How to get your little one swimming

Learning to swim should be a natural step in a child’s development. Remember, babies are in fluid in the womb for nine months so are comfortable in the water almost from the minute they are born, as long as they feel safe.

Learning to swim for babies and toddlers

by Claire Freeman, PR Officer for ASA

The ASA have worked with the British Association of Paediatricians to develop guidance on the best way to introduce babies to swimming, but essentially it’s all about having fun in the water and making it a pleasurable experience, from the age of around six months ideally.

Helpful Tips

There are also some great tips/tricks parents can employ when swimming to encourage confidence in the pool.

  • Go to the pool regularly, the more comfortable they are in the water the more confident they will be when learning to swim
  • Play games and make it fun! Think about adapting land-based games for the pool, for example, piggy in the middle becomes fishy in the middle.
  • Get children confident at blowing bubbles and getting their face wet.
  • Relate swimming to other activities they do, for example singing. Swim a Song offers a great range of action songs and rhymes that will give you ideas on how to teach babies and toddlers swimming related moves – you can even practice at bath time! Swim a Song, in conjunction with Total Swimming, teaches water safety and movement through structured play and exercise to music. Just ask at your local pool to see if they deliver lessons.

Getting started

The best way to teach young children about water safety is by enrolling in structured swimming lessons. Also parents can make their kids aware of being safe in and around the water, such as teaching them good habits like no running or pushing by the poolside, and take the time to explain that swimming in the sea is different to the pool because the water might be colder and there are waves.

Many pools run baby/toddler swimming sessions for adults and children from six months. In these sessions ‘core aquatic skills’ are developed, where swimmers learn essential skills that are part of learning to swim.  Skills include buoyancy, balance, streamlining and how to travel and confident toddlers often progress to a stage where they are swimming without buoyancy aids in these sessions

Look for centres near you that deliver the British Gas ASA Learn to Swim Framework and use the Duckling Awards. The ASA has developed this framework to take children through their first splash to full competence in the water.  Many local authorities have details online on lessons in the area, otherwise the best place is the local swimming pool.  Lessons are run by pool operators, private swim schools or local swimming clubs. If you are still stuck speak to some friends for recommendations.


  • It is recommended that as well as a swimming costume, babies and young toddlers should wear swim nappies, available from most major stores that sell baby items. Many swimming pools also sell them.
  • Wetsuits – it will depend on the amount of time that your child spends in the water and how active they are, but many babies and toddlers enjoy swimming without having a wetsuit. If you do prefer to use one, it will allow them to keep warm and enjoy the time in the water for periods over 15 minutes and some swimming programmes do recommend wetsuits.
  • The decision to allow swimming goggles during lessons is down to the individual teacher, so speak to yours. Swimming is a vital skill for children to learn for health and enjoyment reasons, and also because it could one day save their life. While swimming goggles may make a child feel comfortable in the pool while they are learning to swim, if they accidentally end up in water it is unlikely they will be wearing them. It’s vital children are comfortable swimming with or without goggles so they do not panic if placed in an unexpected situation.
  • If your child wears glasses every day then it may be appropriate for them to get prescription goggles. Your optician will help find a suitable provider.

More information

The ASA are the experts in all things swimming and have lots more information and guidance on our website.

Photography: Philms @Flickr

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