How to Teach Kids to Swim|Ultimate Guide +7 Big Mistakes

How to Teach Kids to swim

The Step By Step Guide on How to Teach a Child How to Swim, and Common Mistakes Parents Make 

We have put together everything you need to know on how to teach kids to swim. I have personally taught all of the kids in my family how to swim in a very short period of time. Most of them were taught while we were on vacation together. The methods below are fast track methods to teach kids how to swim fast and easily. With a little patience you will be able to make this happen for them and you so good luck. I have also included some great deals on the travel gear you need when you are going on vacation.

21 Steps on How to Teach Kids to Swim

How to Teach kids to swim

How to Teach kids to swim

  1. Start them young

    Kids are from the water, as a parent it is our job to keep them in the water. When a child is away from the water for long periods, they may not want to re-enter. Or even worse, they may fear the water. This is a common mistake many parents make and it is harder to backtrack them than to just keep them in the water.

  2. Use a pool, not a moving body of water

    When your child is learning how to swim it is easiest to teach them in a pool as they generally have little water movement and no current. This will allow them to start getting comfortable in the water. It also prevents salt water or any other bacteria filled water from getting into their mouths. Swimming pools in major cities have high standards or they would be shut down by local health authorities. 

  3. Use splashing to get them used to the water

    Splashing your child in the face is a fun game for them and will help them get used to the action of closing their mouths and their eyes in water. It will also get them used to moving the water away from their noses and eyes so that they can see and breathe.

  4. Work on your trust

    When I taught my kids how to swim, trust was a major factor. I put them on the edge of the pool and had them drop into my arms in the water, from there they graduated to jumping into the water with me there to catch them. This will set the stage for future training. If they trust you, they will try new things.

  5. Have them watch you or their siblings

    Place your child at the edge of the pool and show them in the water what you want them to do. Even showing them how you swim will help them to understand the body actions required for the activity.


  6. Learn from someone who can swim

    A child should be learning from someone that can do it themselves. If you are trying to teach your child how to swim and you don’t know how, stop. In this case they should be in swimming lessons. Would you learn the guitar from someone that does not know how to play? Very unlikely. 

  7. Put them on their backs and stomachs to float

    Learning how to float is a huge part of swimming, practice placing your child on their tummy and holding them up so their face does not go in the water. When you do this have them face you and practice blowing bubbles in the water. This will promote them putting their face in the water and set the stage for the next phase.

  8. Play and practice in shallow knee high water

    Most public swimming pools have a section that is designated to young children that is knee high, or they have a gradual decline. Have your child play around the shallow area and move around the water. Place them on their tummies and have them crawl around this will get them used to being in the swimming position. This will also allow them to subconsciously get used to buoyancy.

  9. Have them hold their breath

    Teach your child to hold their breath out of water to show them that this is what they need to do in the water when their faces are submerged.

  10. Keep them warm so that they stay in the water longer

    Most toddler public pools are heated so that the kids can stay in the water longer. If you can’t find a heated pool then take them every 15 minutes to the hot tub and do not exceed an hour and a half total pool time.

  11. Practice at least once per week

    You don’t necessarily have to go to the pool every week to practice, you can also have them practice in the bathtub or in a small outdoor pool at home. The best way for them to learn is for you to make a game out of everything, this will make it fun and exciting.

  12. Work on Dunking

    Most children’s swim classes will promote dunking. If you are doing this make sure you only do it for less than 2 seconds. Before you dunk put their mouth in the water with nose out. Then if they shut their mouthes, do a quick 1 second dunk. Count 1,2,3 and plunge. The better they get at this the sooner they will be putting their entire head in the water. Don’t push them, every child will learn this at their own pace. I never like to overdo this activity as it is common for a child to inhale water and puke if you do. At first keep it to 1-4 times total per pool day.

  13. Practice Kicking out of the water

    We like to place our child on the edge of the pool to practice kicking. Say the word kick and move their little feet up and down. You can also sit beside them and do the action with them. Monkey see monkey do! 

  14. Hold onto the edge of the pool and drop

    My daughter learns a lot by holding on to the edge of the pool, and then dropping. She gets used to her own body being in control. At 1 yr old she started dunking herself. Now she pushes off the bottom. I submerge with her so that we can make eye contact and wave. Each time we do this, we push our time a little longer. Try not to let them stay down to the point they inhale.

  15. Always be present

    As a parent it is very important to always be present when in the water. If you miss just am moment and your child has a bad experience, they may never want to swim again. Fear is the swim killer. When I taught my son to swim, I pushed him a little bit every time we went out. Because he was not in his comfort zone he had a bit of fear. He always knew that I was right beside him no further than his own reach. 

  16. Play on the stairs

    Both of my kids pushed themselves out of their comfort zone a bit on the stairs. Most pools will have this. Every step they take brings them closer to being fully submerged. I let them play here for as long as they want and after a while your child will be diving off the stairs into your arms!

  17. Submerge when they submerge and ask them to open their eyes game

    We have a game we play when we go swimming. It is waving at each other under water and making eye contact. This helps myself and them get used to each others eyes and fears. Practice this with your child and make a game out of it.

  18. Waist high swimming

    Once they are used to the knee high, try moving them to waist high. This will allow them to practice on their own. They will be able to dive in and know they are not going to drown. It also allows them to practice the body movements you need to have to move underwater.

  19. Teach Buoyancy

    In the waist high water have your child practice using their breath to move themselves up and down the water column. This will make them understand that a big inhale into their stomach helps them to float!

  20. Practice underwater movements for muscle memory

    If you do this often your child will build up muscle memory. Before your child can fully swim, try putting them into a floatation device that covers their arms and their chest at the same time. I have on of these for them and it is amazing. It is very hard for them to end up with their face in the water or even on their backs! Here is a link to a good quality one like what I use.

  21. Get them used to goggles

    Goggles simply make the experience more fun. I started my son on goggles at 2 years old. This created a lot of fun games and opportunities for us like ring toss and just seeing each other swim. I am sure my son watched me underwater and mimicked the things and movements I was making. At 4 years old he can swim better than most adults!

Common Questions about How To Teach Kids to Swim

  • Should I put my child in swimming lessons?

    Yes. Although you may know how to swim, you may not know how to teach it to a child. Having them in a paid program also forces you as a parent to take them to the pool. This post was not created to stop you from taking your child to lessons. My children will go through every level of swimming, although they know how to swim. The last swimming class my son was in, he was the only one that passed. This was due to the practice we do over and above the regular swimming class, and the tactics in this how to teach kids to swim article.

    1.5 year old swimming

    1.5 year old swimming

  • Do babies need swim diapers?

    Yes you should always have an infant in swim diapers. Regular diapers will soak up too much of the water and will weigh your child down. This would be very uncomfortable. Swim diapers also protect everyone else in the pool from feces. There is nothing worser than getting to the local pool with your excited child and have to tell them you cannot go in the pool because someone pooped in it. 

  • Do Kids need swim shirts?

    I try to put my kids in swim shirt in cold pools or in the ocean. It helps keep them warm, helps prevent sunburn and can be used as a rash guard. You can also have them in a wetsuit. I would only use this if they are going into the ocean. I will include a link to some good quality swim shirts and wetsuits.

  • Do Kids need goggles?

    You do not have to buy goggles. However it does make the experience a lot more fun and it sets the stage for their future underwater. Wether it be snorkelling or scuba diving, getting used to goggle is a good idea.


  • Should I buy Prescription goggles?

    I bought my son prescription goggles. It helps him see everything better and was covered by my coverage. Anything that makes swimming a better experience for my child, I will do. 

  • Should I let my child go on the slide by themselves?

    At first you should never let a child go on a slide by themselves. As they get older, stronger and better at swimming this can be allowed. At first you need to be with them and take the precautionary measures you need to ensure their safety. 

  • How should I hold my child on the slide

    For my 2 yr old daughter, I take double precaution. First I have her in her floatation device. I wrap my strong arm through the straps in the back and pull her close to me. I also have my left arm wrapped around the front of her waist. In the beginning, always do the slide sitting up. I slow myself down with my feet if I feel the slide is going too fast.

  • How long can I keep my kids in the hot tub?

    This is a very general question as this depends on the heat. As a general rule, I do not keep a 1-3 yr old in the hot tub for longer than 7 minutes. a 4-8 yr old no longer than 10 minutes.

  • Can children go in the sauna or steam room?

    Yes they can, unfortunately most kids do not like it. This should be kept to a minimum as well. Infants should never be in the steam room or sauna. 4-7 yr olds no longer than 7 minutes.

  • Should I give my kid a bath after swimming

    Always give your child a bath or shower using soap after you get out of a pool, the ocean or a lake. No matter where you swim there is bacteria you need to wash off with fresh clean water to prevent infections and sickness.

  • Will my kids puke if I feed them during swimming?

Swimming makes you very hungry as you burn a lot of calories. We always take a short snack break to re-energize ourselves.

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Here is a link to a video on how to teach kids to swim.

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My name is Sean Rampersaud, my family and I are travelling the world writing and taking video of our experiences. My wife is Radika and my 2 kids are Rayden and Natasha. We want to help improve our readers lives in some way and have a large private group of travellers we like to work with. You can join our group by leaving your email. We are always looking for suggestions or questions you might have so that we can help our community. Please comment below if you have any questions and Join Us on our world Adventures. Our travel are partially funded by us providing our readers ads with travel related material that we get a small commission for. We only provide the highest quality companies and products. If you found this informative please share it. We provide our community free travel tools that will make your lives way easier when you travel including free travel plans, and a custom itinerary builder! We also bring you the latest travel deals including car rental and flights for your location. Join us today.


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  1. Shanta Knight - Oct 21, 2018

    I found your article very interesting and light
    Thank you for sharing

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Hi! My name is Sean Rampersaud, I am a family travel writer and photographer with a focus on adventure travel. My kids are Rayden and Natasha and my beautiful wife is Radika.We have been travelling for the last 25 years and have some really cool ideas to share with you.Thanks for visiting our page, I hope we can help you to get the most out of your next big adventure.