teaching children to swim

The importance of teaching your child to swim

The importance of teaching your child to swim

I am not the mother who has her kids in every activity going in fact I try to limit the amount that the kids do so that they also have time just to play, but learning to swim…. Well learning to swim is non negotiable in this household.  I am passionate about teaching children to swim so much so that I even became a baby and toddler swimming teacher.  If you were going to spend money on any class for your baby or child I would pick swimming lessons. I think that swimming is a skill that every child needs to have and this is why…

The importance of teaching your child to swim

Teaching your children to swim is vital – its a life skill

Learning to swim is one of the only activities that your kids can do that could save their life own day.  I don’t wish to scaremonger or be hysterical, but the facts are the facts.  Water can be dangerous and being able to swim can make a difference.  Did you know that around 700 people die from drowning each year in the UK according to the RLSS?

Whilst researching this article one of the interesting facts I found is that many of those who drown never intended to be in the water.  This really struck me as a key reason for teaching kids to swim.  They may not plan to get into the water, but could end up there by accident.  I asked myself what would my kids do if they fell in?  What would they do if they didn’t have their googles on, didn’t have their swimsuits on?  Well I hope that they would be fine as we have practiced for that eventuality.  Since they were babies at their swimming lessons  they have taken part in pyjama weeks and practiced swimming in their PJs.  We also regularly get them to swim, jump in and play at the pool without their goggles on so that the know that they can.

Water Safety

Teaching children to swim helps them learn respect for the water and learn rules around being at the pool or at the seaside.  I insist that my children learn to swim and to swim well so that they can be safe when we play in the water.

teaching kids to swim

Last year on holiday I saw and picked up a little girl who could have been no more than 18 months old who was face down in the water after coming down a very small slide in the toddler pool with her brother.  No one saw apart from me as I was standing right next to the slide.  Her parents were sat in the water at the edge no more than a couple of metres away, but they were chatting.  I am not judging that as we all get distracted and that is kind of my point.  We can’t watch every single second so unless you have your hand on your young child how can you ever be sure that they are safe in the water?  Now I have to say that I would never let a child of 10 be responsible for their baby sister in that scenario.  That to me is crazy.  Personally I would always want to be within reaching distance of a young child, but still accidents can happen.  They can end up the wrong way up, but if they know how to swim and specifically how to turn onto their back and float they may be able to save themselves or at least buy themselves time.

Important Swimming Skills for young children

For me the swimming skills that are vital for young children to learn are rolling onto their back and floating, being able to hold onto a floating object and turning back the way they came when jumping or falling in.  These are the swimming skills that I practise with my children every time we go swimming.  We play games and they love to jump in, but every time they do I shout ‘turn turn turn’  and they have to swim back to the side before they do anything else.   I know people are judging me and I look like Uber Mum when we go, but I don’t care.  Water Safety comes first!!

My girls have been able to do these things since they were two years old so if you were ever wondering why baby and toddler swimming lessons are important then that is the reason.  They couldn’t do a recognisable swimming stroke at two years old, but they could float on their back, jump in and swim back to the side and that is the beginning of water safety.  I am not saying this to be all braggy, but simply to show how baby swimming lessons can make a difference.


When I was teaching baby swimming lessons parents often asked me ‘ when will they actually be able to swim’, but to me this isn’t what matters.  The finesse and style and speed can come later;  staying afloat and water safety skills are what are most important to me as a parent.

Swimming is fun!

Once your kids have learnt to swim there is hours of fun to be had as a family.  Oh and it really wears them out so on holiday is the perfect activity to help mummy and daddy have relaxed and quiet evenings together.  Now that I can be fairly confident (nothing is ever guaranteed) that my children are all water safe I am really looking forward to fun and games in the pool this summer.

Swimming is great exercise

Not only is it low impact so perfect for pretty much everyone, but swimming can also be great cardio exercise and as water provides resistance it is even strength building.  There is research that shows that swimming supports the maintenance of healthy lungs which could help to ward off illness.

What I love about it for me is that swimming gives me a place of calm where I can think and it is almost meditative.  There is plenty of evidence to suggest that it is good for your mental health and for me that is certainly the case.

Encouraging children to swim can only be good for them can’t it?  I know I want my children to enjoy exercise and have it always be part of their lives so if they find swimming fun then hopefully that will be something they will take forward into their adult lives.

When to start teaching your children to swim

In my opinion it is never to early to start teaching a love and respect for the water.  You might have heard of baby swimming lessons, but what age can a baby start swimming lessons?  Well according to the NHS they can start even before their immunisations.  You would need to make sure the pool was nice and warm though.  In my experience most people don’t start baby swimming lessons until their children are around 3 months, but my children all started younger than that.  One of my twins was 5 weeks old (the other had to wait due to her NICU journey) and the youngest baby I have ever taught was 4 weeks old.

when can you start baby swimming?

Ultimately it is up to you as a parent when is right for your child, but in my opinion the sooner the better so that they build up that water confidence.  Apart from anything else it will make bath time and washing their hair a breeze!  If you are concerned about starting baby swimming you might also want to check out my Top Tips for Swimming with Babies and Toddlers.

My advice as a parent who has chosen swimming lessons for her children would be do a bit of research about the company.  See if you can do a trial session first and if you feel uncomfortable about any of the activities just ask.  Any good swimming teacher will be happy to reassure you and explain why or alleviate any concerns.

I hope that you have found this post useful and that it encourages someone to start teaching their children to swim.  If you have any questions for me about swimming with babies or children just drop them in the comments as I would be delighted to help.  I should add that I am a qualified baby and toddler swimming teacher as well as a mummy to four kids who just love swimming.

35 thoughts on “The importance of teaching your child to swim”

    1. I was shocked the other day to learn that a couple of kids in my sons class (8yrs old) can’t swim at all. Apart from the safety all of the fun they are missing out on is a shame

  1. I am neither a strong nor a confident swimmer, so we enrolled our kids in swimming lessons, and it has paid off in amazing ways. Two of my sons are lifeguards–a great job for high school and college kids! And everyone has lots of fun in the water!

  2. This is a great read and I totally agree. My three all love swimming and it is so important for safety but also enjoyment, socialising, and as you say can be meditative too! I do have a question though. My youngest loves to “swim” but is very resistant to putting his head back in the water (meaning he can’t float on his back yet!) Do you have any tips or tricks? He really struggled against the swimming teacher and we have had to take a break but I do want to sign him up again…

    1. It is really normal for little ones to start to resist putting their head back into the water. It instinctually feels wrong to them. They usually start to resist when they are able to roll and teething can play a part to as it can make those teeth hurt. How old is your youngest? Feel free to email me kirsty@navigatingbaby.com if you don’t want to share ages here… One thing you can do is basically take a step backwards and use your shoulder to support them as well as a hand under their back so that they feel the security of having you there. They are still on their back a bit, but with extra support which can build confidence. There are songs you can use and actions which can help too, but they would probably depend on the age so let me know and I am happy to help however I can.

  3. Shocked by the stats you quoted but yes absolutely swimming is a vital life skill. All 3 of mine had lessons paid for by their lovely Granddad #DreamTeam

    1. I know they are shocking and worse in the US. My husbands grandmother has always contributed to our kids lessons. It is a lovely gift to give. #DreamTeam

  4. We’ve been going a Singing and Splashing class since our youngest man was a few months old. It’s made him so confident in the water and is now starting to transition into swimming lessons. It’s so important to learn this life skills. #DreamTeam

  5. We paid for lessons for Syd 3 years ago & after lesson 2 she refused point blank to get into the water. She still refuses. SIGH. She’s 7 next week and cant swim a stroke. 🙁

    1. You probably have, but have you tried regular ‘fun’ family swimming sessions? Sometimes when they seem to hate swimming it is a fear holding them back. Does she refuse to get in when you are on holiday?

    1. I guess not all children will enjoy it. I know my own children have a moan sometimes about why they have to go swimming, but I do believe that this is one area that they at least need to know the basics. Just from that safety point of view.

  6. I was 10 before I learnt to swim. My parents hated swimming and my school swimming teacher terrified me. I got there in the end though and am a really confident swimmer now.

  7. This is a really informative post for parents who are contemplating needing their child to attend swimming lessons. I agree and we have always made swimming lessons a priority for our children clubs. If I had known I was having 4, 13 years ago I Ould has trained as one as well hehe! #dreamteam

    1. You would think I would have saved a fortune in lessons, but my four think mummy knows nothing…. So it proved impossible to teach them 😉 #DreamTeam

  8. It’s actually something that has been on my mind a lot this year because my daughter has recently turned 5 and she hasn’t started lessons yet. But the main reason for that is because she was always so nervous of everything and we didn’t want to push her too soon and it to then have an adverse effect on her. But since starting school her confidence has grown and grown and I now feel that she is ready so I am going to sign her up this summer if I can. My parents never taught any of us how to swim and I hate the fact that I don’t know how to swim myself. I’m almost ashamed to admit it actually! So I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t let the same thing happen to my kids #dreamteam

    1. If she is very nervous she may do better in a one to one setting to start with – you might need a second mortgage though 😉 Although I think at leisure centres it isn’t quite as crazy. With my swimming teacher hat on I would recommend doing some fun family pool sessions first to build confidence. Near us there is a pool with a beach style entry and that or a very shallow pool might be a great place to start. Maybe you could sign up for lessons too? Shame we aren’t nearer or I would gladly teach you both #DreamTeam
      One thing I would probably say is that school swimming lessons (that I have seen) are very hectic and loud so perhaps not the best place to be actually learning as a non swimmer. I think that could be daunting if a child were nervous. So I would defo start before then (thats usually not till year 4 so loads of time, but just thought I would mention it)

  9. I completely agree that getting children water confident is so important. I wish I’d got mine doing swimming lessons much earlier.. but it’s never too late at all. Ekk! Well done on rescuing that little one the wrong way up. That’s really shocking! #dreamteam x

    1. No it is never too late and she is still little so her Olympic swimming career is still attainable lol!! Sometimes I feel like super pushy mummy about swimming, but I genuinely don’t care if they give up swimming lessons the minute they are strong swimmers. Safety, exercise and fun is all that is needed #DreamTeam

  10. Totally agree about kids learning to swim! The world is made up of so much water, it would be nice to not have to fear death at its hands. Growing up in Hawai’i meant everyone I knew could swim, then when I moved away I was shocked at the number of people I met who didn’t swam – yet still went out on the water! Talk about tempting fate. They acted like a life jacket was the solution but those things are not perfect solutions. #DreamTeam

    1. I was super shocked to hear that a child in my son’s class can’t swim at all. I would have such a crappy holiday if my kids couldn’t swim 🙂 #DreamTeam

    1. That is who I taught for. I started off as a mummy in lessons and then trained to be a teacher. I do miss it, but the chaos here needs me 🙂 #DreamTeam

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