Swimming

Best pool toys and supplies to keep your kids entertained in the water

Every year, toy and pool supply companies seem to come out with larger, more elaborate and more expensive pool toys. More expensive doesn't mean better, and it's frequently the simple, basic toys that provide the most play value, both in terms of time the children will spend with them, and the creativity they can bring to these activities.

For babies and toddlers, a basic baby float is all you need. With a seat bottom that allows the legs to extend through, the baby is supported, seated and content. At this age, just being in the pool and exploring the properties of water is all the excitement they need. While babies cannot be left alone in these contraptions, they do give your arms a chance to rest!

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For older children, simple inflatable pool toys, a beach ball and rafts form the basics of a kit that will keep your children busy all summer. These allow your children endless opportunities to create games, competitions and races that will help burn off some of the energy that suddenly appears when they are no longer in school. When fatigue sets in, they can use these same toys to relax and float upon the surface.

There are several underwater activities and games you can set up in a pool. Weighted rings and "eggs," can be scattered along the bottom, and you could have the children dive down and try to gather as many toys as possible in one breath. A pair of goggles for each child is an important addition for this activity. If water pistols sound too violent for you, how about a water-propelling duck instead? Small plastic toys with plungers are always a favorite.

Teenagers may enjoy more structured play. A pool volleyball set or a basketball hoop can be great for parties. Just make sure you set the rules in the beginning to maintain safety. If you are going to invest money in one large item for the pool, a slide is the way to go. Slides created with pool safety in mind are made by a number of manufacturers.

Whatever you choose to purchase for play, it is also important to keep safety equipment nearby. A sign with safety rules, a Styrofoam ring with rope attached, a phone and adult supervision are all essential.

By Frances Simon