There’s a decent chance that you, like a lot of people, remember when (and how) you first learned how to swim. Perhaps that’s because you were scared of the water, and facing life — and the pool — with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. Or maybe your parents signed you up for swimming lessons, but your local YMCA didn’t have room in the budget for real floaties, so they tied empty bleach bottles together with a pair of pantyhose, put them around your tiny arms, and told you to “jump right in kiddo.” Or maybe it’s because you learned how to swim during a family vacation full of fun memories and all the dad jokes. For others — like those who lived somewhere with a pool or near a swimmable body of water — it may not be a part of their childhood that stands out at all and is just something they’ve always remembered knowing how to do.
Now that we’re parents ourselves, there’s a good chance that — like it or not — we’re going to play some role in how our kids learn to swim. Of course, as you’ve already likely learned (many times over), even the best-laid plans of parents don’t always have the intended result. We just do what we think is most beneficial for our kids, and hope for the best. If you’re the one tasked with being the family’s swimming instructor, here’s what to know about how to teach kids to swim so you can finally enjoy all the water games you’ve been wanting to.
Swimming for Kids and Other Beginners
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that beginning swimmers of any age should start by working with a trained and certified swimming instructor. If you, as their parent, happen to be one, that’s great. But if you’re not, and even if you technically know how to swim, you definitely want your child learning from a professional, where they’ll learn all the best techniques and safety practices.
How to Teach Kids to Swim
Once your child has the basics down, you can continue to help them practice and improve when you get the opportunity. If you’re unsure where to start, here are some basic instructions, courtesy of Healthline:
- Walk into the water with your child, holding their arms or hands to keep them afloat.
- Hold onto your child under their armpits, making sure they are calm. Ask them to inhale, extend their arms out like Superman, and blow bubbles for a few seconds underwater to practice exhaling.
- Repeat the process if your child is calm, this time letting go. This will give them a chance to float for up to five seconds.
- Hold onto your child under their armpits and have them blow bubbles in the water as you slowly step backward in the water.
- Repeat the process, but this time have them kick their feet up and down.
- Repeat the previous step and let go.
- When teaching how to inhale, ask the child to lift their head out of the water, breathe in, and move their arms and hands forward.
The First Skill Every Swimmer Should Learn
For kids, putting their heads underwater can be overwhelming and a little scary. But to learn the ins and outs of swimming, face and ear immersion is a must, and the first thing kids should learn. When children become comfortable with water, they’re able to dive deeper into their training. It’s also imperative to their safety to learn how to put their heads underwater without getting it into their noses or choking on the water.
Video Demonstrations of Teaching Children How to Swim
Even when you don’t have access to a pool or non-polluted, safe body of water, it can be helpful for you to watch swimming instructional videos with your child. This gives them another perspective on what they’ve been learning and helps reinforce the proper form of different techniques. Here are a few videos to check out:
Teach Your Kid to Swim With No Stress
That’s a mighty big claim to make, but also: we’re listening.
How to Teach Your Child to Tread Water
Geared towards children between the ages of two and five, a swimming instructor named Clive walks you through how to show your kid how to tread water.
Full YMCA Beginning Swim Class for Preschoolers
This YMCA is legit: it has real floaties and everything. Not a single empty bleach bottle tied onto a child’s arm via taupe pantyhose in sight.
Front and Back Floats
An intro to a basic — and very important — swimming skill.
Bubbles & Breathing
Since these are two of the very first things a child will learn in swim class, it can help to remind them of these crucial aspects of swimming, until they become second nature.
Swimming Safety Tips
Learning how to swim is a super fun activity, but it’s important to practice safety. Here are a few tips to share with your child to keep them protected.
- Never let children near water by themselves and teach them never to swim alone.
- Make sure kids spit out their gum before going swimming to keep them from choking on it in the water.
- Keep children away from water when there’s lightning or during a thunderstorm.
- When swimming in rivers, lakes, or the ocean, remember pool toys and water wings are not safety devices. If you’re going to a natural body of water, grab some actual lifejackets.
- If you have a pool or body of water in your backyard, make sure a gate or high wall blocks it off. This will keep kids from accidentally slipping in.
- Pool covers and gate handles that are inaccessible to children are also a big help.
- It’s also important to have a good view of the water from your house, so you can always make sure there aren’t any little ones near the water without an adult.