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Deaf-friendly pool games

Try out these deaf-friendly swimming games. Not all games will be suitable for all ages and abilities, but with some creative thinking, most games can be adapted to suit the swimmers in your group. Think about games you regularly play in the pool and how these could be adapted to be more deaf-friendly.

Simon Says

  1. Gives instructions to swimmers such as: ‘jump up and down’.
  2. The swimmers must only follow the instructions if you use the phrase ‘Simon Says’ before giving the instruction.
  3. Use a visual signal for the phrase ‘Simon says’ such as holding a float up or waving a flag. The visual signal can be anything, as long as everyone recognises it and understands what it means.

Underwater signing

  1. Swimmers take turns to go underwater and sign. The signing could be an animal, a colour, a hobby or any word at all.
  2. The rest of the group has to watch to see what they say.
  3. Make it harder for older groups by using fingerspelling.

Singing and dancing

There are loads of visual songs that work really well in the pool, for example 'The Hokey Cokey', 'If You’re Happy and You Know It' and 'Dingle Dangle Scarecrow'.

Use sign language or make up gestures to go with the words. Each week, the swimmers will get more familiar with the words and actions, and so will you!

Relays and races

Make sure you have a visual signal for 'go!', such as waving a flag or lowering your arm. Make sure all of the children can see you.

At the end of the race, raise your hands and wiggle your fingers to applaud in British Sign Language!

The bean game

  1. Swimmers move in different directions around the pool and you call out the name of a different type of bean. You can show a picture of the bean instead of calling it out.
  2. When you show the picture of a bean, the children do the appropriate action. Each bean has an action, such as a ‘runner bean’ running, ‘jumping beans’ jumping or ‘broad beans’ stretching.
  3. Do a visual representation of the action before the game starts. You could give a demonstration by jumping or running on the spot, or put a picture on a whiteboard and hold it up for the group to see.

Treasure hunt

  1. Children collect and return equipment to a specified point.
  2. You decide how the swimmers move, for example, jumping.
  3. Use a whiteboard to write down or draw pictures of what the swimmers should collect, for example ‘something green’ or ‘something that sinks’ and how the swimmers should do this, such as walking and blowing bubbles.

Sharks and dolphins

  1. Swimmers split into two groups and face each other.
  2. Call out instructions by doing an agreed gesture for shark or dolphin and showing the number on their fingers. For example, ‘sharks, two steps forward’, ‘dolphins, three jumps back’.
  3. You can call out ‘sharks/dolphins attack!’ by doing an agreed gesture for attack. 
  4. The attacking side tags the others, who run back to their side of the pool. If a swimmer is ‘tagged’, they join the other side.
  5. You can use gestures for ‘shark’ or ‘dolphin’, show pictures or use toys.
  6. Hold up fingers clearly to show numbers and leave them up for enough time so that all children can see. Consider not shouting out the number so all the children have to look, to avoid unfair advantage.
  7. Visually demonstrate the way the swimmers should move, for example, ‘fairy step’, ‘giant leap’, ‘hop’, or use a whiteboard to write instructions.