Danila Novikov
All-American swimmer and founder of NYC based swim school.

Guide for parents: How to teach kids to swim

Do you want to teach your child swimming basics and become a good swimmer? You're at the right place.

My name is Dan; I am an All-American swimmer & NYC-based swim school owner. I've been teaching swim lessons for kids of all physical and developmental abilities for over a decade. In this blog post, I'll give my professional tips on how to teach young child to swim.

If you want to prevent drowning & see your kids swimming independently, this blog post is for you. Let's dive in.
how to teach kids to swim

Start by exposing your child to the pool water

Teaching children to swim is rather a lengthy process, and the first step is making your kids comfortable in the water. The easiest way is to spend more time in the pool together.

By spending more time in the pool water with their parents, children develop confidence and comfort in the water from a young age. That will ultimately determine how fast they will learn to swim and how confident they will feel in their skills and abilities.

Keep a baby close to you, and don't forget about a life jacket, as you help them get comfortable in the pool. Incorporate fun games in the shallow end and help them develop a healthy perception of the water from an early age.
teaching children to swim

Show them how to blow bubbles

Holding breath underwater for a long time is not sustainable for anyone, especially young children. That's why, in swimming, we follow a pattern of breathing out underwater and breathing in with head out of water.

Start teaching your kids proper breath control by blowing bubbles. Blowing bubbles will prevent water from entering air pathways and prepare them for taking a breath of fresh air afterward.

Start at the shallow area and show them how you blow the air with your mouth underwater. Remember that your kids don't have a good understanding of how the world works yet; therefore, they have to touch, taste, and try everything on their own.

Try blowing air at their face, and slowly continue exhaling underwater. Feeling the breath on their skin should give your child a good understanding that you were breathing out underwater, too.

For older children, I recommend giving a comprehensive reference that they can understand. As an example, tell them that blowing bubbles is just like blowing the candles on their birthday cake. It works!

teach your child to swim

Introduce them to floating

The crucial skill your baby will have to master first is floating. Although the ability to float doesn't bulletproof your kids from drowning completely, it's the first water survival skill they will be mastering to, eventually, successfully perform a self-survival sequence.

Start teaching the baby to float by supporting their back with one hand with the head resting on the other hand. Ears should be slightly submerged underwater with eyes looking up. Progress to removing a hand from their back without letting go of the head.

Many kids are very resentful of floating on the back, so prepare to distract them. Ask someone to hold your kid's favorite toy above their eyes. If your child is a bit older, ask them to name things up in the sky or on the ceiling. Be creative and learn to swim in a fun and pressure-free environment.
child learn to float independently

Show how to kick legs

Practice kicking to give your child a fundamental understanding of creating propulsion with their legs.

To teach your child to kick legs, get in the hug position with their head resting on your shoulder. Perform an assisted kick by grabbing their legs with your hands and imitating flutter kicks. Progress from assisted kicking to giving them a chance to do some kicks on their own. As your children develop more confidence and grow older, allow them to practice kicking on their own at the shallow water of the pool or by holding onto the stairs.

Eventually, invest in a kickboard. Kickboard is a flotation device that's commonly used to practice kicking with arms resting on a board. Kicking with a board is an excellent way to improve kick technique and learn the correct body position in the water.
baby swimming skills

Add doggie paddle

It's time to introduce your child to basic arm movements such as doggie paddle. When teaching your child to swim, don't stress about the precise correctness of their technique. Keep it simple and remain calm.

Explain the scooping motion with their palms, and tell them to drag one hand to their belly and back, one after another. Practice with a swimming noodle first, and, eventually, challenge them to paddle and kick independently in a face down position.
teach your child swim stroke

A few professional tips:

  • Reinforce all the skills

    As your baby grows older and becomes more confident and comfortable in the water, it's important to reinforce all the new and old skills. Combine fundamentals like kick and doggie paddling with blowing bubbles, and don't forget to challenge them with more advance skills.
  • Remember about water safety

    As your little swimmer becomes more independent in the pool, it's important to remember that at a very young age, children might not be able to critically asses and navigate an emergency situation in the water.

    Keep your kids at arm's length and consider getting a first aid certification to be prepared for various scenarios.
  • Consider swim lessons

    Swimming lessons is a great way to take your kids' water safety & swimming skills to the next level. With help & support of a professional swim instructor, your baby will gain great techniques for self-survival, and older kids might progress to learning complex swimming strokes.