Helping Your Child Swim: What is a New Parent to Do?

Here is an article I wrote, featured in Water Safety Magazine this past January, that seems more than appropriate for this hot July weather.  Enjoy! - Megan

"Here is some advice on when and how parents can support their children as they learn water skills.

When infants are 6 months old, they begin to have enough body fat to remain warm enough in a pool for up to 30 minutes.  From 6 months through age 2 is the best time for Parent-Tot classes.  Swim instructors will educate parents on the correct way to hold their child in the water to keep them warm and safe, and parents can demonstrate to their infants a joy for water through facial expressions and body tension.  Splash a bit, drizzle water on your face, blow bubbles, and bounce gently while holding your child securely to help him/her feel safe but relaxed in the water.

Nearing age 3-4, when your child can hold the pool’s edge, follow commands, and swim comfortably with an instructor, your support will be most useful at home before and after lessons. Fill up a large sink or wide bowl with water and give your child a straw. Have them blow bubbles in the sink by exhaling out the straw, and then inhale through their nose without drawing water up the straw. Kids can also begin holding their breath and dipping their face in the sink or bowl while safely knowing they can stand up and out at any time.

For ages 3-5, fill your bathtub with 1-2 inches of water and have your child practice lying face up.  When they become relaxed in this position, have them look slightly left and right to feel the water in and around their ears and face.  Next, fill the tub another inch (face still above water) and have them breathe in and out deeply, filling and deflating their lungs to sense buoyancy and floating.   Turn them face down (face still above water) to practice a straight leg or flutter kick.  Have your child blow bubbles in the water through his/her mouth, nose above water.  Allow them to dip their nose/eyes/whole face down in the water when they have mastered the straw breathing and bowl dips or they feel ready to try.

In any swim class, same age kids vary greatly in personality.  In one group of swim students you will see those that are so adventurous they are dangerous, and those that are so fearful they avoid approaching the pool.  This is where a trained swim instructor’s knowledge will be most evident, and your sideline encouragement (or discipline) regarding your child can support the instructor.  Watch your child enough to keep them safe, but not so intensely they are uncomfortable and distracted.  After a year or two of lessons and experience with a few different teachers, you will have more confidence in a selecting both a teacher and additional swimming skills for your child.

Water can be scary for small children.  Give your child both encouragement and time; provide lots of love, support, and patience.  Lead by example and blow straw bubbles in a sink, dip your face in the water, and model any water exercises your child is learning when possible.

Swimming skills are built over a lifetime of experiences; enjoy as many as you can together!"


  1. Thanks Megan! Love the straw idea, we will try that!


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