Sensory Home Play Ideas To Aid Swimming

Sensory Home play activities that can aid water confidence and enhance your little one’s bath time experience

Water confidence is essential for infants to learn to swim. As Merbabies swim teachers we are always thinking up fun filled games and activities that offer a positive means to achieve an action that otherwise may cause potential uncertainty for our little ones, such as splashes of water on the face or jumping in the pool.
Because the majority of Merbabies classes are for baby to pre-school aged learners we typically use sensory development based ideas to heighten the learning experience for our early years learners. The stimulation of vision, sound, textures, smells and even what they taste in the pool are all sensory play mechanisms that encourage exploratory play around the pool and imaginative play distractions to help over come the more technical but essential learning objectives of rotating in the water, submerging happily or holding on to a pool edge safely.
A great way to promote all these ideas and offer continuity of leaning is of course practicing these skills at home.  Here are a few simple but effective ‘home play’ sensory ideas for in the bath or padding pool… if the sun ever comes out and stays out!

Flying ducks

Yellow is the first colour the human eye notices and so a bright yellow ducky is the perfect bath toy for our littlest babies! Tie a few inches of elastic around a yellow ducks neck (not too long) and pull duck away from baby through the water causing ripples and light splashes, then ‘fly’ duck up in the air letting him drip on babies head and face. Watch as baby tracks the object with their eyes and starts to hand eye coordinate to reach for him flying up high and not minding the water drips on their happy smiling faces!


Our toddlers love bubble baths, but they don’t always like getting clean! Get them to ‘wash’ their heads, shoulders, knees and toes sing the well known song bringing in some body awareness too, with a soaked sponge or a novelty wash-mitt. Encourage them to get it very wet and to squeeze it over themselves and their heads allowing the water to pour down over their cheeky faces!

Bubble Hoopla

Coordination is always a key learning point for our ever growing pre-schoolers, in the bath create a ring of bubbles tap end, and ask them to see if they can throw their play balls into the centre of the bubble ring, they then using cupped hands quickly pull the water towards with splashy speed which will bring the balls back to them! (if you were in the garden you could put a hula hoop in the middle of the paddling pool) As the play balls hit the water there is a natural splash and the pulling back of the water to re-set the balls is a natural first swim stroke!

Hey good looking

Back floating can cause some unsettlement in babies as the labyrinthine or ‘righting reflex’ is a natural reflex that kind of ‘auto corrects’ baby’s body to its normal upright position. It’s best not to fight against this natural occurrence instead let’s relax baby out of it. A lovely bath activity to help would be to pop baby on their backs, you supporting their heads in the water. Hold a baby friendly mirror up over their faces. Very young babies enjoying looking at this interesting face and as they reach around 9 months and start to understand the concept of reflection they will love looking at their own expressions!

Sleeping hippos

Getting little ones to breath correctly when swimming is not an easy task, yet an essential one. Baby to pre-school level swimmers learn breath control by blowing bubbles in the water. A fun bath or paddling pool activity can be to get them to pretend to be a hippo wallowing in their mud bath, dip their chins down into the bath and blow bubbles!
These are just a few simple but effective sensory inspired water play ideas, but regular safe water play with an adult will help you both enjoy bath play time, as well as keep them engaged and advancing in their swim learning.  If your little one has a favourite bath game – let us know! Enjoy!
Emma-Louise is an early years expert and teaches Merbabies baby to pre-school swim classes in Fife as well as playing a leading role in the development of our themed, sensory lesson plans.

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