22 Expert Pool Play Tips for Building Children’s Strength & Motor Skills

22 Expert Pool Play Tips for Building Children’s Strength & Motor Skills

by Megan Lesh, OTR/L, MOT, Occupational Therapist, Valley Medical Center Children’s Therapy

Summer’s sunny days are here so it’s a perfect time for a pool day! These fun activity ideas using toys and pool equipment at your local pool promote strengthening and fine motor skills and sensory regulation. Get pool safety tips, along with a list of community pools near you.

Noodling Around

  • Straddle a foam pool noodle between your legs and ride it like a horse! Scatter items that float around the pool to “feed” your horse.
  • Shape your noodle into a “U” and sit on it like a swing.
  • Use two hands on the ends of the noodle to push the noodle under the water to play “jump rope.”
  • Hold the noodle as a bat to hit a beach ball tossed to you.
  • Have friends hold onto one side of the noodle and pull them around the pool as a “taxi.”


  • Dive down to get rings on the bottom of the pool.
  • Scoop up the rings using only your feet.
  • Play “dress up” with the rings, placing them on your head, arms and legs.
  • Toss rings to onto/into targets (cones).
  • Thread rings on the noodle like a necklace.

Beach Ball Busy

  • Play catch with a friend.
  • Toss into a target (floating hoop, bucket, floaty).
  • Push as far down under the water as you can.
  • Tie the beach ball to a noodle, suspend the ball into the air and try to hit it like a punching bag.
  • Play baseball with the beach ball and a pool noodle or foam barbell.

Puzzle Time

  • Using a plastic, big knob puzzle, swim to collect puzzle pieces scattered on the pool surface and put them in the puzzle on the pool edge or prop them up on a kickboard.

Egg-cellent Entertainment

  • Hide small constructive play pieces in plastic Easter eggs (Legos, snap beads, Unifix Cubes). Swim to find them on the pool surface. Open the eggs to find the hidden pieces to build a tower, castle or car.
  • Fill plastic Easter eggs with water and take turns with a friend picking an egg and “cracking” it open on the friend.

Poolside Paper Prints

  • Use waterproof paper or a notebook and crayons with plastic covering to write a silly story, plan an obstacle course, or make a pool map.
  • Print mazes, dot-to-dot worksheets, or coloring pages out on waterproof paper or laminate regular paper worksheets, then complete worksheets on the side of the pool.

Squirt & Splash

  • Fill a clean spray bottle and squirt water to fill buckets, “wash” toys, or squirt friends.
  • Use a water shooter toy to knock down stacked plastic cups or hit targets (bullseye, picture, in a pool ring).

Learn more about Children’s Therapy at Valley Medical Center.

Pool Safety Tips

  • Teach a child to swim with swimming lessons.
  • Never leave a child unattended near a pool or body of water.
  • Keep rescue equipment (safety hook and life preserver) near the pool.
  • Water wings and floaties need to be used with caution and can give kids and parents a false sense of security.
  • Install barrier (gates, fences) around backyard pools and make sure doors leading to the backyard pool are locked and/or child proof with an alarm if possible.
  • Take a CPR course.
  • Keep your backyard pool covered when it is not in use.
  • Have an open conversation with your kids about pool safety with clear rules and expectations (no diving, no running, no pushing, swim only with an adult etc.).
  • Make sure the drains are properly covered and encourage kids to stay away from the pool drains.

South King County Community Pools

Burien/South Seattle
Evergreen Community Aquatics Center
606 SW 116th St, Seattle, WA 98146

YMCA – Auburn
1620 Perimeter Rd. SW Auburn, WA 98001

Covington Aquatic Center
18230 SE 240th St. Covington, WA 98042

Des Moines
Mt. Rainier Pool
22722 19th Ave. S Des Moines, WA 98198

Enumclaw Aquatic Center
420 Semanski St. South Enumclaw, WA 98022

Federal Way
Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center
650 SW Campus Dr. Federal Way, WA 98023

Federal Way Community Center and Pool
876 S 333rd St. Federal Way, WA 98003

Kent Meridian Pool Aquatics Management Group
25316 101st Ave. SE Kent, WA 98030

10828 SE 284th St. Kent WA 98030

Hazen High School Pool Renton School District 1101
Hoquiam Ave. NE Renton, WA 98059

Henry Moses Outdoor Aquatic Center
1719 SE Maple Valley Highway Renton, WA 98057

Lindbergh High School Pool|
16740 128 Ave. SE Renton, WA 98058

Matt Griffin YMCA
3595 S 188th St. SeaTac, WA 98188

Tukwila Pool
4414 S 144th St. Tukwila, WA 98168

About The Author

Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office