5 Mistakes to Avoid When Teaching Kids How to Swim

Are you making these mistakes when teaching your child how to swim?

You are savvy in the pool. You can make it from end to the other while doing the breaststroke you learned in grade school, and now it’s time to pass on your skills on to your kids. Teaching kids to swim is an important skill that is fun, it can save their lives, and instills in them a love for fitness. Who better to teach them than you, right? Not so fast. You might be making a few mistakes along the way. Check out the top 5 mistakes made when teaching kids to swim.

Why Teach Kids to Swim?

Before we tackle the issues, let’s talk about why kids should learn to swim. When you teach kids to swim, the benefits abound.

  • According to the CDC, 10 people die everyday from drowning. Twenty percent of the deaths are children under the age of 14. Swimming teaches kids water safety and the skills necessary to reduce the likelihood of drowning.

  • One out of three kids between the ages of 2 and 19 is considered obese. Swimming keeps kids active now and in the future to prevent obesity.

  • Swimming teaches active participation, goal-orientation, teamwork, sportsmanship, and how to handle winning and losing.

  • Swimming teaches perseverance.

  • Swimming injuries are fewer in swimming than in other sports, and it is a sport kids can do until they are in their 90s.

Now that you know what your child gains from swimming, it’s time to talk about the mistakes made when teaching kids to swim. Many parents make mistakes when teaching their kids to swim because they themselves learned incorrectly. Learn to swim better together by avoiding these swim lesson mistakes.

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You look online for drills

Looking online
Mother looking online. Getty Images

This is one of the biggest mistakes parents make when teaching kids how to swim. Yes, you can find useful information and drills online to help you teach your child to swim, but the videos may miss a few steps. Videos are often supplemental resources. Consider for a moment who is teaching and who is swimming. These videos may be hosted by professional coaches, which you are not, who have years of experience teaching kids how to swim. What the videos also miss are the basics and the basis for the drills. What does that mean? Well, you need to know why a specific drill you are teaching is useful, and you need to know the basics of the drill first—body mechanics, breathing, common mistakes—before you expect a child to perfect it.

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Poor body mechanics

Kids swimming
Girl swimming in pool. Getty Images

When teaching older kids how to swim any of the strokes, there has to be constant evaluation of their body mechanics. You need to know the correct position of the hands, the body, the head, the hips, etc. Yes, I know you are not training competitive swimmers, but you could be. If you are going to teach a stroke, you need to teach everything involved in the stroke, and body mechanics is the most important part. While the child is swimming, you must constantly observe body mechanics to ensure the child is swimming the correct way. 

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You don’t want to scare your child

kids swimming
toddler at the pool. Getty Images

I get it; you don’t want to startle your child by making him go under water for the first time, but you have to. Think about this: your child’s life depends on it. You cannot skip out on water safety exercises with your baby because you don’t want to make your baby cry. They will get over it, and with practice, they will learn to love it. That first dip under water can lead to a love for swimming as well as provide your child with the basic skills to save your baby’s life. 

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Push too hard too soon

Swim lessons
Sad girl by the pool. Getty Images

There is a big difference between pushing your child to succeed and pushing your child to sheer exhaustion or complete disdain. When you begin swim lessons with your child, don’t expect them to perfect every stroke or skill the first time around. Swimming takes practice, and if you push your child to the point of frustration, your child will not want to swim. All the hard work you put into swim lessons won’t really matter if your child has no desire to go back in the water or if they stop having fun in the pool. Another important tip is to try to keep swim lessons to 30 minutes. Remember, your child doesn’t need to start with biomechanical analyses and personal training from day one. 

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Forget about the kick

Swim lessons
Kids kicking in the pool. Getty Images

 When teaching kids how to swim at home, it is easy to become consumed by the arms and forget about the kick. That’s what swimming is, right? Not so fast. Swimming is more than the arms. In fact, it is more about the kick. Kicking aids in propulsion, balance, and floating. When teaching kids how to kick when swimming, don’t allow them to kick like drowning scorpions. Make sure the legs are as straight as possible and that the kick is controlled. Kids can practice kicking on kickboards or at the side of the pool.

Safety Can Be Fun

This list could go on forever, but these are a few of the most important mistakes for right now. This list of common swimming mistakes tackles the basics of the teaching kids how to swim. Try to find local swim instructors who are trained and equipped with the skills to progress your child through all the stages of swimming. Swimming is fun!