How To Teach A Child To Breathe While Swimming

October 18th, 2019

Updated on

I always joke.. “If it wasn’t for breathing, everyone would know how to swim.” Indeed, coming up for air is one of the key components in swimming.

On land, breathing happens involuntarily. When swimming, we have to learn how to breathe: the correct pattern, timing, body position and arm movements that help us balance with the face out of the water so we can breathe and stay alive.

For children, learning how to breathe while swimming can be challenging. Watch FREE videos on how to teach kids to swim and breathe.

Two ways to teach a child to breathe while swimming at a beginner level:

  1. lifting the head out of the water and breathe to the front
  2. rolling from the front to the back and breathing on the back


Skills involved in coming up for air in swimming:

  1. breath control (holding the breathe and blowing bubbles)
  2. correct arm movement to help bring the head above water
  3. keep balance in horizontal and vertical/diagonal body positions
  4. coordinate arm and leg movements with breathing
  5. gauge the correct timing of when to lift the head above water and begin breathing the air in


Which of the two breathing techniques is best? Both techniques are just as good and children should know how to perform both. The question is…which technique to teach first? The way to decide which one is best for your child is by finding out which one is your child most inclined to learn quicker. For most children, breathing to the front comes more natural. For other children, rolling onto their back comes easier. And for the “water babies”, both techniques come just as easily.

How to know which one is your child ready to learn?

Lifting the head to the front:

  • the child’s natural instinct is to lift their head out to breathe
  • the underwater arm movement is efficient so the child can use their arms to push their head above the water
  • the child is not fond of floating/swimming on their back
  • the child doesn’t know yet how to breathe out to the nose to push the water out


Rolling onto the back:

  • if your child likes to float/swim on their back 
  • the child is not bothered by water in their nose when rolling from front to back, or they know how to blow bubbles through their nose
  • your child panics when trying to push the head out to breathe to the front


Remember: when rolling on the back to breathe, the child can’t see where they’re going.

To learn how to teach a child to breathe while swimming (either to the front or by rolling on their back), watch our FREE lessons or sign up for the entire course that parents are raving about. Our online course teaches adults how to teach children to swim and be water safe with the most efficient methods.

What about side breathing? That is a more complex skill that involves rolling the body to the side, breathing out through the nose and we do not recommend starting with this as a way to learn to breathe for beginners.


Related Article: Teach A Toddler To Swim. 10 Activities




Gilda Dobrica,

Swimming Instructor

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