Swim Lessons For Toddlers: Lifesaving Skills

Posted on: 3 August 2018

If you're a parent of a toddler, few things likely scare you more than unsupervised access to water. Fortunately, even children as young as 3 can begin learning lifesaving water survival skills. These skills are something you can practice with them before they even start taking formal swimming lessons.

Here are some basics you can work on with your toddler that are often the first things they learn when they take swim lessons.

Treading Water

Similar to learning to walk before you can learn to run, treading water is a fundamental swimming and water survival skill. Teaching your toddler to tread water, even if they can only sustain their treading for a few moments can be lifesaving; it will also give them confidence when they begin learning how to swim.


Teaching treading skills should be a gradual process; start shallow before moving deep; start by practicing the arm motion before attempting to incorporate the leg motion. When you first start, have your toddler stand on the pool's lowest step, standing about arms length in front of them. Next, have them practice rotating their arms in front of them. As they feel more comfortable with this motion, they will notice that the motion rises them higher in the water. After they notice this motion, encourage them to step off of the steps. Once you notice them sinking in the water, you can support them and/or move them back onto the step. Naturally, they will begin kicking their feet as well. 

Dog Paddling

Once your toddler feels comfortable treading water, you can move onto dog paddling. This rudimentary swimming stroke is essential if your toddler finds themselves in a situation where they need to swim short distances to safety. 

Paddling and Kicking

Dog paddling can be broken into two parts. First, your toddler needs to get use to rotating their chest forward. This motion will naturally bring their hips behind them. You can practice paddling as an extension of the aforementioned water treading skills. Move three or four steps further from the steps and have your toddler push off of the bottom step, moving their arms in front of them like a T-Rex. The goal is to keep moving forward, keeping their head as high as possible. After they've mastered the paddling portion, you can have them kick toward you using a paddle board. After they feel comfortable with both motions, you can have them practice paddling while kicking.