Tips for teaching children to swim

Tips for teaching children to swim

By Babysits, 6 min read

Water activities and swimming can be great fun for kids! But you might be worried about pool safety and teaching kids how to swim in the backyard pool. Take a read of our tips to find out how you can start teaching your little ones to swim.

They’ll follow your lead

Whether you dread the thought of water or absolutely love it, your kids will watch your reaction and follow suit. The first step in teaching kids to swim is having a positive attitude and ensuring that your kids understand that swimming can be great fun!

When should my child start learning to swim?

This will depend entirely on your child. If they love the water and are showing signs that they might be keen to splash about in something bigger than the bathtub, then it could be a good idea to think about teaching your little one to swim. It isn’t necessary to start teaching at an early age, but it can be a fun activity for both you and your child to do together.

baby swimming

Should I enrol my child in swimming lessons?

Swimming lessons are a fantastic way to instil confidence in your child and help them become strong swimmers. However, it isn’t necessary to take your child to swimming lessons. You might prefer to teach them yourself at home (if you have a swimming pool) or to complement traditional swimming lessons with home lessons as well.

Start with floaties

You might like to start teaching your little one to adjust to the water by equipping them with floaties/water wings. Of course, you should never leave your child unattended with floaties. While they are great at keeping your little one buoyant, there is no guarantee that they will prevent drowning.

Child with floaties

Take time to let them adjust to the pool

It is likely that your child will take some time to adjust to the water. It is even possible that your child will dislike the water on the first few occasions. Be sure to stay close to your child at all times while in the water and help reaffirm to your child that the pool is a safe and fun environment.

Practice holding your breath

An important part of learning how to swim is learning to hold your breath underwater. This can feel like a daunting task to little ones. Help your child adapt to breathing underwater by first blowing bubbles together in the water. Kids often find this a hilarious task and will have great fun creating water bubbles. You can also try showing them that they can hold their nose while being submerged underwater. This will help them to relate being underwater with having to hold their breath.

Teaching kids to swim

When teaching kids to swim, practice at a depth that is around your child’s chin but certainly never deeper than your own chin. It can also help to have older kids help in the pool with you to help out. This will make the experience more fun for everyone and keep your little one excited about the experience of being with their older siblings in the big pool. When teaching your child to swim, be sure to start with small steps and keep the “lessons” short and fun to ensure a positive experience for your little one. Follow these tips for teaching kids to swim:

Controlled kicks

Teaching your child to kick their legs in the water is a great first step in learning how to swim. To get started, have your child wrap their arms around your neck while they lay in the water on their belly. Then, encourage your child to kick their legs back in short, quick motions. Another method is to have your child in a sitting position with their back against your chest with their legs kicking on top of the water. While they do this, walk backward carefully to show that the kicking motion can propel them forward.

Back Floating

Teaching your child to float on their back is a super valuable skill. To get started, have your child lay their head on your shoulder and encourage them by asking them to “keep their tummy dry” or “look to the sky”. As they gain confidence, you can progress onto supporting their neck with one hand and their back with the other. Never force your child to attempt back floating if they do not want to. This can create a negative impression of back floating and may discourage them from giving it a go.

Treading Water

Once they’ve gained more confidence in the water, it’s an essential skill to teach your child how to tread water. Begin teaching your child to tread in water that is shallow enough for them to stand-up if they need a break. To tread water, stand vertically with your head above the water. Teach your child to move their arms and legs in a circular motion to keep themselves above the water.

child treading water

Jumping in the pool

Once your little one has gained some more confidence and can stay above water, it can be great fun to teach your child to jump into (relatively shallow) water. Stand in the water and encourage your child to jump into your arms. It might be easiest to start hesitant children by sitting them on the side of the pool, and then gently lifting off the side of the pool and into your arms. This is a great way to teach kids that swimming can be great fun and increase their confidence in and around the water.

Child jumping into pool

Cling to the wall

Although a simple step, knowing how to cling to the side of the pool is an essential skill for little ones. When tuckered out from swimming, children need to know that they can cling to the side of the pool for a bit of rest. Teach kids to hold onto the pool ledge and move around the pool by placing one hand over the other and walking their legs up against the side of the pool wall. Of course, you should never leave children unattended in the pool.

Child on side of pool

Climbing out of the pool

How you go about teaching your child to get out of the pool will depend entirely on the type of pool you have. If your pool has a ladder, it is important that your child has the upper body strength to pull themselves up each of the steps. You will need to help your child in getting in and out of the pool until they are able to do so on their own.

Celebrate together

Whether they’ve dunked their heads under the water momentarily or are making kicks with their legs, be sure to celebrate the journey together, every step of the way!

Before you and your little one hit the pool, be sure to check out our sun safety tips for kids.