swimming with babies and toddlers

Top Tips for starting Baby Swimming Lessons


Swimming with babies and toddlers is amazing and a fabulous way to bond with your baby, but if you are not confident in water it can be daunting.  I used to teach baby swimming lessons before having my twins and four kids under four made it impossible to work.  I wholeheartedly believe that teaching a child to swim is a vital life skill and baby swimming lessons are a perfect place to start that process  These are my top tips for swimming with babies and toddlers. 

So read on for both practical ideas for helping you and your baby or toddler to get the most out of your baby swimming classes and some mom hacks that will make the whole thing easier.


Enjoy your baby swimming lessons

Enjoy it – baby swimming lessons are not really about creating future Olympians! It is more about building water confidence and giving you a lovely weekly experience with your child.

Enjoy the water with them laugh/ smile every time they get splashed, sing songs etc…  Your baby will start to make positive connections with being splashed and being in water.  Apart from anything else this make hair washing and bath time fun and easy.  There are some great song ideas here:  https://www.swimteaching.com/2008/04/songs-and-lyrics-for-learning-to-swim.html

These toys are also really great for encouraging splashing and blowing bubbles as they try to get them to turn over.   They can also be great for encouraging children to go on their backs to reach for that toy.  

Being able to float on your back is such a vital water safety skill that it is important to help children learn how to do it and to be comfortable in that position.

If nothing else baby swimming groups are another reason to get out of the house and meet other mums.  Having these type of groups and going to sessions such as baby swimming lessons can for that reason also be a great way for you to make some new friends.  Believe me we all need mummy friends.  As gorgeous as babies are they are not well known for being great conversationalists so us mummies need to stick together so we don’t go entirely stir crazy.

Swimming starts with confidence

Swimming starts with water confidence and even just a happy splashy bath time can really help with that.  The more your baby gets splashed even on the face the more comfortable they will be. 

In your baby swimming lessons help your baby to learn that being splashed is fun by laughing if they splash you, joining in with splashing and putting your face in the water.  This means no full faces of makeup ladies and yes your hair might get wet, but its for the greater good 😉

Try to be consistent with going swimming with your baby especially if they don’t instantly love it!  That consistency will pay off and they will get used to water and even find it fun.  Sometimes it takes a while, but regular baby swimming lessons or even just fun visits to the local pool with you will all help build that water confidence.

Ask the teacher about baby swimming

Ask questions – never feel bad about asking your baby swimming teacher a question if you are unsure about an activity.  When I first took my eldest to baby swimming lessons I was a little uncomfortable about some of the exercises we did, but I didn’t want to seem neurotic so I said nothing and assumed that they knew best.  As a qualified swimming teacher now I understand that what was happening was totally fine, but I should have asked

teaching kids to swim
Swimming with mummy and grandad

It is about your confidence too in baby swimming lessons

Fake it until you make it – if you are a bit nervous of being in the water or of having your baby go under water I would advise you to try not to show it.  Put on that smile and just tell them how great they are doing.  They take their cues from you so show them that the water is fun

You want them to be happy, but…

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a parent come to swimming lessons with a toddler who for whatever reason doesn’t want to play ball that day.  They start having a tantrum and the parent gets stressed and probably embarrassed and then ultimately makes a hasty exit.  I would suggest really trying to avoid doing this.  Toddlers sometimes have bad days (just like us). 

Swimming with babies and toddlers

They can’t control very much in their lives, but if they refuse to jump or refuse to kick their legs and have a tantrum in the swimming lesson then they can control that and if you, as the parent, then say ok lets get out then they really have controlled the situation.  Lots of times I have seen parents getting caught then with the child refusing and having a tantrum every time even though they previously loved it.

By the way I am not advocating forcing the child to take part and if they are scared then there are different tactics.  This is about a child having a normal toddler tantrum or doing that whole stubborn thing that they do.  In these instances I would keep trying.  If needs be go to the side and use the teacher’s pool toys to try to distract them and reengage them, but try not to get out.  

If a child seems scared then that bath playtime becomes even more important and even bringing them to a pool on your own and having your partner sit on the side with them watching you having fun, going under the water and messing about can be enough to show them that this is ok.  

It can also be a good idea to check with your swimming teacher whether anything has changed in the pool environment.  They will have taken the water temperature for example and if the temperature is slightly lower than last time this can be not so much fun for the child who is used to it being warm for example.  I would always have a baby wetsuit or wrap with me just in case.

The main thing to remember, if your child freaks out or has a tantrum, is that baby and toddler swimming teachers are used to this so there is no need to feel embarrassed.  

Water Safety Comes first

Encourage your baby to be on their back in the water (with you holding them).  This is the start of floating.   At some point they are very likely to stop enjoying being on their back in water and this is totally normal. I would suggest still try even just for a very short time each time you go swimming.  This is because being able to float on your back is a key water safety skill.

swimming with babies and toddlers

Be firm with safety rules around the water.  I am a complete soft touch with my children except when we are at the pool or at the beach.  They know that water safety rules cannot be bent even a little bit.  This can be started from when your little ones are very young just with simple ideas like introducing commands like ‘jump’.  Babies and toddlers soon learn that they can only jump when mummy or daddy says jump.  This comes in very handy on holiday I can tell you

If you are swimming with a baby check the pool temperature before you go to a public pool or before you sign up for swimming lessons.  The STA (Swimming Teacher Association) policy states that the water and air temperature must be higher than for normal public swimming; at least 30°C or 32°C for babies under 3 months old or weighing less than 5.5kg/12lbs

SaleBestseller No. 1
Splash About Babies Warm-in-One Wetsuit (Shark Orange, 6-12 Months)
  • Soft fleece-lined wetsuit for babies and toddlers
  • Extends pool time and helps to keep babies warm in and out of the water
  • Ideal for babies with sensitive skin conditions; protects barrier creams whilst in the water
  • UPF 50+ sun protection
  • Wear with Splash About happy nappy for faecal leak protection
SaleBestseller No. 3
Splash About Baby Happy Nappy Wetsuit, Pink(Nina's Ark), X Large (12-24 Months)
  • The original Splash About happy nappy wetsuit with full happy nappy incorporated
  • Insisted upon by swim schools - Proven to be the most effective swim nappy for preventing solid leaks into the pool
  • Made from super soft 1 mm thick neoprene for warmth and comfort
  • Stunning designs for girls and boys that match the rest of the award-winning Splash About range
  • Can be worn alone, or with our nappy wrap and liners for easier cleaning and changing

My personal favourites and the brand that I always had for my kids was Splash About.

No products found.

If it is going to be cold or colder water then you might want to think about a wetsuit and this doesn’t just go for swimming lessons for babies, but for bigger kids and their mummies too. 

We always take wetsuits on holiday as well as being cold can really ruin a trip and spoil the water fun.  Wetsuits meant that all my kids could get in the sea in the UK last year and with lots of staycations on the horizon I would 100% recommend a wetsuit for you and the kids.  

Bestseller No. 1
Mountain Warehouse Junior Shorty Wetsuit - Neoprene Kids Wetsuit, Easy Glide Zip Summer Wetsuit, Flat Seams Childrens Wetsuit, Adjustable Neck Swimming Suit - for Diving, Green, 7-8 Years
  • UV Protect Max - tested up to UPF 50+
  • Flat Seams - Combined with a close fit to prevent chafing and provide extra comfort
  • Neoprene - Lightweight foam which retains body heat, dries quickly and allows freedom of movement
  • Contour Fit - A sculpted style, with different levels of thickness around the body for ultimate comfort and support. Made with lighter fabric for the sleeves and thicker fabric for the body, ensuring ease of movement.
  • Key Pocket - Includes a discreet key pocket
Bestseller No. 2
TWF Children's Shortie Wetsuit 3 mm, - Black/Marine Blue
  • Titanium laminated lining - helps reflect body heat back giving extra warmth
  • Sturdy back zip fastening with robust long leash pull
  • Please see image for size chart dimensions for each size
  • all seams double stitched,
  • Quality Neoprene, super flexible and soft enabling a comfort fit on a range of body shapes/sizes
Bestseller No. 3
  • UPF 50+ Maximum UV Protection
  • Zip With Plastic Slider & Velcro Zip Lock
  • New Density Neoprene For Maximum Wear
  • 2MM Neoprene
  • No Underarm Seams For Comfort

when can you start baby swimming?

Get Organised

I won’t lie getting your baby dressed again after your baby swimming lessons can be a bit of a pest.  Especially once they start crawling or when they are toddlers with opinions!!  So I recommend doing your research in advance of starting the baby swimming classes.  Firstly I would ask the baby swimming lesson provider whether they have a playpen that you can use and what the changing room set up is just so you know what you are getting.

Before you get in the water I suggest getting everything ready for when you come out and definitely bring your baby or toddler in a sleep suit and not an outfit that has lots of bits – you won’t be able to get them on afterwards and you don’t want them to get cold.

I also get my own clothes organised so that they are folded neatly or better still hung on a peg in the order they need to go back on.  My top tip here is wear flip flops – even in winter!  You can always bring other shoes to put on before you go outside if you need to and then once baby is safely back in the buggy you can put them on.  Trying to get socks on slightly damp feet whilst your baby is screaming the place down or crawling around on a swimming pool changing room floor is no fun (yuk!)

I would also advise that you get yourself a pair of tracksuit bottoms and a sweatshirt.  These are way easier and quicker to get on than jeans and a nice fitted top.  Save yourself the wrestling match and go super casual just for baby swimming lessons.  You may look scruffy, but you will thank me when you are in a cafe having a coffee whilst other mums are still just in their pants!

Finally have the snack ready to go – for baby not you 😉  They are very likely to be hungry and probably tired especially when they are very little so I recommend having a snack at the ready.  The last thing you want is them falling asleep and then not napping for long enough as they are super tired.  Let’s be honest the super long nap after your baby swimming lesson is one of the best reasons for going right?!!

Get yourself dressed first

This might sound mean as you might worry about baby getting cold, but get them a Clair de Lune Marshmallow Hooded Towel (White) good towel with a hood quickly take off their wet swimming stuff and then wrap them up. 

Bestseller No. 1
CityComfort Kids Hooded Towel Poncho | 100% Cotton Changing Robe with Pockets | Boys and Girls Hooded Towelling Poncho, Ideal for Holidays, Swimming, Surfing, Beach, Bathing (6/9 Years, Lilac)
  • HIGH ABSORBENCY COTTON HOODED TOWEL: keep your little ones cosy after bathtime or on the beach with our 100% cotton poncho towel for kids, perfect for quick drying at home or for holidays around the poolside. Features include a hood, pouch pocket, slits on the sides, super soft cotton. With this super practical beach changing robe, kids can get undressed and get changed in privacy, even when they're on a busy beach or at the swimming pool.
  • SIZES AVAILABLE --- our large children's poncho towels are available in size 6/9 years and 10/13 years. The towel changing robe is suitable for boys and girls
  • COLOURS AVAILABLE --- our swimming towel poncho is available in white, charcoal grey, blue, lilac, Orchid pink. Plain poncho in pure cotton terry cloth
  • 100% COTTON --- enjoy the ultimate comfort of our 100% cotton childrens beach towel, machine washable. Made from ultra-soft cotton, absorbs water fast. Nice and warm with a hood feature for easy drying. A great alternative in the bathroom to a bathrobe or bath towel
  • PRACTICAL DESIGN --- once you start using our gorgeous poncho towel, you will soon realise that you cannot be without! On a daily basis, this versatile towel poncho will be the childrens favourite bath towel, their favourite children's hooded towels for swimming, the children's favourite hooded beach surf towels. Ideal for covering up at the beach, pool and after a swim, when surfing, this hooded beach towel is a must-have for home and for the holidays.
Bestseller No. 2
ALLEN & MATE Hooded Towel Poncho for Kids, Premium Cotton Changing Robe for Beach, Swimming, Surfing, Bathing, Watersports, Indoor & Outdoor Activities
  • 💗 BEST QUALITY TOWELLING ROBE: ALLEN & MATE poncho style bathrobe and changing robe is perfect for surfing, watersports, pool, beach, camping and outdoor outfit changes. Supplemented with a hood, front pocket, you can be rest assured that it is going to be the favourite dress of your little one to enjoy a comfort clothing at home or while going for an outdoor activity.
  • 💗 TOP FABRIC, TOP COMFORT: The premium terry cotton 430 GSM fabric readily absorbs water, which makes it perfect poncho towels to offer optimum comfort. It is an ideal replacement for bathrobe or bath towel. The hooded towel is perfect for your little one for drying, keeping warm and getting dressed in private.
  • 💗 COLOURFUL DESIGNS: Made from 100% cotton, kids towel poncho is suitable for boys and girls alike. Childrens Poncho comes with an elegant head/hair towel and is available in 5 vibrant colours namely Blue, Orchid, White, Navy Blue and Charcoal.
  • 💗 IDEAL FOR WIDE RANGE OF AGE GROUP: With the dimensions of 62cm - Length, 76cm armpit to armpit for the age group of 6-9 years, and 70cm - Length, 88cm armpit to armpit for the age group of 10-13 years, the Allen & Mate towel dress is a must for kids.
  • 💗 THE PERFECT GIFT FOR KIDS: A perfect gift for birthdays, spread smiles amongst the children by gifting them hooded poncho with hand towel. Available in different colours, you can choose the best gift for kids in their favourite colour, and be assured that they are going to like it and wear it more than often.
Bestseller No. 3
Gogokids Boys Girls Hooded Beach Bath Towel - Kids 100% Cotton Bathrobe Cartoon Bath Blanket Swimming Surfing Poncho Sport Robe, One Size, Yellow-haired Mermaid
  • 【Nice Material】100% cotton, soft and comfortable, super absorbent; No formaldehyde, safe for your child; Machine washable.
  • 【Extensive Use】Length127cm*Width76cm(50*30inch), not only a baby beach towel but also can be used as a bathrobe, bath towel, sports towel and so on.
  • 【Buttoned Closure】Two buttoned closures for keeping the beach towel in place.
  • 【Lovely Design】Our kids hooded beach towel has nice cartoon design, lovely and stylish.
  • 【Guaranteed Service】If you are not 100% satisfied with our kids cotton bathrobe, please contact us, we'll refund or replace it.

Then get dressed super quick!  That way as soon as you put baby into their dry clothes you are ready to leave.  This way there is far less chance of a nice dry baby getting all wet again as they roll or crawl onto a wet floor.

If you buy any kit for your baby swimming lessons make it this

That brings me on to the best bit of swimming kit I ever bought….  I hate swimming pool changing room floors.  For some reason even in the nicest places they are always a bit grim and even when clean are always wet.  This makes it so much harder to get dressed and to get your baby ready so I bought a foot mat that doubles up as a wet changing bag

These things are awesome. 

You put in on the floor so you don’t have to stand directly on it and then once you have your shoes on you can chuck all the wet swimming items onto the mat and close it up keeping them away from any dry items. 

These are so useful I can’t even tell you how much I recommend getting one!

In fact I also used mine to lay under my baby’s towel when I was getting them changed if there weren’t changing mats available.  I would recommend getting one of these over any of the swimming baby changing mats as this has a double use and carries on being useful once they stop being babies. 

My kids now use them to take their stuff in when we all go to the pool so they can all individually carry their stuff and come out with dry feet after swimming.  

Bestseller No. 1
Dawitrly Wetsuit Changing Mat, Durable Waterproof Surf Change Mats Carrying Diving Suit Dry Bag with Pocket and Handle Straps for Surfers, Kayakers, Rafters and Boater (Black)
  • WETSUIT CHANGING MAT- Using the drawstring system to easily changing from wet and dry clothes. Internal extra pocket on the side for storing Keys, Coin, Jewelry, and other mini accessories.
  • KEEP YOUR WETSUIT CLEAN- Protect your wetsuit from sand, dirt, concrete, debris, and dirty parking lots floors to ensure the longevity of your wetsuit to help shield the wetsuit smell from creeping into the rest of your vehicle.
  • DURABLE & PORTABLE- Made of waterproof rip-stop oxford cloth base and polyester fiber sidewalls. This mat measures 68cm(26.77inches) in diameter with a large open bag, easily pull the straw string to close the bag and carry it anywhere you need!
  • THREE WAYS TO CARRY- Using by just lying flat to change then tightening the drawstrings to transform into a small carry bag, then you can choose to use the drawstrings, removable shoulder strap, or handle straps to carry it!
  • PRACTICAL MULTI-USE- Great for adults, teenagers, and children for surfing, scuba diving, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, climbing, fishing, triathlon, hiking, and all outdoor activities.
Bestseller No. 2
Durable Wetsuit Changing Mat/Waterproof Dry-Bag With Handles Straps - Black, 85cm
  • Multi-functional bag for easy changing from wet and dry clothes.
  • Open the bag and you have a large 85 cm/ 33.5 inch diameter changing mat. Pull strawstring to close the bag.
  • Internal small pocket for storing keys, lotion and other mini accessories
  • Shoulder strap and soft padded handles, convenient and comfort to carry.
  • Great for adults and children swimming, surfing, canoeing, climbing, fishing, triathlon and all outdoor activities
SaleBestseller No. 3
N\A Wetsuit Changing Mat Portable Black Storage Bag for Diving Suit Beach Surfing Swimsuit
  • Package Includes: Inside the package is a multifunctional storage bag. You can put dry or wet clothes in this storage belt. They are good equipment for going to the beach
  • About Size: The diameter of this storage bag is 90cm. This size can fit your various beach swimsuits. At the same time, this size is very convenient for storage
  • High Quality: This storage bag is made of very high-quality Oxford cloth. They are very strong and wear-resistant. You can use them at the beach for a long time
  • Simple to Use: The opening of this storage bag is very large. Very convenient to use. You only need to put the clothes in the middle and pull up the rope on the edge to seal the opening
  • Multiple Function: This storage bag is very versatile. It is very suitable for outdoor activities such as swimming, surfing, cycling, canoeing, mountain climbing, etc. for adults and children

Last update on 2021-05-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API