Yes. Resoundingly yes. Play is acknowledged by a range of experts to be extremely important in children’s development. Play allows children to explore the world, to engage their imagination, to play-act emotional and physical scenarios in a safe manner. Play is as important to children as learning to read and write in terms of preparing them for adulthood. Toys are the props that help facilitate creative play. What I love best about water toys is that they keep kids in the water having fun for longer, and that makes them more comfortable, and therefore safer, in the water.
What are the best water toys? Well, I’m old, boring and no fun at all, so instead of giving you my opinion, I went right to the source. Here’s what my kids consider ‘must have’ water/beach toys:
Waboba: Fabric balls that bounce on the water, like a skipping stone, doesn’t sink and easy to throw. For $10 it will keep your kids happy and having fun in the water for hours, not to mention improve physical coordination and hand-eye contact. Better for slightly older kids (10 and up) since they could provide a bit of a thump to the younger, less coordinated ones. And yes, older brothers do try to bounce them over younger sister’s heads, not always successfully.
Splash Bombs: The original name (and the best construction) are the Splash Bombs. You can find knock-off splash balls anywhere now, just google ‘splash bomb’. About $1 a ball. The size of a tennis ball (or junior football), they are super-soft neoprene balls with a soft inside that soak up the water. Basically a re-usable water balloon. Easy to throw, easier for little hands to catch, virtually impossible to hurt anyone. They never leave my swim bag and I have around 40 in a basket in my basement for indoor wars to burn off steam. Great for all ages, easy for little hands to grasp, but too big to swallow.
Torpedoes: Great for kids who are learning to dive and swim under water. Similar to weighted rings in terms of skill-building but a little more fun since they are unpredictable in their path. I prefer the smaller ones (around 4 inches long) since the big ones (around 10 inches long) can cause damage when kids inevitably launch them airborne. About $9 each.
SwimFin: Looks like a shark or dolphin fin, perfect for non-swimmers or less confident swimmers if the pool is a bit out of their depth, and I love, love, love the fact that it keeps arms and legs free to play and practice proper swimming strokes. I wouldn’t use anything but CoastGuard approved life jackets in open water, but for a pool – it’s perfect! More expensive at around $40 each, but will last through several kids and worth every penny.