1, 2, 3… the steps towards enjoying the water for 0-to-6 year olds!

We all know that the best way to learn is through play! Most children love the water, but teaching them to swim is a whole other ball game.

Here is Nabaiji's guide to introducing your children to the joys of swimming so that they take to it like a fish to water!

From what age can children learn to swim?

Babies can start swimming lessons from the age of 4 months if they have had their vaccinations (after the DT Polio 2nd jab). And as you would imagine, the sooner baby feels the familiar sensation of amniotic fluid, the more comfortable they will be in water. Some swimming pools have dedicated sessions for babies and their parents, a great way to spend some quality family time if baby swimming lessons are full.

But it is important to remember that when it comes to the stages of child development, everything in its own time! Everyone is different and will do things at their own pace. The stages in which your child learns to swim will not necessarily be the same as those of their little friends. And if your baby cries during their first session, try a second time at a later date and if that one also goes catastrophically... know when it's time to leave your baby alone. You may not have a natural-born swimmer, but all is not lost. It's just not the right time yet. They will have swimming lessons in primary school so rest assured that one way or another they will learn to swim.

Every child is different and everyone approaches the pool environment and the activity in their own way. Do not try to compare your child's skills with those of others; some will prefer to stay in the arms of a parent or play at the edge of the pool, others will be more adventurous. Every situation your child chooses to experience will help them learn and develop. So let them decide what they are interested in.

How can i teach my child to swim?


Step 1: discovering the water

This new activity takes place in a set environment with its own sights and sounds: the swimming pool. It's a new place with different smells, lots of noise, etc. So to help your child get to grips with this new environment, talk to them and explain everything that's going on around them. Take the time to sit on a bench next to the pool and watch what is happening together.

You can also prepare for their first pool sessions by reading them stories on the subject. All the heroes of children's books (Peppa Pig, Maisy, etc.) go swimming.
And if your child gets on well with one of their friends from nursery, you could invite them (and their parents) to come and play in the shallow pool, it's reassuring for everyone.

If you have decided to take your child to the swimming pool, presumably it's because you enjoy it too. So as you get in the water, show your baby that you are in your element. You are setting an example, which gives them confidence. Get yourself a pool noodle, play around putting your head under the water (only yours!), pour water out of a mini watering can... In short, get your child used to the water.

Listen to your little one If you can tell that they are getting tired, that the noise is bothering them or that they are not a fan of the water, take them out of the pool. And after asking them if they want to go home, make your way to the exit. I'm counting on you to let them know that they should be proud of themselves, whether they stayed in the water for 5 or 30 minutes, positive reinforcement is important for children to enjoy discovering new things. Learning to swim takes time.

If you want to help them associate learning to swim with fun family time, you can create a routine for when you get out of the pool: a little snack, a quiet walk, etc.

Step 2: discovering swimming

Very quickly your child will want to move around under their own steam. On all fours, sitting or standing, they will want to explore what they can do in the pool. Once again, let them wander wherever they want and discover things by themselves with your encouragement. But stay by their side as they discover all of this for the first time because they won't yet have the reflex to keep their head out of the water, even if they can touch the bottom (I have tested this myself and it's... surprising).

Spark their imagination, creativity and curiosity to come up with new games. Get your child to move around the pool and then in the water. Standing up, lying on their stomach or on their back, get them to try everything. You could play a game where they are a little crocodile who walks on their hands at the bottom of the shallowest pool. Or try the starfish, this is all the more interesting as it lets little ones discover that they float, without equipment!
Have a go at using the small slides, floating mats and weighted rings to enrich your sessions and play games. If your local leisure centre does not provide equipment for pool sessions, don't worry, between your imagination and that of your child you will easily make up for it.

If you find that your child is not motivated by games or stories, that's likely because he or she is developing another skill instead. We often say this but it's important to repeat it: children's brains cannot develop every aspect at the same time. This is why, often, children with very advanced motor skills do not speak as well as those who are more focused on speech and vice versa. So take a break and wait a while before taking them back to the pool. It will be more fun for them and for you!

1, 2, 3… the steps towards enjoying the water for 0-to-6 year olds!

Step 3: discovering under the water

The child must be the one who decides when they go completely underwater for the first time, this is crucial. Why? Because even today we still come across children with phobias of the water because they have been encouraged to submerge themselves before they are ready. A child who is afraid of the water will have great difficulty learning to swim.

Your child is ready to go underwater once they can spit water out of their mouth and blow bubbles. Your role is then to create an environment in which they will learn to dunk their head in the water and take it back out again too!

You can use a slide, float, or just the edge of the pool to help them get started.
Let them go up high, throw or slide objects, come back down to water level to see the effects... if they want to go down a slope, go with them from the side and let them glide for longer at the end of the descent. Without forcing them to go underwater, demonstrate how to blow bubbles

As they learn to swim, you can also play games where they have to retrieve objects from under the water. This may be less intimidating than going down a slide. It will help them get used to the idea of putting their head under water and the sensation will become familiar, which will prevent them from panicking when they go under as they come off the slide.
When they are ready, they can put their head under water. If you lead by example from an early age, by doing it yourself, this step will be faster because your child will see that you come back up to breathe on the surface.

At Nabaiji we have a gentle method to get your child used to the water. It requires some patience on your part but its goal is to reinforce the right behaviour to get children into good habits for lifelong enjoyment of the water.

What age should my child start swimming lessons?

Once you've ignited your child's love for water, it's time to sign them up for swimming lessons if they express an interest. And if that's not the case, don't force the matter. Some children love to play in the water but absolutely do not want to take lessons and, as with anything, enjoyment is key for child development. Learning to swim can wait, and they will have swimming lessons in primary school.

Leisure centres have instructors trained to teach swimming to children and adults and there is no age limit for learning to swim so there is no need to worry. Children of all ages can learn, whether they are 7 or 77 (or more)! You can choose to send your child once a week all year round and, if they love swimming, camps are often held during school holidays to turn them into a little dolphin!
But you are right in one respect: learning to swim is important because it helps reduce the number of drowning accidents each year. And if you are a keen swimmer yourself, being able to share this with your child is a great way for you to bond! 



Assistant product manager & lifeguard

wrote this article

These tips could prove useful

How can I protect my child from the sun?

How can I protect my child from the sun?

Sunny days are coming, and you and your children only want one thing: to make the most of them! Read our advice for safely enjoying the sun.

Learning to swim: why limit yourself to the swimming pool?

Learning to swim: why limit yourself to the swimming pool?

Is your child happiest at the swimming pool? Here are some tips for making their enjoyment last outside of the pool!