How to Practice Toddler Swimming Outside of Class

SEP 20 2021

A toddler learning to swim with a kickboard

Early swimming lessons are vital in teaching toddlers important water survival skills and techniques, however, there are also many things that you can do at home to help your kids learn to swim. Toddlers need to develop swimming skills such as back floating, kicking, breathing, and putting their heads underwater. The good news is there are many activities – from bath time to couch time – that you can do outside of lessons that can help your child overcome fears, improve their confidence and skills in and around water. The added bonus of practising swimming is that research shows early-years swimming also helps enhance kid’s physical, cognitive and language development. Read on to discover 6 tips that will help your little ones aged 18 months to three years’ practice and improve their swimming.

1. Kicking Legs

The great thing about practising leg kicks is that you don’t even need to be in the water to do it. Try starting this exercise with your toddler sitting on the edge of a couch and with their legs out straight. Then get them to kick their legs from their hips, with their whole leg making the movement gently up and down. Many kids instinctively want to kick from the knees down, but you want to have their whole leg doing the movement. It can take time to master this kicking skill, so it’s a good one to practice regularly. This exercise can also be done with your toddler in the water, by ‘cuddling’ them, wrapping their arms gently around your neck with their head on your shoulder. This will allow you to help control your child’s technique and ensure they are kicking correctly from the hips down. Your child will be able to feel the resistance of the water and build their swimming technique all at once.

2. Blowing bubbles

Blowing bubbles through the mouth is one of the most basic foundation skills of learning how to swim. It is an important safety skill that teaches children to breathe control. Teaching a child to blow bubbles is a skill you can easily do at home, through bath time or with common household objects.

While sitting in the bath or lying on their tummy, they can blow the water to make it move, or blow an object like a light ball, around the water.

You can also practice blowing bubbles with other objects at any time, like a bubble wand or straw. When using plastic straws, they can be cut down in length so that your little one gets progressively closer to the water and remember to always supervise kids when using straws and during bath time.

3. Putting a face in the water

Submerging their face in the water can be daunting for toddlers and little kids, as it can feel unnatural to them. The best way to help them be confident in submerging their face is with gradual steps and lots of practice and encouragement. Start by getting your little one comfortable with having water poured down their face. You can use cups at bath time, tipping a bit of water onto their head and letting it trickle down. It can be good to demonstrate the activity yourself too. Join in the fun and if your child can see it is safe to do, they will be more likely to try it as well.

After this, start slowly by getting your child to kiss the water and then raise their head. Next, get your little one to hold their breath and dip their mouth under the water and back up. Once comfortable, try different parts of their face, before encouraging them to put their whole face in the water for a few seconds and come back up. Take small steps, never force it and use lots of encouragement along the way.

4. Back floating

Learning how to float is very useful for the purposes of water safety, although some children find floating on their backs to be a bit difficult. It also doesn’t come naturally so it can take quite a bit of practice for your toddler to float on their back independently and feel secure. This is one skill that can be practised first in a bath, before trying it in deeper water. A great way to introduce them to floating is by starting with them lying on their back in the bath with a small amount of water. Slowly increase the water level as they become more comfortable to just below the ear and then eventually just above. Avoid having the level in the middle of the ear as it will become uncomfortable for your little one. As you move into the pool for practice, you can start by having your toddlers head on your shoulder, and support them with your hand holding them under their armpits. As you both get more comfortable, supporting the back of their head with your hand, move them away from your shoulder so their head is close to your chest. Since this skill can take a while to develop, don’t be surprised if it takes your child some time to get this one right. Patience and persistence are key.

5. Getting into water

Some kids have no trouble hopping straight into the pool, whereas others might feel nervous or afraid of water. Regardless of which, it’s worthwhile to teach your children to be extra careful around water and to not get in unless it’s safe to do so. The best way for young children to get into the water is by sitting on the edge of the pool, twisting their bodies so both hands are to one side, holding onto the edge. They then continue to turn towards the wall as they slide onto their tummy, and slowly enter down into the water, making sure they hold onto the edge at all times. You can practice this quite easily on the edge of a bed, couch, or at the playground.

6. Talk about water safety

Understanding water safety can help toddlers become more confident and competent swimmers. You can easily teach your child water safety knowledge at home and whenever you’re around water. Simply talking about water safety tips, rules and awareness is a great way to develop safe swimming behaviour. If your toddler knows what to do and when, their confidence and swimming ability will grow. You can also use Kingswim’s water safety resources, which we’ve created to help families learn about water safety together. Check out our water safety tips for kids and parents.


For more information on swimming lessons for your toddler, head on over to https://www.kingswim.com.au/foundation

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