Though teaching your child to swim may appear to be a daunting task, there are really only 3 steps that you both must master to give them a head start on swimming. Once your child learns how to float, control his/her breath, and propel forward, they’ll be well on their way to safe swimming. Take some time to run through the skills below to get your child swimming.
The first step in learning how to swim is float practice. This life-saving technique is not only crucial for anyone spending time around the pool, it also bolsters confidence in new or timid swimmers. Start by supporting your child’s back in the water as they lie face up with their hands and arms spread apart, like a starfish. Making the body wide across the water distributes weight along the surface for an easier time staying afloat. Some children will allow you to hold just their head in your palm and let their body float freely. Regardless of how you choose to support your child, let them know that keeping their chin pointed up and away from the chest (“head back”) is key to a successful back float.
You’ll want to practice breath control alongside floating, as it prevents children from choking on water accidentally. This is an equally important component of learning how to swim (that goes for swimmers of any age). Blowing bubbles is a great way for children to visualize the act of releasing air underwater and returning to the surface for an inhale. Set your child up in shallow water (or hold them under the armpits if they can’t touch the bottom). Have them jump up into the air, taking a breath as they do so, then sink down under the water and release the entire breath before coming up for another. In rapid succession, these are referred to as ‘bobs’ and have a miraculous effect on a child’s natural breath control. If this is too much, try placing a ping-pong ball or another light, floating object in the pool and ask your child to move it along with their breath.
Once your child (or student) feels comfortable floating and controlling their breath, it’s time to move on to locomotion. The front crawl, or freestyle, stroke is the easiest for little ones to learn. Have them start in shallow water with their heads above water and show them how to windmill their arms through the water. You can even take their hands into yours and mimic the front crawl motion so that they can feel their arms pulling the water all the way behind them. Easy to grasp flotation devices, such as a bar float or a small kickboard, can help support a child when he or she is learning to alternate arms in the water. As their arm movements become more coordinated, a simple flutter kick can be added in to complete the freestyle stroke.
Most importantly, remember to be patient and know that mastering a stroke will take time and practice. With a little determination and perseverance, you’ll be enjoying the water together in no time at all. Have a question? Leave us a comment below!