Teaching Kids How to Swim

Article Overview

Getting into the pool early and often is the key to success when it comes to teaching kids how to swim.

Teaching Kids How to Swim

There are so many benefits to swimming and even more benefits when you start early.

Teaching your kids to swim is an important step, so going about it the right way is vital. Above all, your child should learn to swim:

  • In a safe and fun environment
  • With your supervision and support
  • In a structured swimming program
  • With a fully accredited swimming teacher

Here are some tips to make teaching your kids how to swim more rewarding and successful.

Introducing your child to waterIntroducing your child to water

Water awareness sounds like a basic enough concept – but the way you approach it is very important.

The basic steps for getting your child used to the water are as follows:

  1. Familiarise your child with the water

    This might mean observing it for a while without going in, then entering slowly, taking it in stages, and finally bobbing and moving around in the water. Never force your child to perform activities they are not ready to do. The most important thing is to make sure you child feels safe at all times, and slowly discover the wonderful world of water.
  2. Introduce water safety awareness

    Teach your child about potential risks and hazards in and around the water. Always model safe behaviour as this is the best way to encourage a positive attitude towards water safety rules. There are all sorts of fact sheets and charts that you can download for use at home.Try to visit a number of water locations, like pools, the beach, or a lake, to show your child the differences.
  3. Establish boundaries

    Set rules for swimming. Start simple – no going near the water without an adult. Then teach them about safe ways to enter and exit the water and how to put away their toys after they have finished swimming.Once the basics are covered, introduce more complex rules, such as always staying where an adult can see them, staying afloat and waving if they are in trouble, and attracting the attention of an adult if someone else needs help in the water.

Activities parents can doActivities parents can do

Reinforce water safety whenever possible – at the pool, in the bath, or on a boat. It is always a good time to refresh water safety rules with your child.

Three ways to help your child to be water smart are:

  1. EnrolFind an accredited water safety class and get started with your child. There may be some learning for you to do too, but that is all part of the fun. You and your child can learn about water safety together.
  2. EngageGet your family involved in as many water activities as possible, whether they are community events or you are just going for a quick splash at the local pool. Swimming is a great bonding activity where you can practise safety skills together.
  3. EncourageNothing is more persuasive than a smile. Get involved and keep it fun. Provide plenty of opportunities for safe exploration of the water, and reward your child when they demonstrate what they have learned.

Water safety programswater safety

Getting the experts involved is good way to make sure your kids are getting the most current and important water safety information.

Specially designed programs, such as Royal Life Saving’s Swim and Survive Program are a great way for children to learn about water safety and have fun at the same time.

The Swim and Survive Program teaches a range of skills:

  1. Safe entries and exits
  2. Breathing
  3. Underwater skills
  4. Floating and sculling
  5. Survival and personal flotation device skills
  6. Swimming and movement
  7. Safe diving skills
  8. Rescue skills
  9. Water safety knowledge and parent education

Water safety education is key in keeping communities safe and these important skills will arm you and your children with a level of protection.

Swimming and water safety teacher

Swimming and water safety teacher

Finding the right swimming and water safety teacher is very important.

As they are the person who is responsible for teaching your child water safety skills, it is important to find an accredited teacher, at a well-maintained pool, working within a program that is structured effectively for you and your child.

It’s a good idea to check the following:

  • Does your swimming school have a screening and pre-requisite list for teachers? [Age, fitness levels, approved CPR certification]
  • Are there various delivery methods available?[Group classes, one on one classes, home classes, or family classes]
  • Does the program include important water safety and survival skills?
  • Does the program offer a range of skills that are progressive?
  • How are achievements measured or rewarded?
  • Is parent participation encouraged?
  • Are the classes structured with both theory and practical components?

Getting involved

Your supervision of your child’s swimming is paramount for their safety and, in the early stages, for their sense of security.

For every drowning death, approximately three children are hospitalised as a result of a non fatal drowning incident*. For this reason, whenever children are in, on, or around the water, they must have adult supervision. Active supervision requires that an adult is:

  • Constantly watching – never leave your child near the water for any period of time and if you must leave the water area for any reason, take your child with you
  • Within arm’s reach – make sure you are close enough  to reach your child quickly
  • Within clear earshot – all of your concentration should be on your child and the water, outside distractions such as music may mean the difference between hearing a scream or a splash and not noticing it in time
  • Well prepared - have everything you need for swimming on hand, including swimming equipment and a fully stocked emergency kit as well as a charged phone

Water locations should also have barriers to prevent unsupervised access to the water – in some instances including home pools and paddling pools (over 30cm depth) this is a legal requirement.


* National Injury Surveillance Unit (NISU) Bradley C, Harrison J. Hospital separations due to injury and poisoning, Australia 2004-05. Injury Research and Statistics Series, 2008. 47(INJCAT 117): o1-152