How to Teach your Child to Swim

Teaching a Child to Swim: Parental Advice by Swimming Fun

So many of our customers buy swimwear and swim gear from us when they are starting to teach their kids to swim. With such an important life skill for all children to learn, we created this blog to help you get them in the water and start the joy of swimming!

While swimming lessons are very helpful, there as so many things you can teach a child in basic swimming skills, water safety and the joy of being the water. Our below guide details simple and fun activities that you can do with your child to help them start swimming.

Just remember, all baby and pre-school swimming sessions should be fun. The activities, songs, rhymes and games should give your adult-child pairs a chance to interact with each other, creating an atmosphere of learning through play. The use of activities, songs, rhymes and games can be useful for encouraging action and movement, developing your child’s confidence in the water.

We recommend that before a child starts swimming, you get them some quality swimming goggles. Swimming goggles are an essential piece of equipment for any child who is learning to swim or who just wants to have fun in the water. When children are learning to swim, it is important that they are as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Being able to see clearly underwater will not only give children confidence but will allow them to stay in the water longer.

For a child that is fearful of the water, not being able to see clearly underwater can develop the problem. Wearing goggles for the first time can be a strange sensation for young children and we advise you to give goggles to your child in the bath or shower to get used to the feeling, before you go swimming.
Ready, steady and let’s make a splash!

1. Get them to talk to the water
Getting your child to recognise water sounds and not be frightened of them if a great first step. Firstly, get them to blow bubbles in the water. Then get them to put their ear into the water and listen to the bubbles back. Little floating toys can really make this fun. Get them to blow them along the surface and create bubbles in the water at the same time.

This is a great way for them to develop breathing skills. Sing songs or rhyme’s as you go along to make this fun. Obviously accidentally swallowing water is not fun and can be frightening for the child, so make sure you encourage them to put their face in the water and blow bubbles to increase their comfort and confidence.
A great tip is for you to go under the water when they do, and then come up happy and smiley. If they see you happy and confident in the water, they will learn quickly that its safe and fun. Obviously a good pair of goggles is good for you too!

2. Catch some floating toys
Next sit your child in water that's between their waist and chest. Ideally this would be on shallow steps into a pool or a sloping shallow end. Then ask them to catch some floating swim toys. Get them to reach out “like a tiger”, as we know the front crawl stroke, lifting their arms in the air and pulling water towards themselves. Get them to catch the floating toys in front of them whilst doing the arm actions and pull the toys towards their body.

This will get them used to swimming arm actions. Again you can sing a fun song to your child at this point or count how many floating toys they have caught or even make it into a counting game. Ensure you throw back the floating toys in front of the child again and repeat a few times. Really important to keep happy and smile at this time to grow confidence in your child.
Just make sure your child stays sitting and safe at this point.

3. Get them used to the float position
This is the point to take your child securely into the water and get them used the front float position. With a happy face, ensure you securely hold your child under their arms, facing you. Start walking backwards in the water and slowly pick up a little speed. This will move your child into the front float position. Then take your child in a circle: you could pretend you are a speed boat, maybe a fast submarine, even a magical mermaid. Whatever your child will be engaged by.

This will start getting them used to the horizontal swimming position. As your child gets more confident with this float position, you could get them to stretch their arms around the back of your neck. You could also get them to stretch out their legs if they are happy too as this will get them used to the front body position when they start swimming.

Song tips here:
Motorboat, Motorboat
Motorboat, motorboat go so slow
Motorboat, motorboat go so fast
Motorboat, motorboat, step on the gas!

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
Zoom zoom zoom, we are going to the moon
Zoom zoom zoom we are going very soon, Five, four, three, two, one blast off!

I'm a Little Pancake
I'm a little pancake on my back
I'm a little pancake nice and flat, Flip me over and swim me back

4. Used to holding on
Take your child to the edge of the pool. Make sure they are front of you, with your tummy to their back. Place their hands on the end of the pool and pull their fingers out straight. Start guiding them on how to hold on, showing them how to place their fingers over the edge.

Its now time to show them how to go along the edge of the pool from left to right. Take them along right and then back left, holding their hands flat to encourage them to stretch out their hands. Ensure you are still holding onto your child at this point.

This is a great time to again to sing songs and encourage your child to hold on properly. Once they have established to hold their hands flat on the edge, show them how to curl their fingers to hold on. Get your child to bend their fingers over the edge, whilst still holding their back to your tummy. Once you are confident they are holding on, slowly move back slightly into the pool, letting them drop into the water. Then pick them up again, ensuring they are safe. Once you have established your child is holding on, you can repeat this exercise every time you are in the pool, slowing letting go each time until they can hold their entire body weight by holding on.

This is a key safety skill to ensure they can develop abilities to hold onto the edge of the pool.

5. Time to Kick!
Next, sit next to your child on a shallow end or step of the pool. If your child is older, then they can hold onto the side of the pool and face the wall.
Use the traffic light system: Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light. Say green and your child can kick really fast. Say red, they must stop. Say Amber (or Yellow if your child is very young) and they need to kick slowly. This will develop kicking and propulsion skills.

A key tip is to make sure your child points their toes. If you child has enabled this, take them into the pool with a float and get them to hold onto the float and do the traffic light kicking game.

6. Taking the plunge
In the shallow end, crouch two feet away from the wall and hold your child so they are standing on your knees with your hands supporting their waist (you are both facing the wall). Ask them to jump off your knees and grab on to the wall. The first few times, they will not actually be swimming, but using the propulsion from their jump to get to the wall. This technique slowly gets your child used to swimming independently.

A tip is to gradually increase your distance from the wall, reminding your child you are close by if you need to catch them. They may struggle the first few times but keep encouraging your child and applaud their progress and very soon, you will have a super little swimmer on your hands!

Safe swimming
Due to the danger of the water we advise that when a child is within the water they are always supervised and that a child learns swimming skills as early as possible.

Be sure that your child knows to ask permission before entering the water and that access to pools is restricted when they are not in use. Remind children about the rules, such as no horseplay or running around the pool. Life Jackets or Water Wing Vests should be worn by kids who cannot swim, unless an adult is providing close supervision in shallow water.

We note that Swimming Fun only provides this blog as guidance in no lawful way is a provider of qualified swimming instruction. Should you require further advice how to teach your child to swim, we recommend you seek official guidance from an ASA Swim Teacher for further support.