Tips/Ideas For Teaching Kids to Swim

Updated on August 12, 2008
L.M. asks from Brookdale, CA
7 answers

Are swim lessons a must for kids to learn how to swim? I have three young kids(6,4,2)that love the water and are showing an interest to learn but I will not be able to take them to lessons this summer. We have done them the last two years (for only three weeks and they did not learn) so I'm thinking maybe I should just try. Is it realistic to think I can take my kids to a pool and teach them alone? Any tips would be very helpful.

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So What Happened?

I did end up putting my two older kids in lessons. My husband and I took the three to the pool one afternoon and I felt there was no way I could teach them. They are at the end of their frist week of lessons and I really hope by the end of next week they are more comfortable and closer to swimming if not actually swimming. Thanks for the responses. After their lessons I was able to take all three in the pool for open swim and felt comfortable doing that.

More Answers


answers from Fresno on

Hi L.,
I learned to swim before I could walk, and my mother taught me. It is realistic that you can teach your kids to swim. I was a lifeguard and swim instructor for years during high school and college, so I know a few "tricks of the trade." Here are some pages out of my lesson plans:

1) Have them start by blowing bubbles. If any of them is afraid because the pool seems soooo big, just cup your hands together under the water and say, "Fill my hands with bubbles."
2) Work up to getting them to go under water and blow out all their bubbles underwater. I used to play "underwater circus" with my classes of 2 year olds, where we'd all go underwater holding hands, and when we came up they'd tell me what silly circus animal they had seen underwater (such as a purple striped elephant, or a green tiger). The purpose here is that a child who is comfortable underwater will be able to open her eyes.
3) Once they can blow bubbles and put their faces in the water, you can move on to the "superwoman float" - where they put their arms out in front of them, legs kicking away in the back, and blowing out their bubbles with their faces in the water. You can stand 5 feet from the side of the pool and give them a boost toward the wall.
4) Your little ones will not be able to do any kind of arms above the water at this age - they may do better swimming underwater. Your 6 year old will be able to learn how to move her arms.
5) Teach them to float on their backs. Tell them to "make a pillow" with their hands under their heads (be sure to stand so the sun isn't shining in their faces) and tell them to put their tummies up toward the sky, and relax. It's ok if their feet don't float. Put one of your hands on their back and one hand on their tummy. Once you feel them floating, slowly remove your hand from their back but keep your hand on their tummy. They will think you're still holding them!
6) They should know how to jump into the water from standing on the edge. Obviously you will catch them at first. As they get better at this, have them jump in, turn over onto their backs, and float. This is a great survival skill in case they ever fall in - they need to know not to panic.
7) Once they can jump in, turn over and float, you can work on jumping in, turning around, and swimming back to the edge.
8) Teach them to go around the pool edge, hand over hand, until they get to the steps. (The idea being, they've fallen in, made it to the edge - now can they get out of the pool?)
9) Assuming your 6 year old will master all of this very easily, she will be ready to learn to swim across the pool (with or without arms). Since she will know how to blow bubbles already, when she runs out of bubbles, tell her to lift her head and "take a bite of air." I know it sounds weird, but it gets the idea across to them that they need to take a breath, close their mouth, and put their head back down.

You should be able to do all of that during this summer. What's listed above won't get them onto swim team, but really the goal is water safety above all else. This will get them comfortable with swimming skills and will help them not to panic if they do fall into the water and you aren't right there to catch them. I hope this helps! Good luck and have fun!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

hi L.,
I think the most important skill to teach, and one you can do in a pool with them is to tread water. It seems that in all the swim lessons that my kids have had, that was one of the last things that was taught, and to me, the learning to tread water thing is sooo important. I want my kids to know what to do in deep water where they can't touch. My daughter is almost eight and has had 4 summers worth of lessons, 1 to 2 weeks long, and she still panicks when she can't touch and she starts to thrash around and sink. She doesn't know how to tread water! This is a skill I am going to work with her on this summer in the public swim pool.

Focus on that skill first, then get to teaching the breast stroke or butterfly, or whatever. Water safety and being comfortable in deep water is much more important than knowing the right swim strokes! Also teach relaxing and floating in the water on their backs. I think that helps with getting more comfortable in water. Have fun and remember sun screen!



answers from Sacramento on

I have taught swim lessons at a year-round pool. When they are as young as your kids and you can get them to listen to you in the pool, I think it is reasonable. If they are begining swimmers you can teach basic water entries, putting eyes in , teaching how to blow bubbles, scooping hands, kicking, back floating, just getting comfy in the water. Some parents can't get their kids to listen to them and end up taking them to lessons because some kids do better with teachers who are not their parents...but this is not true all the time.
Also try teaching them individually if they are at different skill levels. When they get a little more advanced, like learning butterfly and breaststoke then you might want to take them to lessons if you are not as proficient in these strokes.



answers from Chico on

Hi L.,

Growing up, my Mom insisted all three of her kids learn how to swim. Mama's logic was, "Since I don't know how to swim, I knew I couldn't save you if you fell in the water."

I am not sure of the method used to teach my brother. I think it was Boy Scouts though. I was put into lessons. I taught my sister (10 years younger). Any method you choose to teach your kids water safety and to learn to swim will be the correct one. It is a must they learn.

You are in my prayers,



answers from Stockton on

That how I taught my 4 children I didn't see the need to pay somebody else lots of money and my kids are great swimmers now and it didn't take me long at all Good luck and keep up the good work D.



answers from San Francisco on

Our daughter didn't learn a whole lot w/ group lessons, so we sprang for the private lessons. She did great. She's not the strongest swimmer, but she can swim.

One thing that's fun to do once the kids are used to the water is to throw quarters into the pool and they get to keep the quarters they can bring to the surface.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi L.,
We have a backyard pool so my 5 year old has been in the water for five years. This is the first year that she can actually "swim." She is still not allowed in the deep end without her life jacket and a grown up. My husband is in the pool every day after dinner with the kids. We are not overprotective of our kids. With pools it's different. It only takes a moment for danger.

Can parents teach their own kids to swim? Definitely.

Can small kids learn to really swim in a couple of trips to a pool over the summer? It's unlikely.

Next summer, both of my kids will be in swim lessons even though we have a pool. Our public pool here offers swim lessons in two week sessions all summer long. I anticipate participating all summer.

You asked if it was "realistic." Your two year old and six year old are at really different levels, in terms of water safety. You will not be able to turn your back on the younger one for a moment. Will you be able to work with the other two while the younger one is there? My kids are 3.5 and 5.5 and I can definitely see that we could do that. But both of my kids can reach the bottom of the pool and ALWAYS listen when it comes to pool safety. This is the first year we feel confident having both kids and only one adult in the pool.

Good luck.

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