and tell her to kick as hard as she can with her legs. Walk backward so she feels like her kicking really is propelling her through the water, and ask her to try and kick you all the way to the other side of the wall. For an older toddler, practice holding on to the wall side by side in shallow water, and tell her you're both going to practice kicking so hard the wall moves.
4. Paddle Roundup
All the toys your toddler loves in the bath are also entertaining in the swimming pool. Set a few of her favorite toys in the water, and encourage her to catch them by doggie paddling while you support her torso so she doesn't slip underwater. You can also spread a few toys a couple inches apart and have her try to gather the toys in a central point by swimming around them. Again, be sure to support her torso or make sure she's wearing a properly-fitted flotation device and stand within a reachable distance before encouraging her to "swim" anywhere.