The right way to teach kids to swim according to swim coach Hazel Benipayo

Photo by Frank McKenna/Unsplash

Growing up with a pool at home, I always found myself in the water with my other siblings. Eventually, I got into competitive swimming and, after some time, found my passion in teaching. I’ve had students who would throw up at the sight of the pool, start shaking because of nervousness, and cry their lungs out because they don’t know how to swim and are afraid of the unknown environment.

Comfort and Familiarity

Making kids comfortable is very important. I always encourage parents to swim with their kids; this positively encourages them to take that first plunge. Simple games in the water, with or without floats, make it fun.

At the schools where I teach, we do a musical activity for younger kids where we form a circle in the shallow pool and play participation dance games like hokey pokey or “I’m a little pancake.” We change the lyrics as we sing and relate them to swimming instead like blowing bubbles, kicking, or paddling. For older kids, walking at the shallow end of the pool will help them relax and familiarize themselves with the water, followed by slowly introducing blowing bubbles, then floating.

Observe the class as well as the teacher; not all swim coaches can teach classes long enough for beginners

If you don’t have access to a pool, there are a lot of venues where you can take your kids for a swim. While you’re at it, check for swim lessons. If there are any, observe the class as well as the teacher; not all swim coaches can teach classes long enough for beginners.

An ideal length for classes is 30 minutes for preschool-age kids while older kids’ lessons can go between 45 minutes to an hour. Pool toys, games, music, and floats are essential, too. These relax kids and encourage them to get in the water. Remember, the key to becoming a safe swimmer is to always be calm and be able to float on their front and back. If a child falls into the water, this skill could save their life.

Transitioning into the Sport

What’s next after your kids learn how to swim? Usually, kids who start swimming go through different levels: beginner, advanced, and competitive. The expectations of the teacher need to be developmentally appropriate and the teaching progressions reasonable.

We don’t teach kids freestyle if we haven’t taught them floats and glides, for example. Parents must remember: Some kids just want to be able to play in the water, not necessarily join a swim team. When your child joins a swim team, encourage them, but don’t push them into something they don’t want to do. Swimming is not an easy sport but parents can make it easier with encouragement, nutrition, rest, and enough leisure time.