How to Get Your Preschooler to Embrace the Water

A Guide to Getting Your Baby to Swim [2022 Updated]

Tips & Advice for Getting Your Baby to Swim

We all know that most babies love water. Put them in a basin of water and they will happily wade around, feeling the splashes of water against their tiny body. This is why many parents would want to take this to the next level and teach them how to swim. But how are you supposed to that? Let’s find out.

When babies should start learning to swim?

If your child has not had formal instruction before the preschool years, now is the time. At age 3 or 4, children are more coordinated and can understand instructions that are more complex. They begin to interact with their peers and notice the world around them.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children are not yet developmentally ready to learn to swim until the age of four. However, this is only for the formal swimming forms like the backstroke, breaststroke and such. But it has also been well documented how babies are seemingly able to instinctively “swim” when placed in water.

Some people explain this ability as a sort of remnant memory from their time on the womb immersed in amniotic fluid. This ability is most often displayed during the first 6 to 12 months. Thus, this period is considered as the best time to introduce them to the water, as they are still very comfortable when placed in it.


After the above period up until their 18th month, babies are still able to adjust to the water and quick submersions. However, their level of comfort steadily declines. By the time they reach 19 to 24 months, toddlers enter what is known as the “challenging twos” stage where they tend to be more apprehensive to get into the water. As such, it would be best to introduce them during the earlier stages.

Swimming improves cardiovascular fitness and coordination. Each new stroke or breathing technique mastered increases self-confidence. Learning to swim decreases the risk of panic if kids fall into the water fully clothed. According to Infant Swim Research Inc., more children younger than 4 drown than any other age group. While learning to swim cannot prevent drowning, it can empower your child so she won’t “sink like a stone.”


Choosing the right swimming program for babies

While many parents would prefer to teach their babies to swim themselves, there are also those who opt to let professional trainers do it for them. If you belong to the latter, there are a few things you need to consider when choosing a program for your bundle of joy.

Think about the skills that your baby will learn under the program. Note that there are specific skills that kids should learn at a certain age. These are summarized below:

1. 6-10 month old babies and swimming

At this early stage, babies can learn to hold their breath for a few seconds when dipped underwater. By 12 months, some are able to swim for five seconds in between two adults. They can also instinctively reach out and grab onto the side of the pool

2. 19-24 month old babies and swimming

Once they become confident, toddlers at this age can start learning how to jump from the side of the pool, turn around and swim back. This is also a good time for them to develop their endurance as well as kicking abilities.

3.28-36 month old toddlers and swimming

Here, toddlers are now able to learn to come up for a breath after going underwater. However, it would be best to teach this skill only after the young swimmers have learned to initiate it on their own. it is also at this point where they develop strong flutter kicks for propelling themselves in the water.

4.36 months to 4 years olds and swimming

Kids will now learn to perform the back float. This is also when they become more encouraged in diving and swimming underwater.

Opt for a program that has a gentler method of teaching. Remember that your goal is not only to get your child swimming but also develop a liking for it. Also, make sure the program you sign up for has the right pace for your child’s development.

Swimming exercises for youngsters

If you are the type who wants to do a more hands-on approach to teaching your baby to swim, the following exercises are designed to help you guide them into getting accustomed to the water and eventually making their first swim.

1. Jumping into the pool

The goal of this exercise is to introduce your baby to the water and teach him how to get in. To start, let your baby sit at the edge of the pool. Here, you need to teach them that you, as their parent, should be the first one to enter the water.

Once you settled in a good position, signal for them to jump. You can call him out with “1, 2, 3 jump!” or any similar phrase, just make sure you use the same phrase every time. At first, you can guide them by letting hold onto your fingers while gently pulling them in. Once they get accustomed to it, you can start encouraging him to jump on his own.

2. Going under and blowing bubbles

With your baby now accustom with being in water, the next step is to get them to learn to hold their breath underwater. One great way to introduce this to them is by blowing bubbles with him. This will teach him to blow water out and not breathe in while his mouth is underwater.

3. Passing underwater

Once he or she is already comfortable with holding his or her breath underwater, it’s time to teach him or her some basic swimming motions. Hold your baby by their sides horizontally. Once you are ready, signal to them and gently put them under. While they are submerged, gently push them around and encourage them to kick his legs.

4. Swimming independently

With your baby already developing the confidence to go underwater, you can start teaching them how to swim without assistance. Begin by repeating the previous exercises, but let go of him for brief periods. Note that this might startle him a bit, so be sure to be ready to catch him.

Once he gets the hang of it, walk backward while holding him in front of you. Gently let go and urge him to swim towards you while you spread your hands for him. Your baby will now instinctively swim towards you.

Start Safe

  • Never leave your child alone in the bathtub or pool — not even for a second. The unthinkable can happen to anyone.
  • Leave a responsible adult in charge of safety. This is too much responsibility for an older sibling to handle. Many children have drowned while being watched by an older brother or sister.
  • Never assume someone else is watching your child. Make sure the person in charge of supervision knows it’s his or her responsibility.
  • If you must leave, bring the children. Install a phone jack by the pool or buy a cordless if you don’t want to miss calls.

Ten Things to Look for in an Instructor

  1. Every instructor should be trained in child CPR and first aid, and there should be a separate lifeguard on duty during class. Your child’s safety should be priority one in any situation. The children should never be left alone or allowed into the water without an adult.
  2. Look for an instructor who is enthusiastic and patient. Talk to other parents and see how their children are doing. Make sure the instructor knows how to introduce skills sequentially rather than everything all at once. Enthusiasm is great, but the instructor needs to have patience and allow each child to develop at her own rate.
  3. Crying is not a prerequisite. Is the instructor using positive reinforcement and tending to the fears and concerns of the children he is teaching? If you see children fussing and crying in the parking lot or changing rooms then something is wrong. Don’t be afraid to ask parents why their child is upset. Most parents love to share their concerns, and this can provide insight into the program for you.
  4. Swimming lessons are a great time for bonding. Are parents required to be in the water with their child during the lessons? Dawn Goldsmith of Illinois taught her son to swim at a young age. She still remembers “his big trusting brown eyes wide open looking at (her) from under the water.” Her child’s first water experiences were with his parents. Goldsmith didn’t put her children into the hands of strangers until they were comfortable in the water. Any program for children younger than 4 should involve the parent and child.
  5. No child should be forced into a situation until she is ready. Jessie Bishop will never forget her first experience in swimming lessons when she was 4. At 23, she can still remember the terror she felt when her father seized her by the waist and pulled her under the water. She panicked and kicked her father. He let her go and she sank further. By the time she reached the surface, her nose was full of water and she threw up all over her dad’s feet. “We never went back, and it was 8 before I taught myself to swim,” she says
  6. Preschool children learn differently than babies and school-age children. They need color and movement for lessons to be effective. Singing songs and playing games with balls should be used to stress water safety. Swimming programs for young children should look similar to other programs for that age group, such as Mommy and Me groups.
  7. Ask questions over the telephone and drop into classes already in progress. If you sign up for the program and discover that your child isn’t enjoying it, switch instructors or pools.
  8. Don’t leave all the learning for class time. You should supplement any swim education program. Reinforce lessons with a family trip to the pool, just for fun. Goldsmith said that her children spent a lot of time with Dad in the water learning basic rules before the lessons even began. “We started by learning to float in the shallow end and progressing out until they were ready to swim with us,” she says. “When they got water up their nose we didn’t panic, we just dealt with it.”
  9. Educate yourself about what kinds of programs are in your community. Check out these Web sites to help you discover what kind of swim program you want.
  10. Choose a swim program for more than just safety. Teaching children to swim will not only make them more confident in the water, it also will make them more aware of their own bodies. A child that swims becomes more independent and is able to think for herself at an earlier age.Like Bishop, who recalls with horror the first swimming session with her dad, your child will remember her lessons. Children fear or embrace the water, depending on how it is introduced.



In Summing

Teaching your kids to swim at an early age will give them an important skill they will be able to use later on. However, don’t rush to get your baby paddling away. Instead, make these a gradual learning experience to allow them to fully develop their motor skills and confidence. Also, make sure that this would be a fun experience for them and you.