3 Fun Games for the Pool to Improve Fine and Gross Motor, Sensory, and Cognitive Skills

With the weather so hot, most families are trying to cool down by going to their local pool or lake, swimming in the backyard, or playing with water toys!  But did you know there is a therapeutic benefit when kids swim?

Swimming and playing with water toys have an impact on gross motor, fine motor, sensory, and cognitive skills.  Water is a buoyant force. This means the water offsets the pull of gravity and reduces the weight that is put on our joints.  Water also acts as a resistance when we move through it. In order to move through the water, we need adequate strength, coordination, endurance, and range of motion. Therefore, we are expending a ton of energy during swimming while working on the above skills! Over time, we will see changes in our strength, coordination, endurance and range of motion. Did you know that swimming has also been shown to improve the following:

  • Sensory Processing skills
  • Cognition
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Balance
  • Gross Motor Skills
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Cardiorespiratory  health
  • Weight management
  • Reduces Stress
  • Mental Health

This list goes on, but you get the point!  So today I wanted to provide you with three pool activities that may benefit your child.  Before you try these games, please make sure that all necessary precautions, such as depth of pool, floatation devices are being worn, weather, etc., are made in order for your child to be safe.

1. Marco Polo

In this game, one player is “it” and has to close their eyes. They call out “Marco” and all of the other players call out “Polo”. The “it” child swims with their eyes closed and tries to tag one of the other kids. This game is great for the sensory system because the kids need to listen to where the sounds are coming from. Then the child needs to swim in one of those directions and tag a friend.

2. Atomic whirlpool

In this game you need a pool where you can touch the floor safely. From there everyone stands in a circle and then runs counterclockwise. After a whirlpool is made, everyone stops and tries to run in a clockwise direction. The whirlpool will continue to pull you into the counterclockwise direction and everyone must try to resist this. If they are not successful they may lose balance and go with the flow of water. This game works on endurance, balance, and strength!

3. Scavenger Hunt

The last activity is a scavenger hunt. In this game you want some toys that either float or sink in the pool. The kids will start on one end of the pool and swim to the other end of the pool to try and retrieve the items. After they gather the items, they will bring it back to where they started. You can have fun with this game by having the kids find specific colors or objects. Some dive tubes have numbers on them, so you can work on math skills, such as identifying numbers, adding or subtracting.  You can work on executive functioning skills by providing your child with multiple objects to find and then collect them in a specific order.

Don’t let this summer be dry! Get out, get wet, and have some fun with your kids, while working on their skills!

-Brittany Stout, MOT, OTR/L