Summer is officially in full swing, which means it’s time for pool parties, beach visits, and water play! If you have a little one in your house, you’re probably concerned about whether your child is water safe… Good for you, mama and dada! It’s so important to get our children comfortable around water at a young age! After all, the CDC reports that drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4, and no parent wants to experience the nightmare of an accidental drowning.
At the beginning of this summer, I made a concerted effort to get my kids swimming on their own. We recently remodeled our backyard with a new pool, and it was very important to my husband and me that our children would be safe in and around the water. I’m so proud to say that at 3.5 years old and 19 months old, both kiddos are swimming! Currently, the oldest one can swim to the bottom of the shallow end and pick up diving toys. He also can take a breath on his own while swimming across the pool and he’s working on developing his freestyle stroke. The youngest one can swim about 14 feet across the pool. She hasn’t mastered taking a breath while swimming yet, but I think she might before summer ends! Both children know how to find the edge of the pool when in trouble, which is a relief to mama. But, my favorite part about their swimming is that they LOVE it! They love feeling their weightless body in the water and exploring new ways to play in the pool. It’s so rewarding for me as a mama to see my kids safely love and play in the water!
I’ve been so happy with my kids’ progress this summer that I’ve been sharing videos of them swimming on my Instagram and TikTok. Every time I post a video, I get so many DM’s from parents asking for tips on how to get their children to swim, too. As a former swim instructor, I wish I could take all the credit, but my kids aren’t always fond of following my swim guidance – haha! But, because there’s been so much interest from other parents, I wanted to share a post about what’s worked for our family to get our kids swimming! Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this page to check out some of my favorite kid-friendly pool products, too!
6 Tips to Help Your Child Learn to Swim
- Exposure, Exposure, Exposure!
This is listed as the first tip because it’s the most important! The more your child is in the water, the more comfortable they will get with how their body feels in the water and more likely they are to easily learn to swim. Please don’t consider swim lessons the same as practice for another sport or activity. Unlike going to their once-a-week dance class or twice-a-week basketball practice, little kids need to be in the water almost daily to learn to swim. When I was a lifeguard and swim instructor (almost 15 years ago – yikes!), I’d teach morning swim lessons on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. There were some kids whose parents only brought them to the swim lessons and I never saw them at the pool any other time. Then, there were the parents who let their kids stay after swim lessons to play. Even better, there were a couple parents who brought their child every day to the pool to play. Guess who learned to swim that summer? The kids who came to the pool every day were little fish by time the summer was over! The ones who only showed up to the lessons knew the basics but ultimately weren’t very comfortable in the water. I know this can be a challenge for families who don’t have regular access to a pool. If you take lessons at a public pool, ask the instructor if it’s okay for your child to play on the steps for 10 minutes when the lessons are over. Even a baby pool or smaller inflatable pool at home is a great way to get your child exposed to water play. Let them play longer in the bathtub, too! Scroll to the bottom of this post to see some of my favorite baby pool products!
2. Take Swim Lessons
As a former swim instructor, I honestly never thought I’d need to sign my children up for swim lessons. I thought that water exposure and my own instruction would be good enough. Well, just like almost every parent-child relationship that’s come before us, my firstborn child was not interested in my instruction. As he was getting older and still not swimming on his own, I decided it was time to bring in assistance. We did an 8-day intensive private swim lesson that was 30 minutes a day for our oldest and 15 minutes a day for our youngest. The oldest was in a class with two other kids his age. My youngest did her class alone. I was thrilled with the results of our lessons! After 8 days, both kids were swimming to the wall on their own! Lessons with an instructor other than myself forced my children to learn the skills they needed to get comfortable in the water. The lessons helped my kids develop a respect and love for the water, because they were doing it on their own. They felt proud that they could swim without mommy! It also was fun my for my oldest to swim with other kids his age. While the 8-day private swim lessons are a phenomenal way to get your kid swimming, I believe that any swim instruction is beneficial. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see recommended swim lessons in Pasadena, Calif. and surrounding areas!
3. Allow for Free Play
It’s just as important to give your child the opportunity for free play in the water as it is to give them swim lessons! This way, your child associates the pool with fun rather than only strict instruction. If getting in the pool is fun, they’re more likely to swim! This is especially great for the kids that are scared of water or nervous about lessons with a new teacher. To incorporate more free play, I recommend getting to your swim lessons 15 minutes early and sitting on the steps with your kids with a water safe toy of their choice — maybe a plastic car, boat, or doll from home, for example. You can also bring water toys or diving toys, but if they’ve never played with a diving stick before, it may add to the uncomfortable nature of the pool. Bringing something they’re familiar with makes it safe. Allow your child to go at their pace to get in the pool and get used to the water. After swim lessons, ask the instructor if you can stick around for a few minutes to play more. If the facility has a baby pool, that’s a fun place to let your child free play, too. As I mentioned before, the more exposure they have to water – no matter where it is – the better. Encourage other children from swim lessons to join in. If you have easy access to a pool, schedule pool play dates so your kids learn how much fun it is to swim with friends! Even playing with kids in mini plastic or blow-up pools at home is helpful. I included a few options for baby pools at the bottom of this page, along with some toys that are great for free play.
4. Play With Them
Let your kids see how much fun swimming can be by playing with them in the water! Not only do little kids love the opportunity to play with their parents, but they’re also the best mimickers at this young age. I promise that if your child sees you enjoying the water, they’ll have more interest in playing in the water, too! Imagine being forced to do swim lessons in a big scary pool with a stranger while your parents sit off to the side and watch. That’s not always a fun situation for a little one, especially if their personality is more on the sensitive side. But, if you got in the water to play with your kids in between lessons, I’m certain they’d start feeling more comfortable with a little bit of time. When I get in the water with my kids, I try to show them what fun things they can learn by blowing bubbles, floating on my back, swimming to the bottom of the pool, doing handstands and front flips, etc. They love watching mommy be playful! Be sure to make it pressure-free playtime. Ask if they want to try to blow bubbles with you, and if they say no, respect it. Eventually, they come around and want to play, too!
5. Bring Positive, Patient Energy
Your children match your attitude towards the water. If you act fearful of the pool, so will they. If you love the water, your children will, too. Be really conscious of your reactions when they’re around the water. Don’t panic or overreact when they get splashed or accidentally go under water. That will immediately teach them that the pool is not a safe place. If they accidentally go under water, calmly pick them up, look at them in the eyes, and say something caring but relaxed like, “Whoa! You went under! Was that fun?” It also helps to give them a positive pep talk before swimming so they enter the situation confidently. For example, when we’re driving to swim lessons, I like to positively narrate to my children what they can expect from the day. I’ll usually say something like this: “We’re on our way to swim lessons. It’s going to be fun so fun! Coach Tim (or enter the name of your swim instructor here) is so nice and wants to help you be a great swimmer. There will be other kids there to play with, too! It’s a big pool, but you’ll only swim in a small area. Mommy is so excited to watch you swim with everyone. We’ll all be watching you and close by, so you’ll be very safe. You should be so proud of yourself for trying something new today!” Setting up positive expectations for your child helps reduce the fear around learning to swim! Lastly, please be patient with your little one. I know it can get frustrating to see your child sitting on the edge of the pool while the other kids happily play in the water, but allowing your child to go at their own pace will help them develop trust with the water and you. As long as you keep exposing your child to the fun of the pool, I promise they’ll eventually learn to swim!
6. Don’t Introduce Floaties
Okay, this is a tough one. I know those baby and toddler floaties can be so tempting to put on your children to ensure they’re safe in the water. But, if you really want your kid to start swimming at a young age, don’t even bother. The floaties are a signal to children that they’re not safe in the water without them. Floaties quickly become a crutch and a very tough item to transition away from. Because I used to be a lifeguard and swim instructor, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t introduce floaties to my kids. While I was working at the pool everyday, I saw firsthand how the kids who became attached to their floaties took longer to swim on their own. Flash forward to a decade later when we were at a pool party with our 2 year old and 7 month old, and to be honest, my husband and I were TIRED of holding and entertaining our children in the water. As exhausted new parents, we craved a moment to chill by the pool and talk to adults while our kids played safely in the water. We saw this swim vest on another child and liked it because it didn’t have big tubes around the arms like other traditional swim floaties. I thought it could be a good floaty that would still encourage our children to learn to use their arms in the water. We got one for our oldest child, and while it did give mom and dad a few breaks by the pool, he got addicted to the swim vest. He knew he was safe in it because mom and dad acted more relaxed when he was wearing it. Before we knew it, he wouldn’t take off the swim vest even if we offered to hold him in the water. He finally broke the swim vest habit once we put him in the 8-day intensive private swim lessons, but looking back, I really wish I would have kept him out of it from the beginning. With that said, if you are a parent that just never wants to get in the water or can’t keep a close eye on your child, buy the floaties. It’s better to be safe above everything else. But, if you want your child to be a confident swimmer at a young age, don’t do floaties. Our youngest, who is 20 months old, has never worn floaties and she can swim about 14 feet across the pool by herself. She can swim out, turn around, and swim back to the edge. It’s amazing to me!
Those are my six tips to help encourage your child to learn to swim! I’d love to hear your tips on how you taught your child learned to swim, too! Let me know in the comments below or connect with me on my Instagram and TikTok!
Best Products for Early Swimmers:
Mini Pools for Home:
If you don’t have a pool in your backyard and rarely have access to a big pool, it’s great to keep up exposure in a mini pool at home! Even if you do have a big pool in your backyard, our kids still love playing with their toys in a baby pool!
Mellow Yellow Kiddie Pool – A more aesthetically pleasing pool that adults may like to wade in, too.
Tropical Palm Splash Pool – Another more “adult” looking pool that you wouldn’t mind having in your backyard for a party.
Venezia Luxe Inflatable Pool – A luxury mini pool for your bougie baby.
Play Day Round Kiddie Pool – A cheapy but a goodie
Inflatable Ocean Scene Sun Shade Kids Swimming Pool – The canopy makes this a perfect first pool for your tiniest swimmers.
Swim Toys and Tools:
Chuchik Diving Toys: All the diving toys you need in a convenient mesh carrying bag.
Junior Kick Board – Our son fell in love with kick boards after a swim lesson and its been fun for him to practice his kicks.
Splash Swim Goggles – These goggles won’t get tangled in your child’s hair!
Kids Speedo Goggles – Trusted brand Speedo makes great kids goggles.
Swim Lessons Recommendations in Pasadena, Calif. and Surrounding Areas:
- Rose Bowl Aquatics Center: The Rose Bowl Aquatic Center has long been recognized for its great swim lessons with experienced instructors. They have options for group, private, and semi-private lessons. If your child is under 3 years old, one parent has to be with the child in the water during lessons. The Rose Bowl Aquatic Center’s pool is outdoors, so I know it’s been a popular option for families in the summer or for people who don’t love indoor pools. I personally love that the Aquatics Center is right next to Brookside Park and Kidspace Children’s Museum. You can make a fun family day out of swim lessons by visiting Kidspace or hitting up the playground before or after the Aquatic Center. Learn more at https://www.rosebowlaquatics.org/.
- Waterworks Aquatics Pasadena: Waterworks is dedicated to teaching children and adults the lifelong skills they need to feel comfortable and confident in the water. The pool is indoors and heated year-round, so its always comfortable for lessons. Waterworks has private lessons, semi-private lessons, and parent-and-me lessons. For kids 5 and older, Waterworks offers stroke clinics for kids to develop their technique. Learn more at https://www.waterworksswim.com/locations/pasadena
- YMCA of the Foothills: You don’t have to be a member of the YMCA to take advantage of their phenomenal swim programs. The YMCA of the Foothills has three campuses, and two of them have indoor pools available for swim lessons: CCY (Crescenta-Canada) and VHY (Verdugo Hills). The YMCA offers parent-child lessons, group preschool lessons, youth lessons (ages 6-12), adult lessons, and private lessons. The group preschool lessons are especially attractive for parents who aren’t interested in getting in the water with their child. Learn more at https://www.ymcafoothills.org/aquatics.
What products have you loved for your little swimmer? Do you have any great recommendations on where to take swim lessons in the Pasadena or LA area? Let me know in the comments below, or connect with me on my Instagram and TikTok!
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