Beginner Swimming Techniques: Lesson 1

The next few weeks, we will begin to equip you with the tools you need to teach your child specific beginning swimmer skills. We will begin with very basic skills and progress to more difficult skills over the next few weeks. Remember that most skills need to be taught and then revisited several times before they are mastered. These skills can be used for toddlers up through adults who are learning to swim. Ideally, it would be best to begin focusing on these skills AFTER introducing your child to the activities discussed in the Teaching Your ‘Water Baby’ to Swim post.

Teaching Your Child How to: Enter the Pool 

Here is a quick reminder of what we shared last week on how to introduce entering the pool to your baby/young toddler:Entering the pool- Entering the pool as a skill may seem like common sense, however there are ways to do so, which keep your baby/child safer than others while helping them develop safe habits around a pool. Here are few ‘beginner entries’ you can try when your baby is beginning to toddle on their feet:
1. Hold his hand, assist them with walking down with steps into the water.
2. The adult can sit down on the side of the pool with your child next to you, then slide in and, once you are standing, pull the baby in with you.
3. One adult (out of the pool) hands the baby to another adult (already in the pool).
4. Have the baby sit on side of the pool, rotate to his tummy, and lower himself (with assistance) into the adult’s arms in the pool.

Entering the Pool for Beginning Swimmers: 
Unless taught otherwise, most children enter the pool by doing what ‘seems natural’ to them, going to the side of the pool and jumping in, or going down the steps/ladder. Chrissy shares, “During my years of teaching swim lessons, I have been intentional about teaching children that one of the safest ways to enter the pool is from the sitting position on the side of the pool.”

A Sitting Position Entrance:

1. Sit your young child onto the pool deck/side of the pool.

2. Have him roll over onto his stomachs and slide in on his belly (be careful that he doesn’t scrap his body sliding in; this can simply be prevented by introducing him to this possibility if he isn’t careful.

3. Have him continue to hold onto the pool deck/side of the pool.

4. Now, encourage him to practice “monkey crawling” around the pool wall. This is a fun activity, and can be done by having him hold on to the poolside, and put his feet on the wall, and begin crawling along.

After you have practiced entering the pool like a ‘monkey’ (rolling over and sliding in), we suggest taking your child around the pool and introducing him to how deep the water is in certain areas. You need to also take him to the point where he isn’t suppose to swim past. Children learn best through experience. When they can be physically shown and explained what the risks of a pool are, they understand best.

Entering a pool safely is an important skill to learn because it can be used at any pool. Children do not always know the depths or risks of each pool (especially new pools), therefore, it is important to give them the tools to enter any pool safely, and be able to orient themselves without being in danger.

Teaching Your Child to: Kick Properly

Safety, less energy used, and more efficient movement while swimming are just a few of the main benefits of learning and teaching proper kicking form. Kicking, seems almost a natural reactionary response for young children in the pool. However, it is important that we teach children the proper way to kick, and practice this basic skill in a few different ways. Some parents/adults reading this may also realize that although they may be good swimmers, they were never taught proper kicking form; in this case you can practice along with your child, reminding them of the benefits of proper kicking. Remember, that the purpose of kicking in the water, is to propel water behind thus moving your body forward.

Proper Kicking (begin outside the water):

1. Sit your child on the side of the pool.

2. Have him point his toes towards you if you are in the water, or the opposite side of the pool. Have him stretch his legs out strait, together (touching the other leg side by side), with pointed toes.

3. Now have him kick his legs, up and down – reminding him to try to keep them straight (the knee might be slightly bent but not bent at a 90 degree angle) the legs should brush against the other leg.

  • These kicks are tiny scissor kicks/flutter kicks, meaning the legs should not separate more than 4-6 inches.

Kicking Games/Activities: 

1. Red Light/Green Light: Now while on the side of the pool play red light/green light to practice these kicks. Directions: When you say green light your children kick really fast (make sure they are kicking correctly), yellow light they kick slowly, and finally red light they stop kicking. We will revisit this game with other swimming skills later in this series; it is a great game to play for all types of skills.

2. Beach Ball Kicking: With your child sitting on the side of the wall, place a beach ball near his feet. Have him kick, making waves to move the kick to move the beach ball towards you or towards the middle of the pool.

Most kids tend bend their knees when kicking, as if they are riding a bike; this is not proper kicking technique when it comes to swimming.

Proper Kicking (inside the water):

Once you have practiced kicking on the wall, move into the water. Hold your child, or have him hold a noodle or kick-board and have him kick around the pool (using the same straight leg, pointed toe technique as above). It is important that he is only kicking – do not to add arms in when you are first introducing and practicing this skill. Remember to give your child a break if he begins to get tired.

  • If you are holding onto your child, encourage him to do some kicks without you holding him. Have him use a flotation aid so he can practice without you holding on to him. Remind him to practice correct kicking for the remainder of your time swimming in the pool.
  • Back Kicking: You can also practice kicking with your child on his back.
    1. Have your child float on his back, have him place his arms down at his side, palms touching his legs/upper thighs. Have your child put his head all the back into the water.
    2. His ears should be in the water and head completely wet and in the water.
    3. To assist you child stand behind your child at the back of his head. Squat down some so your shoulders are in the water. You can place your child’s head on your shoulder and then place your hand on your child’s back to give him extra support.
    4. Your child might have a hard time hearing you in the water so if they are doing something incorrectly lift his head up to tell him what he needs to do in order to kick correctly.


(Our little guy doesn’t like swimming on his back, but we are encouraging him to still attempt it a little every time.) 


Entering the Pool and Kicking Properly are both for safety as well as kicking is a fundamental swimming skill. Next week will address adding in arms.

The Teach Your Child to Swim-Summer Swim Series is co-authored by Mackenzie and her long-time friend Chrissy. Mackenzie has experience as a lifeguard for over five years and has been teaching swim lessons at YMCAs, summer camps, and private lessons for over ten years. She has recently been working with her own toddler boys and teaching them to swim. Chrissy has 13 years of experience as a lifeguard and swim instructor. She has also been the Aquatics Director for a the YMCA for 5 years. Chrissy has years of work teaching infants through adults how to swim.
Adult Supervision Required-Every water activity shared in the Teach Your Child to Swim-Summer Series requires adult supervision by an adult at ALL times.


  1. As a mom who has just finished her first series of swim lessons with a 3 year old and who gets to complete the same class again this fall, THANK YOU. Now I have some set objectives I can work with my daughter on over the summer. This is great! I’d love to have you link this up to Titus 2 Tuesday on Cornerstone Confessions. Hopping over from The Better Mom.


  2. Thanks for sharing this great info! I have been a swim instructor for about 18 years now, and my favorite class at our Y to teach is the AquaBabies. I totally agree that when on the back, if they rest on your shoulder and you are cheek to cheek they are much more comfortable. I always sing “twinkle twinkle” while doing this, which helps them relax. Thanks for the great advice for parents!

    • Katie,
      GREAT advice about the Twinkle Twinkle song! I have never done that one, but my Little Guy would LOVE it! I will try it this week with him, he is still getting used to the ‘cheek to cheek’ back swim! :)

  3. This is so helpful! We have a pool, and I’ve been working with my 21mth old on just kicks and bubbles and stuff. She’s not strong enough to hold her weight if she goes in like you suggest. What is the best way for her to get in do you think?

  4. This is such a fabulous post. You are so specific about the technique to use with kicking that I can visualize what you are saying. I can’t wait to try these skills with my daughter. Thanks so much for sharing at Whimsy Wednesdays.

  5. Thanks for the tips. I will be trying all of these out next month with our 4-year-old. Can’t wait to learn more!

    • I made a commitment to teach my daughter to swim once a week. I just did my first lesson with my daughter. It is going well. She is a little scared if she thinks I am going to let her go. I really loved all of the tips. My favorite is the one where she floats on her back and relaxes. It helps her feel more comfortable and safe with me. Thanks!

      • I am SO glad to hear that the tips are helping you! I can’t tell you how much my boys have improved this summer. Writing this series with Chrissy has put more accountability on me to make sure my kids are swimming every week. Keep working; let us know if you stumble upon a problem or a hard spot! :)

  6. Thanks for these great tips! I waited too late to get the kids into the first session of swim lessons, so we can use these techniques to teach them in the mean time! Very helpful!

  7. Kristalyn says:

    i have 3 little boys and the only swimming practice they get is in swim lessons b/c it is simply too scary for me to have all 3 and just me. we have great zero entry pools we can go to. do you have any suggestions for how i can take all 3 with just me and feel safe? mine are 6, 5, and 2 1/2. i know they need the practice.

    • Hi Kristalyn you bring up a very good point with having 3 young children in the pool. I recommend that you work with the two older kids like having the 2 year old wearing a personal flotation device or work with one child at a time. You might want to offer to have a friend and their kids come to the pool at the same time, have one parent teach a few kids while the other parents gives a snack to the kids not in the swim lesson.

    • Kristalyn,
      I too am nervous if it’s just myself and our two sons. I totally understand! Here are a couple options:
      1. Ask a family friend, relative, young babysitter, etc. to go along with you.
      2. Practice some of the basics in your Tub Swim Time at home!
      3. Get Personal Floatation Devices for all three. Sit in your zero entry area while they all play and take one child at a time, remove their PFD and practice with them a few basic skills. Remember something is always better than nothing.
      4. Get a friend who also has children and take turns working in one or two children at a time while the other supervises the others!
      Hope some of these will help you and your boys! :) Have fun!

  8. Kristalyn says:


  9. I just had to say how awesome your swim tips are!!! We live in florida and the survival swim training is the only swim lesson available to kids under 3!! No one will do private lessons with our 22m old! We are at the pool constantly and she is FEARLESS in the water!! I’m so happy to have these swim tips to use with her :) THANK YOU!!!

    • MJ- I am SO glad this is helpful for you! That is our absolute main goal, to empower parents to teach their children the basics of swimming! That’s crazy that no one will do private lessons with your 22 month old!? Well, enjoy her and you will feel so rewarded as you actually begin to teach her how to swim! Keep us posted on how things are coming along! :)

  10. This is so perfect! My 3 year old has been wanting to keep up with his older siblings in the pool and I will totally use these techniques. What a great resource! Featuring it on my weekly Kids Co-Op post.

  11. Thanks for sharing this. I have a 5 and 2 year old. We have an above ground pool and I have been wanting to teach them swimming skills myself and this will be really helpful!

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