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How can I Help my Child Learn to Swim?

By J. Beam
Updated May 17, 2024
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Learning to swim is a feat that many adults have never accomplished and while it is not essential to learn to swim, there are many reasons why the skill can be important – especially for a child. A child who has learned to swim has the confidence to attend pool parties, summer camp, and other special recreational activities involving water. More importantly, they are safer in and around the water.

You can help your child learn to swim by simply providing them with the opportunity and being supportive. If you are a strong swimmer and have access to a pool, you can teach a child to swim with patience and persistence. If you don’t swim, then consider enrolling your child in a class to learn to swim. Even if you can swim, you might still consider a class for your child. Many recreation centers and public pools offer classes taught by Red Cross certified swim instructors and some children respond better to instruction from someone other than their parent.

The following tips and suggestions can help you and your child in the endeavor to learn to swim:

  • Introduce your child to the water early in life. Children who become familiar with the water early on are less likely to be afraid of the water later. Consider allowing your child to have a kiddie pool or frequenting a public pool. Most public and many private pools have shallow kiddie pools for the smallest children. Provide them with a safe, secure environment for water play and they will most likely develop a love of the water.

  • For older children who want to learn to swim but have a fear of the water, introduce them to water gradually. Be sure not to avoid the pool when the water is cold and uncomfortable because you want the experience to be pleasant. Even if your child only wants to dangle their feet in the water at first, have patience and they will eventually become confident enough to get in.

  • Learning to get their face wet is the hardest part for many kids. Never force their face into the water, never splash them in the face, and never coax them into water that is too deep for them to stand. This will only hinder any progress they’ve made.

  • Once your child has become comfortable with the water, they will be able to begin the basics. To learn to swim, a child must first learn proper breathing techniques followed by learning to float, kick, use arm strokes and tread water. It may take months or even a year or more for your child to learn to swim, but with patience, support, and persistence, most children can learn. If you are being met with resistance from your child, consider hiring a private instructor to work with them.
  • The most important thing to provide a child who is learning to swim is a safe and secure water environment. Never allow a child who can’t swim into the water alone and never leave a child unobserved in the water. Follow all pool and water safety recommendations at all times. With practice and proper instruction, your child can learn to swim and will develop a skill that will last a lifetime.

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Discussion Comments
By anon126250 — On Nov 12, 2010

This is a great article about the benefits of teaching kids to swim.

By anon1265 — On May 23, 2007

Good article!

It makes it all safer and easier to also communicate to the child our natural good feelings for water. You may have seen video of the baby swim classes ...they love it! The "how to breathe safely in the water"-thing is instinctive, so the parent should encourage but not crowd the child, so the child can work on it with themselves.

I liked, especially, your reminder about safety.

Infant drownings happen in a flash ... even with a CPR trained person nearby, it may not be fast enough...stay right there with your little one, in the water.

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