How to Teach Your Child to Swim

By Amber Keefer
Teaching a child to swim takes patience.
Teaching a child to swim takes patience.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that drowning is the second leading cause of death for children and that not all children are ready to learn to swim at the same age. According to the AAP, many kids don’t develop the physical coordination they need to learn how to swim until about age 4. If your child is younger than 4, you need to decide whether he has the physical and cognitive abilities to learn swimming skills. When the time comes, teaching your child how to swim might be easier if you get him used to water at an early age.

Prepare your child for what to expect when she goes swimming. Let her know that it takes time to learn how to swim. Tell her how fun it can be in the water, but make it clear that she is never to go near or in the water without you or another adult present.

Spend time with your child just watching other kids swimming. If he isn’t ready to get wet on that first visit to the pool, wait another day. Encourage him, but don’t make him get into the water if he doesn’t want to.

Play with your child in the water so he sees learning to swim as fun. Once you get down to serious business, playing together in the water halfway through and at the end of each lesson can help keep your child motivated.

Take your child in water that’s 3- to 4-feet deep. She will feel more secure if she knows that you are standing safely in the water with your feet on the floor of the pool, ready to give her physical support if she needs it.

Teach your child to control his breathing. Show him how to blow bubbles in the water. Once he’s comfortable with getting his face wet, encourage him to duck his head underwater for five to 10 seconds at a time.

Introduce your child to the basics of swimming one skill at a time, according to Start by teaching her how to float in shallow water. Have her practice gliding through the water before moving on to trying synchronized leg kicking and arm movements.

Give your child brief and simple instructions. Demonstrate the movements you’re teaching so he can see for himself what he’s supposed to do. As he grows more capable at one swimming skill, move on to another. Build on skills your child already has down pat.

Keep swim lessons short but make time for them two or three times each week. Kids have short attention spans so your child is less likely to become distracted if you don’t let her get tired from being in the water too long. Limit lessons to 15 or 20 minutes, according to The length of the lessons isn’t what counts. How much she practices her technique is what matters.

About the Author

Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.