Tips & Advice

Learn to swim programme: Stage two – Start swimming!


It’s all about getting your feet off the ground and starting to paddle

Moving from water baby to little swimmer can be daunting for young children. With simple activities that will continue your child’s development and love of the water, stage two of our swimming programme makes the transition an easier one. Your child still needs supervision at this point, so stay close to them, no matter how able they appear to be!

Move your little one on from splashing to swimming with part two of our swim guide

With help from the Sea Squad, your child will learn the correct positions to float, paddle and swim by the time they’ve completed this section in the pool. “It’s all about getting your feet off the ground and starting to paddle,” explains Olympic medallist, Rebecca Adlington. “Don’t forget to encourage your child, keep them close and enjoy yourself.”


Activity 1. Entering the water

These two techniques teach children to be safe and confident when entering the water.

Egg and soldiers (the ‘swivel’ entry)

This is a safe and fun way for children to enter the pool without using steps.

Like a soldier, your little one sits at the edge of the pool with their back straight, ‘marching’ their feet in the water to adjust to the pool temperature.

By placing their hands to one side and twisting their body round to face the pool edge, they can support their body weight (keeping their chest off the pool side) and slowly ‘dip’ down into the water.

Ladders (the ‘ladder’ entry)

Using a pool ladder is safe and simple. Holding the ladder with both hands, your child faces the pool edge, and slowly steps down, one at a time, into the water.


Activity 2. Exiting the water safely

All hands on deck!

If there are no ladders or steps available, teach your child to use the ‘ship deck’ (the pool side) to leave the water. Starting out with arms flat on the side, your child lifts their bodyweight onto their arms then reaches up their knees to the pool edge, to safely push up out of the water.

Tip: Watch out for troughs at the side of the pool, as they can cause accidents.


Activity 3. Building confidence in the water
Blowfish bubbles

This game is all about building confidence and getting used to the feeling of the water. Find a shallow section of the pool and sit facing your child. With a big smile (to show you’re calm and happy) get your little one to mimic you as you scoop water and splash your own face. After a couple of goes, try submerging your chin in the water to exhale and blow bubbles. Encourage your child to do the same, and see who can blow the biggest bubbles!


Activity 4. Moving through the water

Parents, you’re the target in this task. As the ‘skittle’, stand five metres from your child in the water and cheer them on as they take it in turns to walk, skip, hop, jump or paddle through the water to ‘bowl’ you over (drop to your knees, if it’s shallow!) Encourage them to use their arms to propel themselves through the water, using floating aids to help with buoyancy. For the ‘big strike’ they must kick their legs to paddle through the water to hit the target.

As their confidence grows, try the game again, but travelling backwards, or even sideways through the water.

To vary the game, use a water ball as a different type of target.


Activity 5. Going underwater


Mermaids Waterfall

What treasure lies behind the waterfall? This task will help your child to feel confident when getting their face wet. Using the sprinkler features at the pool (or the shower head in the bath at home), imagine a ‘magic waterfall’ which hides a bounty of mermaid treasure. If possible, avoid using goggles and encourage your child to keep their eyes closed as they move through the water.


Activity 6. Floating on the water


Starry Sky

This is a safe technique which teaches children how to float on water.

Support your child with floating aids as they stretch out horizontally on the water, like a big star in the night sky. Once floating, encourage them to lift their head and chest and, using their arms, change to a standing position.

When they feel confident, help them to float on their front with their face submerged, before rotating to a standing position once again.


Activity 7. Jumping into the water


Frog Hopping

Teach your child to jump like a frog into the water – knees bent, back straight and with confidence. For the first few tries, use floating aids and hold their hand as they learn the technique. The ‘frog’ starts with toes gripping the edge of the pool looking forward; then jumps away from the side, landing on their feet with bent knees. Kids love this activity, so always remember to check the pool depth first.


Activity 8. Push and glide



Surf’s up! This technique is important to learn, as the ‘push and glide’ is the foundation of all swimming strokes.

Staying straight like a surfboard, your little ‘dude’ pushes off from the side of the pool, gliding on their back through the water. Try to keep hips and head close to the surface and stretch the arms ahead or to the sides.

Until your child feels confident going it alone, use floating aids to help with buoyancy.


Activity 9. Moving forward


Treasure Island

It’s time to get their feet off the floor! In this task you’re a treasure island.

Stand five metres away from your child in the water and encourage them to paddle towards you, using their arms and feet to kick and push through the water. Use goggles to help them keep their face partly submerged as they paddle, and help them to dodge floating treasure (e.g. water balls).

Use floating aids to give extra support while they develop their technique.


Activity 10. Moving backwards


Treasure Island 2: The Return

This time, to reach the treasure island your child must look up to the skies.

Standing five metres away in the water, coach your child to lean back into position – hips close to the surface, ears under the water and eyes facing up. Encourage them to kick their legs and push their hands through the water to reach you. In a similar way to before, using swimming aids like Minikicks under the arms, or held over the chest, will help your child concentrate on their kicking technique.


Congratulations, your little one is well on their way to learning how to swim! If your child can’t get enough of these activities, check out these fun games, chosen to continue developing their new skills: Learn to Swim programme: Stage two – Fun and Games.  Then, when you

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