Teach your kid to swim independently
Welcome to Level 2 of the Beginner Swimming Lessons for Kids series!
This series is made up of 3 Levels, and it is designed to help parents/instructors teach children ages 3 and up to swim and water safety skills.
Important note: If you are teaching a child to swim, you should be able to swim yourself AND have the ability to rescue a child if he/she were drowning or in trouble in the water. If you cannot do this, please seek help from a certified swim instructor.
Before starting the Level 2 swimming lessons, please review the swim lessons in Level 1 first to make sure your child can complete all the Level 1 skills.
We will be building upon the skills your child learned in Level 1, so it is important that they have mastered those swimming skills first.
OK, let’s get started!
Here in Level 2, we will work on teaching kids to go completely under water, to kick and float independently, to roll from front to back and back to front in the water, and to turn and kick to the edge of the pool after being dropped into the water. We’ll also teach your child how to climb out of the pool in this level.
Below, you’ll find detailed instructions on how to teach each of these swimming skills, including some pictures and videos.
Please feel free to leave comments at the end to let me know how you are progressing and if you have any questions about these swimming lessons!
1. How to Teach Kids to Put Their Head Under Water
Before we begin, your child should already know how to put their face in the water. If not, go back to Level 1 where we teach this skill.
Now, let’s have your child practice completely submerging their head under water.
I like to teach kids this skill by starting at the steps of the pool, where they are most comfortable. (If your child is older (age 6+), they can probably start in the shallow end of the pool, as long as they can stand and touch the bottom. The important thing is to pick a location where they feel comfortable.)
Now, start by holding your child’s hand and have them hold their breath and submerge their head under water for just 1 or 2 seconds.
Your child doesn’t need to go very deep under water yet. Their head can be just below the surface of the water.
If they are comfortable with this, then extend the time under water to 3 or 4 seconds.
Once your child is comfortable submerging their head under water for 5 seconds or more, have them practicing blowing bubbles out of their nose under water.
Watch the video below as a child demonstrates going under water and then blowing bubbles from his nose under water.
Teach your child to go under water and pick up an object
Now that your child is comfortable going under water, let’s teach them to pick up objects under water.
To make this swim lesson fun and to teach your child to go deeper under water, you can put some diving rings on the steps and have your child go under water and try to retrieve the diving rings.
Hold your kid’s hand while they retrieve the rings at first, but then have them try retrieving a ring by themselves once they are comfortable.
Start on the shallow steps and move deeper over time as they get comfortable. This will usually happen over several lessons and not all in one day.
Watch the video below to see a child who can pick up rings in the shallow end near the steps of a pool.
Note that this child started retrieving objects from the steps first, and then worked his way to deeper objects over several lessons to what you see in this video.
Once kids get the hang of picking up toys under water, they LOVE it!
Also, once the kids start loving this exercise, I usually use it as their “break” when I’m teaching them a skill that’s harder for them.
So, I’ll have them practice a new skill that may be a bit challenging for them a couple times, then I’ll have them do something they think is fun, such as going underwater to pick up a toy or monkey crawling or kicking around the pool with my help.
This keeps the swimming lessons fun yet still productive.
Practicing skills your child has already learned is still important so they don’t get rusty or forget how to do them. AND it builds their confidence and keeps them enjoying the swimming lessons. It’s a win-win!
2. Teach Your Kid to Kick in the Water Independently
For this swim lesson on teaching your child to kick on their front (face down) independently, you should have already completed the lessons in Level 1.
If not, check out those lessons first and make sure your child can kick with a pool noodle under their arms, put their face in the water for at least 5 seconds, and float on their front before continuing here.
OK, let’s get started!
Front kick in Superman position with a noodle
Have your child start this lesson at the stairs where they can stand (to make them feel more comfortable).
Then, have your child hold onto a pool noodle with their hands, and have them stretch both arms straight out in front of them. (I like to call this Superman position.)
Next, have them put their face in the water and kick a short distance with the noodle while you stay close to them in case they need help.
See the video below for a demonstration of this exercise.
Note that the child in this video is already comfortable with this drill, so she started from the pool wall instead of the stairs and did not need an instructor close by. However, if your child is just beginning, please stay close to your child and help them as needed.
Practice this drill until your child is comfortable with it. If your child needs to take a breath, have them lift their head straight up to take a breath, and then they can put their face back in the water and continue to kick.
Front kick WITHOUT a noodle to a parent/instructor
Now, let’s teach your child to front kick independently!
We’ll do the same front kick drill as before, but this time without the noodle.
Have your child start at the stairs, and you will stand just a couple feet in front of them. (Start with a very short distance between you and your child at first.)
Your kid can start with their arms either by their side or stretched out straight in front of them in Superman position (whichever is easiest for them).
Now, have your child put their face in the water and kick a short distance to you.
Then, pick your child up and give them a high five!
Practice this drill for a while until your kid is comfortable with it. As your child gets better at it, slowly increase the distance between you and your child so they kick a little bit longer distance.
Don’t have your child kick with their face in the water longer than 5 seconds yet because they will still need your help to breathe.
See the two videos below for different demonstrations of this exercise!
Stand closer to your child than what is shown in the video above at first. Then, as your child improves, work your way up to the distance shown in the above video.
Note that the child in the video above knows how to breathe on her own. If your child needs help breathing, stay close to them during this drill and lift them up to breathe.
Congrats! Your child now knows how to kick to you all by themselves!
This is a great accomplishment, but keep in mind that your child is not yet swimming independently because they still need to learn how to come up for a breath.
But don’t worry! Because now we will teach your kid how to roll over onto their back to take a breath. Also, in Level 3, we will teach your child the pop-up breath.
3. Teach Your Child to Roll from Front to Back and Back to Front in the Water
Before starting this exercise, your child should be able to (1) float on their back and (2) kick a short distance to you independently with their face in the water. If not, work on those skills with your child first, and then return to this section.
Rolling from front to back
Now, let’s teach your child the very important skill of rolling over onto their back to float and breathe while swimming.
Everyone should know how to roll onto their back and float in the water because it really can save lives.
So, let’s get started!
First, let’s review floating and kicking with your child
We’ll start this swimming lesson by reviewing floating on the back with your child. Help them get into the back floating position by supporting their head with your hand while they lay on their back in the water; then, let go of their head and allow them to back float for 10 seconds by themselves.
Now, let’s review the front kick with your child. Have your kid start at the stairs and kick to you all by themselves with their face in the water for 5 seconds.
Great! It’s important to review these two skills right before you start teaching the roll and float, because your child will be using both skills to perform the roll and float.
Assisted roll onto the back
Now, explain to your child that they’ll be practicing rolling onto their back and floating for 10 seconds. (This way, they’ll have an idea of what they’re supposed to do. You can also show them how you roll from front to back in the water first so they can see how it’s done.)
Next, have your child start at the stairs, and tell them to kick to you (where you will be standing a few feet in front of them).
When your kid reaches you, gently hold their head with your hands and turn their head gently to one side to initiate the roll. The rest of their body should follow the head and roll over onto their back.
Sometimes, kids will not roll over on the first attempt. It’s okay, just keep practicing and soon your child will understand that their body is supposed to roll over on the back.
See the video below for a demonstration of what this exercise should look like.
Independent roll onto the back and float
Now, have your child try this exercise by themselves.
Have them start at the stairs and kick a short distance to you, and tell your child that when they reach you, they should try to roll over onto their back by themselves.
It will take some time for your kid to learn to roll onto their back by themselves. I usually help the kids roll over a few times, then have them try once by themselves, then I help them roll over again, then have them try by themselves again, and so on.
Also, I like to mix in other fun/easy exercises so the kids don’t get too frustrated while learning to roll and float. These can even be skills your kid already knows, such as picking up diving rings from the steps, because reviewing skills they’ve already learned is great for keeping the skill fresh in their minds so they don’t forget or get rusty at it.
See the video below for a demonstration of a child that can roll and float by himself.
Now that your child can kick to you and then roll over onto their back and float, let’s add one more skill onto this exercise.
Let’s teach your child to kick to you, roll over onto their back and float, and then roll back over onto their stomach and continue to kick. (I refer to this as a “swim, float, swim” sequence.)
Keep in mind that all of this won’t happen in one lesson! Learning these skills can take several lessons or more depending on the child and how often you practice. (I recommend practicing 2-3 times per week for the fastest results.)
Start by teaching your child to roll from back to front
To teach your kid to roll from back to front, have them start in the back floating position.
Now, tell your child to roll over onto their stomach with their face in the water. Have them try it on their own first to see if they can do it. Sometimes, kids are able to figure this one out on their own by just trying it (especially since they already know how to roll from front to back).
If not, help them to roll from their back to their front (face down position).
Practice rolling from back to front until your child is comfortable doing it on their own.
Once your kid masters this skill, have them try the swim, float, swim sequence (described below) just one time.
Swim, float, swim sequence
To do the swim, float, swim sequence, have your child start at the stairs and kick towards you. Then, have your child roll over onto their back and float for 5 or 10 seconds; next, have your kid roll back over onto their stomach and kick for 5 seconds, and then pick your child up.
Once your child is completely comfortable doing one swim, float, swim sequence, start adding on additional floats and swims one at a time.
See the video below for a demonstration of a child doing multiple swim, float, swim sequences.
Excellent job! Give yourself a BIG pat on the back because your child is swimming independently!!
We’ll continue teaching your kid additional swimming skills that are important, but they now have the basic swimming skills of being able to kick, roll over, back float, breathe, and then roll back over and continue kicking!
Technically, this is all they need to swim across the pool!
BUT, let’s keep adding on more skills, because we want your child to be able to jump or be dropped into the pool and rescue themselves AND we’d like them to learn some basic arm stroke movements (which will happen in Level 3)!
4. Teach your child to turn and kick to the edge of the pool after being dropped into the water
If not, master those skills first before continuing.
Turning in the water
Ok, now let’s begin by first teaching your kid how to turn around in the water.
Start by holding your child under their arms, with your child facing away from you (like the picture below).
Next, tell your child that you’re going to drop them in the water (with their head going under water) and that they should turn around to face you.
Note: Don’t let your child stay under water for more than 5 seconds; pick them up regardless of whether they complete the exercise.
Your kid may not be able to turn around in the water the first time they try this, and that’s ok! Just keep practicing a few times each lesson until they can. Remember, take your time and have fun.
Turn and kick to the wall
Once your child can turn around in the water, let’s add another skill to this exercise.
Let’s teach your child how to be dropped into the water, turn around, and then kick a short distance to the edge of the pool.
First, we’ll teach your child how to change their body position from vertical to horizontal in the water. (See the images below for demonstrations of each position.)
Start by holding your child under their arms facing you (like the vertical position image above).
Now, tell your child that you’re going to drop them in the water and that they need to get their legs behind them (like the horizontal position image above) and kick a short distance to you.
Have them practice this skill a few times each lesson.
Once your kid is comfortable moving their body from the vertical position to the horizontal position, add in the turn they learned previously.
So, now you’ll hold your child under their arms facing AWAY from you. Instruct your child that once you drop them into the water, they will turn around to face you, move their legs behind them (into the horizontal position), and then kick to you.
Take your time teaching this skill and work on it a few times at each lesson.
Once your kid is comfortable being dropped into the pool, turning, and kicking to you, do the same exercise, but instead have them turn and kick to the edge of the pool and grab the wall.
Stay close to your child in case they need help. You should drop them only a few feet away from the wall so that they’re not under water for more than 5 seconds.
Great job! We’ll continue the progression of this skill in Level 3.
But for now, let’s teach your child how to climb out of the pool.
5. Learning to Climb Out of a Pool
The last skill we’ll learn here in Level 2 is how to climb out of a pool.
Start by having your child hold onto the edge of the pool while you stand behind them.
Here’s the sequence I tell kids for climbing out of a pool:
“Elbow, elbow, up to your belly, knee up, and then climb out.”
So, you’ll want your child to put both of their elbows up onto the edge of the pool (it’s really their hand, forearm, and elbow, but its easier for kids to understand elbow).
Then, they’ll lift themselves up and rest their belly on the edge of the pool.
Finally, they’ll put one knee up on the edge of the pool and then be able to climb out.
Help your child my lifting them up to their belly at first.
After practicing over several lessons, your child should eventually build up the strength they need to lift themselves up and climb out of the pool.
Watch the video below showing two children at different stages of the learning process.
The first child is younger and still needs help while climbing out, and the second child is older and can climb out of the pool on his own.
Remember, “elbow, elbow, up to the belly, knee up, and climb out.”
Congrats!! You and your child have now completed Level 2!!
Give your child lots of praise for everything they’ve accomplished up to this point! AND give yourself a big pat on the back too—you deserve it!
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Below, you’ll find a summary of all the skills we covered here in Level 2.
Now, let’s move on to Level 3!
Summary of Level 2 Skills
Teach Your Child to Put Their Head Under Water
- Submerge head completely under water
- Blow bubbles from the nose under water
- Go under water and pick up an object from the steps or shallow end
Learn to Kick in the Water Independently
- Front kick in Superman position with a pool noodle
- Front kick without a noodle to a parent/instructor
Teach Kids to Roll from Front to Back and Back to Front in the Water
- Assisted roll from front onto back
- Independent roll from front onto back and float
- Roll from back to front
- Swim, float, swim
Turn and Kick to the Edge of the Pool After Being Dropped into the Water
- Drop and turn in the water
- Drop, turn and kick to edge of pool
Climb Out of the Pool
- Elbow, elbow, up to the belly, knee up, and climb out