Dive into Fun: A Guide to Teaching Your Young Child to Swim

Swimming can be a fun and rewarding experience for all, but it’s important to take the process slowly. With summer approaching and National Water Safety Month here, there’s no better time to introduce your child to fun water activities! To help your family dive into the fun, Children’s Discovery Center has created this handy guide to teaching your young child how to swim – safely and confidently!

Why should my child learn to swim?

Learning to swim does more than unlock a world of aquatic fun! Swimming lessons also teach important water safety skills, such as how to float, tread and breathing techniques that help keep our young explorers safe in and around water. 

Swim lessons can also provide children with physical and developmental benefits. Swimming is a low-impact exercise that can help improve cardiovascular health, strength and endurance. It can also help children develop coordination, balance, confidence and social skills.

When should I teach my child to swim?

While there is no definitive answer, most experts agree that the best time to start swimming lessons is between the ages of one and four. At this age, children are naturally curious and fearless, making them more open to trying new things. 

Keep in mind that all children develop at different paces, and one child may be quicker to take to water than their peers. This is no cause for frustration! Aside from age, you should also consider your swimmer’s emotional maturity, physical and developmental abilities and comfort level before enrolling in an official swim class.

Note: While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that swimming lessons begin around one year, infant swim classes are also an option. Though children this young will likely not retain the lessons taught, these classes can be an ideal first introduction to the pool and offer benefits such as improved cognitive function, muscle strength, sleep quality and more!

How do I teach my child to swim?

As with any childhood teaching experience, patience is the key to success. Approach this process with an open mind and take things at a pace that does not overwhelm your child. Remember, this is an all-new experience! Guiding your little one with care and understanding will help them hone their skills and prepare them for fun as a strong, confident swimmer.

While the following steps will help with at-home lessons, enrolling in formal classes does provide your child with additional practice and guidance from a trained instructor. These lessons ensure a structured, safe environment and help your child learn advanced swimming skills, such as diving and treading water.

Practice these steps to supplement your formal swimming classes:

Step 1: Introduce your child to the water.

The first step in teaching your child to swim is introducing them to the water. This can be done in a variety of ways, but it’s important to start in a shallow area, such as a kiddie pool or the shallow end of a larger pool. 

Encourage them to splash around and play, but ensure they feel safe and secure. Hold your child in the water, letting them get used to being supported by it. This can help build their confidence and make them more comfortable as you go.

Step 2: Teach basic water safety skills.

Before you start teaching your child to swim, it’s important to teach them basic water safety skills. Teach your little one the importance of never swimming alone, always wearing a life jacket when in deep water, and following pool rules

While poolside playtime can be exciting, stress the importance of walking (not running) around the pool, as well as staying away from drains and filters, and always asking permission before entering the water.

Step 3: Teach your child to blow bubbles.

Once your child is comfortable and understands basic water safety, it’s time to start teaching swimming skills. Begin with something fun and simple – blowing bubbles! This skill helps children learn to exhale and keep their face in the water. According to the American Red Cross, blowing bubbles is a foundational skill for learning to swim.

To begin, demonstrate how to blow bubbles by doing so yourself. Encourage your child to try it, and praise them when they do. You can make it fun by pretending to blow out candles or making animal sounds underwater.

Step 4: Teach your child to float.

Start by having your child lie on their back in the water, with their head resting on your shoulder. When getting started, hold your little one under their back and neck to support them. Encourage your child to relax and breathe deeply. Slowly release your support until your child is floating on their own. Praise your child when they can float independently.

Step 5: Teach your child to kick.

Learning to kick will help your child move through the water and stay afloat. Ease your young swimmer into this process by having them hold onto the side of the pool, facing the wall. Encourage them to kick their legs, keeping their toes pointed and their legs straight. 

Increase the fun of this activity by placing toys in the water for your child to kick towards. As your little one becomes more comfortable with kicking, you can gradually move them away from the wall and have them kick with their face in the water while supporting their body.

Step 6: Teach your child to use their arms.

Finally, teach your child how to use their arms. Start by having your child hold onto the side of the pool with their face in the water. Next, Encourage them to reach forward with one arm, pulling the water towards them, and then reaching forward with the other arm. This will help them learn to alternate their arm movements while keeping their face in the water.

As your child becomes more comfortable using their arms, you can have them practice kicking and using their arms together to swim short distances. Remember to always praise your child and make it a fun experience.

Discover your child’s potential at Children’s Discovery Center!

As a trusted source of childcare for more than 40 years, Children’s Discovery Center helps children realize their full potential. Through our Reggio Emilia-inspired lessons, our team helps students explore the world in supportive and nurturing environments built upon Christian values. Contact us today to schedule a visit to our state-of-the-art discovery centers.