Learning how to swim is a valuable life skill for children. Swimming lessons accelerate a child’s cognitive and physical development while building stronger social bonds with their parents and peers.

It is essential to introduce your child to swimming as early as possible.

Children as young as six months can begin swimming lessons, but you should assess your child’s development and health or physical limitations. Most kids start at a young age, around three or four.

This article will cover:

  • Must-know safety tips.
  • Basic swimming skills.
  • Different types of strokes you can explore with your kids.

Get ready to make a splash!

Water Safety Is Your First Priority. 

Let’s dive into safety practices that children and adults should adhere to when in and around the pool.

  1. Never leave your children unattended near water, even if they can swim. Accidents can quickly happen.
  2. Teach children basic safety rules, like no running near the pool or diving into shallow water.
  3. Ensure they wear a life jacket or other flotation device when necessary or in unpredictable water conditions.
  4. Check the depth of the water before allowing your children to swim.
  5. Ensure the swimming area is clean and debris-free to avoid injury or illnesses.
  6. Use a waterproof nappy if your toddler is not yet toilet trained.
  7. Check the forecast and water conditions before swimming in natural waters.
  8. Register your child to partake in a weekly swim lesson. You can organise this for them solo or in group lessons with friends!
  9. Ensure your swimming pool is properly secured with a fence and gate to keep children out when not in use.
  10. Take a first aid class. Learning CPR will add an extra safety level if you swim at home with kids or in an area without a lifeguard.

There are regulations around pool safety in the US to keep children safe. Be sure you adhere to these in your home and any homes you visit for a pool day. 

Start Swimming Lessons At An Early Age.

The safest way to introduce a child to swimming is through a certified swimming instructor.

However, if you strongly understand swimming safety rules, you can deliver swim lessons to your child yourself in a safe environment like a local pool. Local pools will have lifeguards on duty for extra precaution.  

Here are our tips on how to teach kids to swim: 

1. Make Your Kid Comfortable The The Water.

Many children have anxiety around swimming, often from fear of the unknown. To minimise nerves, we recommend the following: 

  • Explaining the importance of swimming as a skill and how it can be fun.
  • Running through safety tips (our list above) and discussing these with your kids.
  • Answer any questions they have about how breathing and swimming works.
  • Start by floating around the pool with your kids on their backs. Or, sit together in shallow water and have fun splashing around.

The more confident and comfortable your child is in water, the more quickly they can learn proper swimming techniques. They should see swimming as fun and explorative! 

2. Teach Them How To Breathe Properly.

Breath control practices are imperative for children to avoid swallowing water and panicking while learning to swim.

You can start by teaching your kid to blow bubbles in the water using their mouth and nose.

You can also practise with them by: 

  • Having your child hold their breath whilst you dunk their head underwater quickly.
  • Allow them to inhale and exhale for a few seconds above water to learn about buoyancy.
  • Show them how to hold their breath underwater for a count of three-five.
  • Ask them to take a deep breath, lower their heads until their mouth is submerged underwater, and slowly exhale the full breath. You can do this at the same time as them. 

3. Incorporate Basic Movement.

Once your child is comfortable in the water and has a basic understanding of breathing and safety, it’s time to start teaching them physical movements.

For new swimmers, the best way to start is by learning how both the arms and legs work together to keep one afloat. 

This will teach them basic aquatic locomotive skills and physical and developmental abilities. You can: 

  • Verbally explain how the movements work out of water.
  • Physically demonstrate how to move in the water.
  • Have the younger children practice the action on land.
  • Once in the water, hold them up and allow them to feel what it is like to move their arms and legs. 

Many toddlers will need to practise more advanced movements. However, they mustn’t become reliant on these. For infants, ensure you support their heads to stay above water at all times. 

Leg Movements.

The first activity for all beginners is to practise kicking their legs. There are multiple ways to do this: 

  • Floating: To begin with, you can support your kids to float on their backs whilst they experiment with kicking their legs. 
  • Controlled kicks: You can advance to these as an excellent way for your child to focus on the strength of kicking. You will hold them up on their tummy whilst they do this.
  • Treading water: Practising kicking legs to tread water is a necessary step. To begin with, kids can hold on to the pool wall before trying in deeper water. 
  • Flutter kicks: Utilised by most swimming strokes, these are important to learn. Watch here. 
  • Dolphin kicks: These are advanced kicking styles common in butterfly strokes. They can be fun to practise. 

Arm Movements.

Once children are comfortable kicking, the next step is to learn how to move their arms.

The goal is to develop your child’s coordination and strength to push through the water. We recommend starting with freestyle before learning any other strokes. 

  • Arm position: To begin with, instruct your kids on how to position their hands and fingers. They should relax their hands with a bit of space between their fingers (not closed fingers or spread apart). Watch here.
  • Strokes: Start with basic arm movements, such as reaching out in front and pulling back one arm at a time. You can hold your child on their back or tummy whilst they practise this. Once confident, incorporate breathing techniques. 
  • Monkeys on the wall: This is a fun game that develops grip and arm strength. 

You can also practise essential tasks like: 

  • Jumping into the water from the side of the pool 
  • Diving (always check pool depth) 
  • Turning around whilst swimming
  • Pushing off the pool wall
  • Climbing out of the pool 

For more ideas on teaching arm and leg movements, read here. 

4. Put It All Together With Strokes. 

Once your children have learnt the basics of: 

  • Floating.
  • Treading water.
  • Kicking.
  • Arm movements.
  • Breathing.
  • Entering and exiting the pool.

It’s time to start exploring strokes! Please note that no timeline suits every child; some are more confident than others, and the above steps can be a multiple-month process depending on the frequency of lessons. 

  1. Begin assisted: You should support your child’s body weight in the water while they practise moving their arms and legs together. Typically, the first stroke taught is breaststroke.
  2. Timed breaths: First, your child will breathe when they think they need to. As their confidence grows, teach them how to breathe in time with a specific amount of strokes.

Swimmers are typically taught to breathe every three strokes. However, many children will begin their freestyle journey breathing on the same side (every two strokes) until their breath capacity strengthens. 

(Related: How To Choose A Life Jacket For Your Child).

Slowly Introduce Advanced Swimming Skills.

While your kids build up their strength and confidence in the water, you can begin to introduce different types of strokes.

1. Breaststroke.

As mentioned, the breaststroke is typically the first and the most effortless stroke for new learners as it allows the children to keep their heads above water. 

The breaststroke supports children to focus more on their arm and leg movements without having any anxiety about breathing or being unable to see where they are going.

2. Backstroke.

The backstroke is another common starting point for many beginners. It is a little more complex as children cannot see where they are going. However, you can explain the reference points of the lanes in a swimming pool.

The great news is kids can keep their heads above water here, too, with no pressure to perfect their breathing.

3. Front Crawl.

The front crawl is a wonderful stroke for learners because it allows them to practice timing their breathing in and out of the water with their arm and leg movements. 

Whilst it is a slightly faster-paced stroke, it can build a child’s coordination and confidence in the water. 

4. Butterfly.

The butterfly stroke is the most advanced and complicated stroke to learn. It requires coordination, strength, and breath control to execute well. 

Not only do children have to learn how to move their arms in unison, but they need strength and coordination to kick at the same time and propel themselves forward.

We recommend only teaching butterfly to advanced swimmers. It can be a fun and exciting challenge once kids have mastered other strokes and fitness.

Encourage Swimming And Water Safety.

Swimming is a crucial survival skill for young children to learn. But it can also be fun! It’s a great bonding experience and an excellent tool to build explorative skills and fitness.

First and foremost, you and your child should understand water safety before diving in. Once they are confident playing in shallow water, entering and exiting the pool, and floating, you can move on to more advanced breathing skills, kicking, diving, and strokes.

Watching your kids gain confidence and progress in their skills is exciting. Be sure to be patient and encourage them throughout the process. You never know; you could have a future world champion on your hands! Good luck and happy swimming.