Safe swimming According to the Lifesaving Society, the majority of backyard-pool drowning victims under five were alone when they fell into the pool. This is why it’s so important that parents provide adequate supervision, and that children learn swimming skills as early as possible; a child’s ability to paddle two feet and grab on to the wall can potentially save his life.

I started this blog thinking that I wanted to help parents teach their own kids to swim, using the natural advantages of their relationship with their kids to make the process fun for everyone in the family. I wanted to provide tips and tricks and step-by-step guidance. I wanted to help parents use their time on dry land to reinforce what their kids learn in the pool.

For more information, visit lifesavingsociety.com or redcross.ca.

A calm and relaxed approach is essential.  If you are relaxed, then so will they be.  If you're having fun, the chances are they will too. 

That depends on the age of the child.  A baby will need a floatation device that they can sit in and still be free to move their legs.  Water wings or discs are useful for the older child although they do restrict arm movements.  Nevertheless they do provide good support.

“I show Mommy my swimming. I can do it myself!” exclaimed four-year-old Braedon, midway through one of our swimming lessons. When he showed off his slightly uncoordinated paddle across the pool, both mom and son had ear-to-ear grins.

Now that is the million dollar question.  There is a distinct difference between a teacher teaching a child to swim and a parent teaching a child to swim.  The difference being that children will generally do what a teacher asks of them, but they will be more inclined to disobey or refuse the request of their parents, especially if they have any kind of fear of the water.  It is for this reason that every visit to the swimming pool should be fun.

The basics steps outlined in the previous two questions are the mains ones.  Kicking, blowing bubbles, breath holding and using their arms, all in no particular order.  Not all children will take to all parts and some will hate some of them.

Parents should make a game out of everything.  Use toys, floaters, sinkers, have races – do all the fun stuff that distracts their child from the fact that they are learning to swim.  If they do then there is no reason why they cannot teach their child to swim and be safe in the water.

You’ve got all your gear ready to go. You’re well rested, and so are your kids. You’ve read the book and perused the blog, learning how to teach and what to teach. You’re in the car and ready to go. What now? First, make sure you’ve got the kids in the car with you. No? Back into the house for them, then. Okay, ready?

The hydrodynamic, light-weight design of this snorkel results in less drag, making it ideal for a variety of training types.

What kind of learner is your child? Does he like to observe from a distance? Does he like to jump right in? Respect his learning style.

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For many of the families I have worked with as a swim instructor, the excitement of a child’s first solo swim is on par with his first steps.

The number one goal when taking your child to the swimming pool is to have fun, especially if your child is frightened or scared in any way, so the fundamentals of actually swimming are secondary at this stage.  

If you haven’t already, check out some things you should do–here, here, here, and here–when you’re teaching your kids to swim. Got it? Great! Now keep in mind these 15 “don’ts” and you’ll be ready to start teaching your kids to swim (or reinforcing the lessons their swimming teacher has already taught).

I don’t think there’s anything I say more than the words Let’s do some kick. The thing I see most with the little ones is that their legs sink when they try to tread (or swim freestyle). They need to be able to balance out their bodies. Keeping their legs as straight as possible and kicking with a kickboard (or holding onto the gutter) is essential to learning how to swim. With practice, this will eventually allow them to stay afloat.

While lessons are certainly helpful, there are many things you can do to teach your kids basic swimming skills, water safety and a love for all things aquatic. Read on to learn five simple, fun activities to help your child take those first independent strokes in the water. These activities can help teach children as young as 18 months how to swim. It’s a great way to introduce swimming skills in stages. So grab your towels and let’s go!

Tip: Gradually increase your distance from the wall, reminding your child to catch the fishies with his hands and kick his feet. He may struggle the first few times, but keep encouraging him and applauding his progress and, very soon, you will have a super little swimmer on your hands!

The BridgeAthletic Building Block Series is a set of 5 exercises that can be performed by swimmers of all levels on the pool deck.

In terms of the best equipment and toys for teaching a child to swim you can find most of the basic needs on the net in places like Amazon, Swim Outlet or Swim Shop.  Swim noodle, Swimfin, water wings, floats, and all kinds of toys are available and fairly inexpensive.

Thank-you Gillian for such excellent advice. I feel a lot more confident in teaching my daughter how to swim now. I’ll probably print it out and laminate it to take to the pool.

The Complete Beginners Guide to Swimming is my best-selling book and contains everything from entering the pool to relaxing, floating and submerging underwater, as well as detailed exercises on how to swim the four basic swimming strokes.

You cannot expect a 3 or 4 year old to grasp the technicalities of the circular breaststroke leg kick or have the strength or power to generate propulsion from it, so breaststroke is also not an option.  As far as swimming in a prone position goes, a basic alternating leg kick combined with an alternating reaching and pulling action with the hands and arms is the easiest technique to grasp.  Hey presto, doggie paddle. 

Swim goggles are a great tool to use here.  Not only do most children think they are cool, but they soon realise that they can see everything under the water.  It literally opens up a whole new world for them.  Providing they have mastered holding their breath then you will not be able to stop them from putting their faces and heads underwater.

Take it slow. Enjoy each other. Have fun. If you don’t enjoy each other and have fun, it’s going to be hard—maybe impossible—for you to teach your kids to swim. Your first visit to the pool will set the tone for the lessons to come. Use what you know about your child to make it a great experience for him, and he’ll be happy to come back again and again.

How to teach a child to swim

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At the end of the day all you want is your child to get a confident grasp of one of the most important life skills.  Children should be taught that the water is a safe place to have fun.

We have discussed the two different basic techniques of track starts, weight forward and weight back, and the importance of coupling motions in improving the outcome of both techniques.

Our age-by-age guide to water lessons, games, and safety.

The better you understand what your kids are experiencing, the easier and more effective the process of teaching them to swim will be. Children are different than adults. (Surprise!) Understanding the differences will help you to put yourself in your child’s place and respond to his needs. Responding to your child’s needs will help to make the learning process fun and effective for both of you.

Skill: Breath control, which is the first step in teaching your child to swim independently. Accidentally swallowing water can be a frightening setback, so make sure you encourage him to submerge his face and blow bubbles to increase his comfort level in the water.

Have your child sit in a chair and alternate pointing and flexing his feet. Is he fast enough to keep you from pinching his toes when he points them?

As for teaching a child about floating there are a few techniques to for them to try out.  Star floats can be good fun.  Face down if the child is ok with putting their face in the water, or face up if not.  Arms and legs out stretched wide in the shape of a star and just float (in theory!).  Most children will need some support, under their back or head, or holding their hands to start with. 

Tip: Make sure when you submerge your face and blow bubbles, you come up with a smile on your face. Your little one will be more apt to try this if he sees how much fun you have while doing it!

Kids’ bodies and physical abilities, sensory experiences, feelings, motivations, and perceptions of success all differ from those of adults, and they all affect how kids learn to swim. When you’re teaching your kids to swim, take time to put yourself in their shoes. (Not literally. Their shoes are too small for your feet.)

Even the best swimming lesson or play session in the water can turn ugly if you don’t have a plan for the moment you get out of the pool. Keep these four tasks in mind, and you and your kids will make it home (or at least back to the car) feeling as happy as you did in the water.

Are you back in your own shoes now? What a relief. Remind yourself when you’re teaching your kids to swim that their bodies give them some extra challenges when it comes to learning to swim. Keeping your kids’ experience in mind will help you to be patient and to adjust your swimming lessons to work better for them, and if the lessons are working better for your kids, everybody’s having more fun.

To get to this elite level of success, high-levels of dedication and effort are required.

I love these games because they teach swimming skills without the kids knowing it. When I told my kids to practice their skills from their swim lesson, it didn’t go well. When I made a game out of it, they loved it.