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Basics for Teaching Young Children to Swim 
 
by Cori Linder June 17, 2005

You do not need to be a certified swim instructor to teach your infant or toddler the fundamentals of swimming. Knowing just the basics will help you enhance your child’s experience in the water.

Many young children can swim before they even walk. The common misconception is that only children over the age of four or five can really begin to master the art of swimming and, thereby, receive any benefits from actual lessons. Quite the contrary is true: Children ages six months to three years have the ability to develop their swim skills—with the proper teaching. And, the best part is that you do not have to be a certified swim instructor to teach your children. Knowing just some basics about water safety and swimming techniques will let you better optimize your young child’s time in the water.

As a long-time swim instructor and competitive swimming coach, I have been asked by many parents for some tips for teaching their young ones how to swim. They wonder if there’s something beyond passively holding their children in the water, sitting with them on the pool steps, or moving them around on a float. It’s then when I tell them the story of the two-year-old I taught to swim across her home pool. Their mouths usually drop as they envision a small girl smoothly gliding across the water. The reality was actually quite different: Her stroke hardly resembled freestyle (the traditional crawl) and was more underwater than on top. It took a lot of time and a lot of breaths to maneuver herself from one end to the other—but she did it; she was swimming. Gliding, floating, kicking, bobbing, holding breaths, blowing bubbles: All reflect some aspect of swimming. It is these skills that you can train small children while increasing their levels of enjoyment and self-confidence.

Learn about First Aid and CPR

It is a good idea to become familiar with the basics of First Aid and CPR. This will give you the confidence to teach your children without nervously anticipating emergency situations or panicking when they choke on the water. There are some great resource sites on the Internet as well as instructional books, but hands-on training can be more beneficial. Non-profit organizations like the American Red Cross offer one 4-hour training class and even certify you upon completion.

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