The first important goal for a toddler or a child when learning to swim, is to be able to swim back to the wall in case they fall into a pool. But how exactly do you teach your toddler this important life saving skill? Tested on hundreds of children, these are the activities to practice with your toddler, so they can learn to swim independently.
1. Position yourself either in front of your child or side by side.
Hold your toddler under their armpits. Next, encourage them to kick their legs up and down and to scoop their arms under the water.
2. Swim with noodle under armpits and head above water
Place a noodle (or two for more support) under your child’s armpits. Position yourself in front of your child. Again, encourage them to kick and paddle to you. Make sure their chin is up, above the water.
3. Swim on horsey (straddle the noodle)
Have your toddler straddle a noodle. Tell them to “bicycle” their legs and to scoop their arms under the water, in order to keep balance.
4. Swim with swim belt and head above the water
Why we like swim belts for teaching children to swim:
- they don’t constrict the arm movements
- unlike the water wings or paddle jumper who are attached to the child’s arms, the swim belt is attached at the waist, so kids can move freely and learn how to efficiently move their arms in the water
Swim belts help children learn the following important skills:
- how to apply the right resistance with their arms so they can keep their head above the water
- how to tread water and to swim the doggy paddle with the head above the water
5. Swim on the back with adult support
Start by having your child lay on their back, with their head on your shoulder. Encourage them to push their belly up and kick softly. Slowly progress to lowering the child’s head on your chest, then in front of your chest with their ears submerged. We advice you progress gradually, over the course of 5 – 10 lessons.
6. Blow bubbles and breath control
Hold your child under their armpits, as they face you. You can also sit your child on your knee. First demonstrate, then encourage them to blow slow and long bubbles. Next, practice blowing bubbles while kicking with a kick board (you can place a noodle on their waist, for more support).
7. Monkey-Bars or the Crab-walk — walking sideways on the wall
This activity helps children develop arm strength, balance and hand grip. It is also a safety skill. Tell your toddler to hold on to the wall with their hands, place their feet on the wall and walk sideways on it.
This fun activity helps children learn another important water safety skill: jump – turn – swim back to the wall. Sing: “Humpty-Dumpty sat on the wall, Humpty-Dumpty had a little fall“. From a sitting position, encourage your toddler to jump into your arms.
9. Submerge in both vertical and horizontal positions
- Unless you know your child is ready for it, don’t introduce this activity in the first lesson.
- To submerge in a vertical position, have your child sit on your knee and bounce them up and down. Blow gently in their face (this helps them hold their breath), lower your knee until your child’s head is fully submerged, then quickly bring your knee (along with your child) up.
- To submerge in an horizontal position, place a toy on the edge of the pool. Tell your child to stretch their arms out and reach for the toy. Tell them to take a breath and close their mouth. With a scooping motion submerge them horizontally towards the wall and the toy.
10. Swim with the head submerged, then come up for breath
With this activity, your toddler is very close to swimming independently. Practice first with your support and a noodle under the armpits. After 5-10 lessons, or when you think your child is ready, remove the noodle so they can swim on their own. This skill is really the ultimate goal to help your child swim independently. Don’t forget to be patient, use toys and make learning to swim fun for your child.
Teach Your Child To Swim™ was especially designed for parents who want to help their kids learn to swim and to be safe in the water.
If you have any questions for us, post them on our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/teachyourchildtoswim/
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Swim Instructor at ProSwimNYC