How To Teach An Older Child To Swim. Should older children learn the same swimming skills as young children?

November 16th, 2015

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When learning to swim…should young kids learn basic swimming skills and older children begin directly with more advanced skills? For example…should a three year old non-swimmer begin by learning the doggy paddle and an eight year old non-swimmer begin by learning the front crawl and side breathing?

Learning to swim, like any other skill starts with learning the basics first before progressing to more advanced techniques. Only after mastering the basics and building a strong swimming foundation can kids advance to learning more advanced skills.

By learning the basic arm and leg movements as well as movements that come naturally to them, children become comfortable and relaxed in the water. Once this is achieved, they are ready to learn more advanced techniques. Regardless of their age, all children have to go through this progression in order to be very comfortable and safe in the water.

Here are the skills that kids of all ages have to master before moving on to learning any of the competitive strokes (the front crawl, the backstroke, the breast stroke, the butterfly stroke):

  • breath control with the face in and out of the water
  • move through the water in an horizontal body position (required for skills such as the front and back float, the doggy paddle)
  • be comfortable in a vertical body position (required for treading water)
  • rolling from back to front and vice versa
  • going from an horizontal position to a vertical position and vice versa

Watch FREE swim lessons and videos on how to teach older children to swim here.

Those basic skills are not only the foundation of swimming but also life saving skills that all children – young and old – have to master before progressing to learning the strokes.

So if your child is older and just beginning to learn to swim, make sure he/she learns to master all the basic and safety swimming skills first. Without a good swimming foundation it is not possible to learn and sustain advanced strokes.

For more on how to teach children to swim and be safe in the water, visit:

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Gilda Dobrica,
Swimming Instructor


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