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.


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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.  

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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

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

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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.  

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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.

top tips for swimming with baby and toddler

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 [amazon link= “B00NOZW1UU”] [amazon link=”B00NOZW1UU” title=”good towel with a hood”/] quickly take off their wet swimming stuff and then wrap them up. 

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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.  

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