Monday, July 5, 2010

Teaching a Toddler to Swim

Yesterday I took Noah swimming. It had been about 8 months since he last entered a pool. I was a little unsure about how he would react. His second cousin, Hudson, loved the water at age one. When his mother took him swimming 1 year later, he hated it! I thought the same might happen with Noah. I let out a sigh of relief when he started giggling uncontrollably after getting into the pool!

Anyway, I thought I would list a few tips for teaching a toddler to swim. Some of these I learned from the Parks and Recreation swimming class I took Noah to. Other tips are from reputable websites that deal with teaching babies or toddlers to swim.
  • "...for each month your child is not in the pool, it takes approximately 1 to 2 days to return to their previous level" ( )
  • At Parks and Recreation, they told us to count "1, 2, 3", and then blow in the baby's face before dunking them underwater. You should go underwater at the same time as them and make sure your face is happy and relaxed when you come up. If you're not doing it and having fun, it may be hard for your child to relax about it. Some recommend teaching the child to blow bubbles in the water first ( ).
  • Teach your baby/toddler to kick their legs. First, get them used to what kicking is by placing your hands on their legs and making their legs do a kicking motion. To do this you need to get yourself and your baby into position.
  • Back Float Position - You should be up to your shoulders in the water. Your baby should be facing away from you. Put your baby or toddler in a back float position with their head resting on your shoulder. (Your child may not want to lay his or her head back, but at least you are in the general position.) You can then stretch out your arms under them or beside them, and hold onto their legs to make them kick. Only move backwards when you are making the kicking motion with your baby's legs. Repeat "kick" as you are doing this, so that they understand what kicking is. Eventually they should be able to kick when you say "kick".
  • Front Float Position - Flip your baby or toddler over so that his or her chin is resting on your shoulder. The rest is the same as the Back Float Position.
  • You may find (as I have found with Noah) that your baby refuses to kick, and wants YOU to do the work. You can encourage them to kick by throwing a pool toy in the water, and having them kick to move towards, and get the toy. (You kick their legs for them if they won't kick.) I find this a good technique because it teaches your child that they cannot move if they do not kick their legs.
  • Many websites that focus on teaching a baby or toddler to swim warn against aggressive teaching methods. Thus, do not force your child into any position. Encourage them and help them, but don't force them if they are clearly fearful. Although this may sound obvious, we do live in a competitive society that is intent on 'getting the job done' (in this case, teaching the child to swim). If so many websites have to explicitly condemn aggressive teaching methods for swimming, these methods must not be uncommon. A positive attitude towards the water comes first and foremost.


  1. Thanks for posting this! I have a 16 month old and she seems pretty content in the water, so I'd love to try and teach her the basics now. Gonna bookmark this page. Following you from the MBC!

  2. Thanks! I'm following your site too. Your children are so beautiful!

  3. Great tips! Thanks for sharing this!