Little Swimmers - Tricks for Developing Comfort in the Water

There are many advantages to acclimating children to swimming at a young age!

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Foster a lifelong love of Swimming

Besides being fun, there are many advantages to acclimating children to swimming at a young age. Having a positive experience during this important time in their development will pave the way to easier learning and comfort in the water later on. Teach your baby or toddler some basic skills this summer and help foster a lifelong love of swimming.

Photos by Gerald Pope Photography

1. Blow bubbles

Make a “moo” sound while blowing in the water. Have your child look, listen, and feel you blow the bubbles.

2. Encourage kicks

Hold your child under the armpits while standing in front of him. You can also place him on your chest and move his legs for him. Encourage splashes with his toes.

3. Tempt with toys

To encourage a reach and pull motion, have your child reach for toys in the water. Once comfortable, he can start reaching for another parent.

4. Ease into a back float

Ears can be the most difficult to get wet, especially with toddlers. Start by splashing playfully, and move onto gently dipping ears into the water. Once he’s comfortable with this, have your toddler lie perpendicular and looking up at you while your hand supports his head and neck. Let the rest of his body float on its own. Moving along with him will create a current to assist with back floating.

5. Develop underwater comfort

Start by submerging your child sideways with water going over his face. Move onto lean-ins from the wall and jumps from the side. Most babies will hold their breath, so start with a short amount of time and add more once you’re comfortable. If your child is swallowing water, encourage him to spit it out and blow bubbles instead.

6. Put it all together

Hold your child under the armpits by his chest to encourage independent movement. This allows him to move with his own arms and legs while in a correct floating position. Work on blowing bubbles and putting his face in at the same time. Progress to blowing bubbles with jumps, and eventually add kicks and arms. Stay positive. Focus on what he’s doing well and encourage him to try new skills.

Not all children are naturally comfortable in the water. If your child is apprehensive or nervous in the pool, there are some fun activities you can work on at home. Using the tub as a learning tool is easy and fun. Use toys to splash, pour, and play with. Try toys that make bubbles and squirting animal toys. Also work on getting his face and ears wet by gently pouring water down his face on the count of three. Pour from the forehead down to avoid getting water up his nose. Make it playful and fun. Focus on what he can do and patiently add new skills. Remember repetition helps develop comfort and confidence.


This article originally appeared in PRO Pulse Magazine©, a publication of PRO Sports Club.  Reprinted with permission.

Alice Sax - PRO Sports Club

Alice is a swim instructor at PRO Sports Club in Seattle, Washington.  She has a patient and encouraging approach to teaching and takes every opportunity to celebrate progress, helping her clients feel successful and confident. Her smile and warmth are known to encourage even the most timid and nervous student. She has been teaching swim lessons since 2003 to parent-tots, babies, toddlers, youth, and adults, and draws from her eight years of experience as a competitive swimmer.