Teaching our toddler to swim : classes, tips and taking our time

Teaching our toddler to swim : classes, tips and taking our time

We have tried teaching our toddler to swim and assumed an organised class would be the answer. My husband is a confident swimmer but works full time so there are limited opportunities for him to take out toddler swimming. I work flexibly so have two weekdays when I can take our son, but I’m not a confident swimmer. I also feel like I need the structure of going to a class or it’s too easy for me to skip it in favour of something else.

We first took our son to a swimming class when he was around seven months old. We did two terms with a national company in a local pool at a school, which was warm and on our doorstep. It was expensive but fun and targeted at babies. We were even able to find a class which accommodated my husbands’ schedule. But our son just wasn’t interested. He didn’t scream or cry. He did nothing…… nothing!

Given the cost and a few issues with classes being rescheduled we decided to put of going to another swimming class until he was older. We didn’t want to spend three years of carrying our son around a pool with him expressionless and not having any fun at all.

Time got away with us and now I’m working part time I have more time, so a few months ago we signed up to a class at a local leisure centre. It was much cheaper and had a range of ages from newborns up to about three. It was fantastic. Yes, the pool was cold but the teacher was wonderful. Small Boy loved it! After a few weeks though the instructor was taken ill and the leisure centre postponed classes. The communication from them was dire and I only found out by accident so in part spurred by frustration, we moved to a class at a different leisure centre. The pool was better at this one and I knew a few other mums who had been so I was full of confidence.

The first class went well. I was surprised at how well Small Boy adjusted, despite the class being established and pretty much ignoring the fact we hadn’t done much swimming at all and were new. That aside, we gave it a go, motivated by our forthcoming holiday to Newquay and knowing we’d be able to get in some pool time.


We’ve been a few weeks now and it’s a mixed bag. Twice, we’ve had an instructor who doesn’t get in the pool, just calls out instructions from the side and more often than not just asks us what we want to do.  The other weeks, we have a much more engaged instructor who allows plenty of time to play about, which is perfect for a two-year-old.


Yet I’m struggling to decide if this is the best way to teach our son to swim. He is fearless which is good in so many ways, but he refuses to participate and often just screams if I even try to support him. He can’t swim at all, but he is determined to walk up and down the pool until his nose is just skimming the water. I’ve been at a crossroads as the dreaded deadline for rebooking approaches. I need a kick up the bottom to get him out and the class is only a little more than just taking him in the pool on my own. I’m also aware that I want him to know how to protect himself in water and stay safe. Swimming is a life skill that we view as essential. Plus it’s fun!

I asked a few parenting bloggers for advice as I know many of them who have been on the same journey, and some who are even swimming instructors!




“We stopped classes for my youngest as he was like this. Spent all the time underwater. We had about 6 months off and then started again. Personally, however, private swimming lessons have been the best for us. Both for me (as there isn’t a massive queue for the showers) and the boys learned so much quicker.”

I hadn’t even considered private swimming lessons but I can certainly see these paying off if you have a child that needs a bit more support.”  A STRONG COFFEE TO GO

“They all learn at different paces. One of mine didn’t want to start learning until she was 7. 9 years later and she is still participating in a swimming club. It’s ok to give up trying until they’re older. Having said that if your child loves water and is fearless it could be worth paying for a term of lessons in a very small group. You’ll get professional advice and you can always stop at the end of the term until they’re older” –  FALCONDALE LIFE

“Find a swim school, ask for a trial lesson. Swim schools and swim teachers are like marmite…. different approaches suit different kids… so be open-minded.” PARENTING PEACE AND QUIET



“A child will always progress at their own speed. But there is stuff you can do at home. E.g playing in the bath, blowing bubbles, face submersions, and practising with goggles. Then there is going swimming as a family, try and put your own fears aside when playing. Embrace getting splashed. Then your kiddo will see how fun it is rather than seeing you shy from getting wet. Take bath toys and sinkers and muck about! In terms of flotation and safety stuff…. make sure your child is ALWAYS in arms reach of you regardless of flotation aid. And you are ALWAYS watching them.- PARENTING PEACE AND QUIET


“ The best thing you can do with a toddler is let them play. Allow them to explore the water, splash around and generally feel

comfortable in it. Find different ways of moving around such as sideways like a crab, giant footsteps, backwards, etc. Encourage blowing bubbles as this is great for when they start learning breathing techniques later on. Encourage to get face wet, pick up toys under the water, lay on their back with their ears in the water (most kids hate this to begin with but keep practising to help with backstroke later on). Encourage you toddler to kick by giving them a swimming noodle to hold or armbands/float vest and throw a ball or floating toy for them to swim to. Hope some of that helps! MUM OF 2 POINT 5




As these other swimming mammas have said, making it fun is essential. PLUTONIUMSOX has a whole list of ways to build children’s water confidence in her post “10 Ways to Build Children’s Water Confidence.” These include everything from diving toys to inflatables.

This resonates with me as I literally have to prize all the toys out of my son’s hands when leave the pool in class.


So what have I learned and did these swim mammas advice help? Yes, it really did. It’s great to get first hand insight from other parents and in this case ones who are swimming instructors and regular swimmers.

I think I’ve decided to sign up for another course with our current class. It’s only ten weeks. But I’m also going to take Small Boy swimming outside the class and see how he goes. At least if we spend the time splashing about being silly (safely) we can do it without the pressure (only I feel) to be following the others.

I also need to be patient and buy some more toys to take in the pool with us. In a few months, we can revist it. Perhaps I’ll even sign up for some trials with other classes and see if there’s better ones for him.


How are you teaching your toddler to swim? Share you techniques, tips and recommendations in the comments below. I love to hear them.


My Random Musings



  1. 27th June 2018 / 11:22 pm

    As someone who lives in the Mediterranean, I obviously view swimming as incredibly important as beach life and water sports are a way of life here. I did lessons with my now 14yo when we still lived in the UK and she was just 6 months old and upon moving to Malta have done lessons with them all starting at different ages. Re your son’s progress/your request for tips, I can’t offer any concrete advice but this is my experience: My eldest loved swimming from an early age and despite my on off approach to lessons (financial reasons), she was like a fish to water even after 9 months of not swimming from one summer to the next. My now 11yo boy was a VERY reluctant nervous swimmer right up til the age of 7 and would cry and cling on to me.; now he dives in and could spend hours in the water and my 8yo girl has to be dragged out of the pool as she loves it to. Maybe the nugget in all this is that I never pushed them (apart from doing an intense 10 days with my son at the age of 7 where I took him to the beach club and the sea every day and made him tread water while the poor boy cried with fear but it was a short sharp shock!). They now all do a full summer swim camp for 2 months each year and you may have to find something like this that is quite intense but immerses him, no pun intended. I’ll shut up now. #LongestBlogCommentEver #BloggerClubUK

    • 29th June 2018 / 1:18 pm

      Thanks lovely. That’s sensible advise. I had a chat with our swimming teacher and we are both of the view that when it comes to my son it’s an exerting his independence thing. He is fierceless which is good in many ways, but he doesn’t want to be held or supported which can make it difficult when he can’t actually swim! We’ve agreed on carrying on but keeping him in the shallow end of the pool and copying what some of the class is doing and not making to big a deal of it. I like the sound of a swmimming camp. He definitely does better if he has to focus on something in a defined period.

  2. Kate
    19th June 2018 / 9:22 am

    Great that you’ve signed up for another slot of 10 we like having you in our class 🙂 me and Beb often end up down the shallow end too because he loves walking round in the pool. Usually he starts to join in then pushes off me and doesn’t quite understand the deep end! I was unsure about booking another set of lessons too after our first set but I did because he loves it and I know it keeps me bringing him. I don’t suppose he’ll learn how to swim until he’s much older I guess? There’s one lady in our group I heard her saying last week that her little girl has gone from crying and clinging to her in the water to kicking with the floats and swimming a bit so that’s cool 🙂

  3. 19th June 2018 / 8:13 am

    Such a lot of useful tips and information here. Thanks for including me!

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