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Teaching Kids to Not Fear the Water

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Lisa here – We are so excited to have John guest post for us! John has been a lifeguard and swim instructor since the age of 16. He supported himself through college teaching and even now with his career, he teaches each summer.

He is amazing with kids and can take kids who are terrified of the water and turn them into fish. He is also incredibly good looking! I can say that because John also happens to be my hubs!

While I know I’m am a little biased he really does work miracles with teaching kids to swim. I know these tricks work since our boys all are amazing swimmers. Our older boys were pool safe by 3 1/2. Beckham is a daredevil and has been able to swim across small distances, like a jacuzzi, by himself since he was 2. He still hasn’t figured out how to take breaths but I know it will only take John a few minutes in the pool with him to get him pool safe now. Most kids can become pool safe in very little time when they turn 3 if they are not afraid of the water, which unfortunately most kids entering lessons are afraid of water going over their face.

So here are John’s tips and tricks!

  • Teaching kids to swim is a two edged sword, especially when getting kids comfortable with the water. You want them to be confident but not to the point where they think they can swim before they really can. Never leave your children unattended even with a flotation device!
  • Most parents don’t want to put water over their babies faces, which leads kids to fear it. Babies came from the womb, so they are used to the water. So, there is no reason not to put water over their faces. Obviously you don’t want to do it with soap in the water or dump large amounts of water on them. But after every bath its a good idea to put some clean water over their eyes. If you do this when they are first born they are very unlikely to have a fear of water over their faces. We also put our boys in the shower when they were old enough to sit up. Often, kids biggest problem when entering swim lessons is that they are afraid to get their eyes wet. All of the kids that I’ve seen struggle the most have had parents go to great lengths to prevent water from getting into their children’s eyes. If you have found yourself doing this, don’t feel bad – most parents do. Just start slowly by putting more and more water over them until they become more comfortable with it.
  • Do not let your kids get dependent on floaties. The minute they don’t have them or lose them in the middle of the water, they may freak out and put themselves in harms way. I used to say no flotation devices at all… But I realize that they are a tool and can be really helpful in crowded pools. If you are going to use floaties, I recommend the Stearns Kids Basic Life Jacket. It keeps kids forward on their stomachs. They learn how to swim with their arms out and they naturally reach and pull in a crawling motion. Kids can’t unhook the straps themselves and they don’t come off as easy as floaties. It is more comfortable than a regular life jacket too, which often gets uncomfortable around most kids necks.
  • Help your kids to be comfortable first, then work on swimming. Get them to trust you in the pool. Tell them what you are going to do before you do it. If you surprise them by dunking them when they are not expecting it, they may gasp under the water. Spend time in the pool playing. If the only time they are spending at the pool is during swim lessons they may 1) take longer to get comfortable and/or 2) learn to hate lessons because going to the pool means its class time. Take them to a city pool with a shallow section so they learn to play and love the water.
  • Teach them while they are young. The older your kids get and are not comfortable in the water, the more insecure they will be. The fear grows as they get older.
  • Often times kids have a fear of the bottom of the pool. If they feel tense in the water, hold their hands and let them go under water to touch the bottom with their feet. The more time they spend on the bottom of the pool, the less they fear it. The less they fear the bottom the more relaxed they will become.
  • Have fun and most importantly never be complacent when your kids are in the water. It only takes your back turned for a few seconds for kids to get into trouble. Always be safe!


Previous author of Over the Big Moon. I shared my passion for home and family life! I love graphic design, DIY projects, cooking, and working in my garden! My favorite role is taking care of my husband and our 3 amazing and busy boys!

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