How Do I Teach My Baby How to Swim?

Swimming is a vital and life-saving skill that can be taught from a very early age, and there are many great techniques to use when teaching your baby to swim. Survival Swim starts by teaching your baby how to hold their breath underwater. Then, we focus on self-rescue techniques, including swim-float-swim, which is a series of floating, kicking, and simple strokes designed to keep your baby safer around any depth of water. Survival Swim helps teach your baby these techniques starting as early as six months old.

Start as Early as You Can

The earlier you can start teaching your little swimmer, the easier and better it will be for them. Babies typically don’t relate water with fear. So, swimmers who start in infancy often don’t remember learning to swim as a traumatic experience. As your child ages, fear responses start developing. By three years old, a child who has not been taught swimming basics will develop fear of the water.

And starting early does more than just combat fear. A child’s brain is 90% developed by age five[1]. The earlier you start teaching your child water survival and swimming, the more natural those skills become. If you teach your child how to swim from infancy, the confidence they gain becomes a hard-wired part of their development, leading to skills that last a lifetime.

Create a Relaxed Environment

The goal of Survival Swim is to teach children to remain calm and rely on their learned skills when they encounter water. First and foremost, you need to create a calm environment in which they can learn. Take time to get comfortable in the water with your child and model the skills that you’re going to teach them. Show them how you can hold your own breath and open your eyes underwater. Even the youngest babies learn by imitation. Your demonstrations will not go unnoticed.


Once you create a comfortable and relaxed environment, you’re one step closer to combating fear. This is essential, especially if you’re not starting your child’s swimming journey from infancy. Fear is a leading cause of drowning — when an unskilled child encounters the water, the unfamiliarity leads to fear, which becomes panic. By spending time teaching your new swimmer how to hold their breath, open their eyes, and relax in the water, they’ll have an easier time learning to float, swim, and self-rescue.

Overcome Your Own Fears First

It is difficult — if not impossible — to create a relaxed environment for your child if you are fearful of the water. If you have your own anxieties to deal with, do it away from your child. Spend time in the water going over the basics: hold your breath and open your eyes under the water, perform basic swimming strokes, tread water in the deep end, and build your own confidence. Use self-talk and positive affirmations to help release your fears. If you’re still having difficulty, take an adult swimming or lifeguarding class to enhance your confidence and skills in and around the water. And if your fears are too great to overcome, enlist the help of a Survival Swim certified instructor to help you teach your child so that they can learn in the best environment possible.

Level-set Your Expectations

Teaching your baby to swim is not an extracurricular activity — it’s a survival skill. Be ready to commit to the learning process no matter what. Teaching swimming takes repetition, practice, and dedication, and you must be ready to get into the water as often as possible with your child, day after day, until they’ve learned the skills they need. Often, that means swimming when you or your child is not in the mood. But the good news is that it only takes a few minutes each day to teach and reinforce Survival Swim skills.

Start (And Practice) in the Bath

You don’t need a pool in your backyard to teach your child the basics of the Survival Swim method. Your little swimmer can learn in the bathtub to start, continue learning during the off-season, and even practice in between lessons.

Using cool, clear water to mimic a swimming environment, have them practice holding their breath and opening their eyes underwater while laying face-down. They can also practice kicking their legs and floating on their back. To help them gain confidence floating on their backs, fill the bathtub just to a point where their head rests on the bottom of the tub and their ears are covered in the water. As they become proficient, you can raise the water level. The more consistent practice they get, the better. In no time, they’ll seamlessly translate what they’ve learned in the tub to any depth of water. But remember: never leave a young child unattended in the bath, even after they master their Survival Swim basics!

Swimming Basics

Floating is great, but swimming is vital for survival and self-rescue. Swimming means being face-down, with breath held and eyes open, using kicks and simple strokes to move through the water. Once your child puts their face down and opens their eyes to look at the bottom of the pool, their butt will come up and they’ll be able to start kicking their legs. At that point, they’re swimming!  For toddlers and older children who are just learning how to swim, you can use the phrase, “face down, butt up!” to help them remember the proper position for effective swimming.

New swimmers who don’t put their face in the water aren’t swimming; they’re “doggy paddling.” This technique is exhausting, and small children can quickly become overwhelmed with fatigue if it’s the only form of swimming they know. Fortunately, there are some simple steps that allow you to teach basic swimming that you can use in your home pool, spa, or even in the bathtub:

  1. Teach Swim-Float-Swim
  • Have your learner put their face in the water, hold their breath, and open their eyes. Their body will naturally surface.
  • Your swimmer should kick while in this position while keeping an eye on their destination.
  • They can take a breath by rotating their head to one side, putting their face out of the water, and breathing through their mouth.
  • Once they begin to tire, your swimmer should roll onto their back and float. They can either rest in this position, or continue kicking.
  • Your swimmer should roll back to the swim position regularly to keep an eye on their destination and to make faster progress toward safety.
  1. Help your swimmer learn how to breath in the water
  • Have them hold the side of the pool, pushing their body away from the side.
  • Your swimmer should take a breath and put their face in the water,
  • Next, the swimmer should practice kicking; exhaling air through the nose and mouth while keeping their face down and their eyes open.
  • When they need a breath, have them rotate their neck so that their face comes out of the water. They can then breath through their mouth..Remind them to keep kicking!
  • After a quick breath, the swimmer should immediately return to a face down position.

Learn More About Survival Swim

Every child should learn how to swim as early as possible. But often, infant swimming programs are cost or time prohibitive. Survival Swim is affordable solution that  helps teach your child vital swimming skills at home or at your community pool. Even if you don’t have a pool, you can teach many of the Survival Swim basics to your child in a bathtub. By teaching your children to swim from a young age, you can make swimming an ingrained and inherent skill that they’ll carry with them throughout their entire lives.


Find an Instructor near you and get the Survial Swim App so you can start teaching Survival Swim to your young swimmers today.