How to Teach Kids to Swim at Every Age Without Lessons

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From the moment babies are born they possess the best quality there is: they have no fear of the unknown. But as they grow up, they might develop fears either by mimicking a parent or by coming in contact with something that triggers an unpleasant, scary feeling.

For many, their first contact with water is a make-or-break situation – here is where the fear of swimming can come in. Maybe they see someone screaming because they got pushed in the pool, maybe their mother doesn’t go in the water because she can’t swim, maybe the child accidentally slips into the pool and there is a strong chance they will develop water aversion and never learn how to swim.

How to start out

Assuming we are talking about a young child, who has yet to have any contact with water, everything should start slow.

  • Baby to 1-year-old: help the baby get used to the feeling of water. From the first bath we give a baby we can condition the way the baby reacts to water. Be gentle and speak softly, hold them with a good grip, and take them out of the bath if they start squirming.
  • 1 to 2 years old: Buy a kiddie swimming pool and fill it just enough to reach their belly. This way they can feel the floating sensation. Encourage them to let their hands float, wave, and even splash through the water. At this time you can also add toys that they can interact with while getting comfortable with water activities.
  • 2 to 3 years old: Now things start to take off a little. You can bring your child into a pool, but you have to hold them and pay close attention to the distance from the surface to their face at all times to prevent any accidents. Your child will be inclined to kick and splash, throw toys around and lunge at them. All this instills happy memories related to the water and the parent-child bonding experience.
  • 3 to 5 years old: Depending on how fast your child can catch on, in this age range they should start floating, at first aided by you and then independently. You’ll have to teach them how to hold their breath and not inhale the water – this is usually done by telling the child to blow bubbles while their mouth and nose are underwater. You can also start teaching them how to kick their feet and use their arms to move in the water, first by showing an example, then by moving their arms or legs to coordinate them, and finally by standing a few feet away and asking them to come toward you. The easiest swimming techniques to encourage at this age are dog paddling and turtle stroke.
  • 6 to 7 years old: From this age, as long as they have learned the previous steps, children can finally swim on their own. However, this does not mean your supervising job is over. Until you are 100% sure your child is safe and until he is comfortable with his skills, do not leave your lifeguard post. You can choose between sitting on the edge of the pool or teaching them more swimming techniques.
  • Older than 7: This is the stage when you can attend a pool party without having to keep an eye on your child. You should celebrate this milestone together!

Things to remember

Although you want to teach your child to swim, either because you can’t or because you can and don’t want him to feel left out or risk drowning, you should remember:

No child is the same as another

Maybe you are at the pool with your 3 or 5 year old for the first time and you cannot get them in the water. Maybe they say it seems too big to them, too cold. Or maybe they get in the water but they are not doing what you would expect. Don’t let your frustration get the better of you. Your child will know when they are ready and all you need to do is be there for them and be their personal cheerleader. Even if they might not like swimming, they will always remember the good time you had together.

Pool Safety is a Must

At every stage of the learning process remind your child that there are basic rules that need to be followed, for example:

  • No running around the pool
  • No jumping in the pool without a guardian
  • No rough play with other children

You should always make sure that the water and the pool’s surroundings are safe for your child, and that they have an easy exit of which they are aware. Try to go to reputable pools with strict hygiene codes and pools whose owners you know take safety seriously. This doesn’t mean that they have to have top-notch equipment, like the best pressure side pool cleaner, or the best pool surface alarm, but that they keep things clean and safe.

You can also take a CPR class to make sure you know what to do in case of an emergency. If you can’t swim, ask someone who can swim to be there with you and your child or, if possible, have a lifeguard near.

Behavior is 50% of the job

If your child senses that you are skittish around water, or feels anger and frustration coming from you, they will be reluctant to learning or wanting to be around water, either just when you are around or forever.

Try to keep any negative reactions to a minimum and instead say encouraging words to your child. If it happens so that they just don’t want to do with water no matter what, just accept it and move on. Tell them you are not disappointed and that you can find another fun activity to enjoy together.

Swimming is no easy feat

And getting to a point where you can be entirely free of worry is impossible for every parent.

Whether you end up with a swimmer or a sunbather give yourself credit for teaching your child the basics they need in order to have a fun, and also a safe time at the pool, beach, lake, or wherever life may take them.

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