The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

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3 Success Strategies for Teaching Young Children to Swim

If you are teaching a young child to swim between the ages of 3 and 5 years of age, there are a number of success strategies every swim teacher should know.  In my new learn-to-swim DVD, SWIM 101 – How to Teach Children to Swim and to be Safer in the Water–you can see video of exactly how we do it.

In today’s blog post, I’m going to give you a sneak preview of some of the exciting teaching techniques that I have tested, tried, and proven at Swim Lessons University:


Develop the Confidence in your Learn-to-Swim Students

Do you remember the story of the Little Engine that Could?  “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can . . . That is precisely the mindset your student must have if you are going to be successful as a swim teacher.

How do you develop confidence in a new, shy, or even scared young swimmer?  The next four success strategies are sure to get you off to a great start!

(For more information on how to help children overcome their fears, look in my blog archive and you will find an article on just that.   I also have an audio CD program called “From Tears to Cheers”.)


Try a Progressive Buoyancy Device

“Look at me!  I’m doing it!  I’m doing it!”

Is there anything more “confidence-boosting” than success?   Not much!  This is precisely ONE REASON why your students will progress MUCH FASTER if you use a progressive buoyancy device.   When a child can independently get from point “A” to point “B” without your assistance-his confidence will soar!  Not to mention his enjoyment.

I personally prefer a “progressive” buoyancy device like the SwimWays Power Swimmer or the Konfidence Wetsuit BECAUSE of two IMPORTANT REASONS:

#1 DEPENDENCY is NOT an issue when you use a progressive buoyancy device.   In other words, you give your student ENOUGH buoyancy to be successful but not too much that there is no challenge or progression involved.  Progressive practice makes perfect!

#2 PRACTICE TIME can still be maximized.  The number reason you haven’t learned to golf, or learned to fly a plane, or whatever-is because you haven’t practiced!  In learning to swim, this is the #1 REASON CHILDREN DON’T LEARN TO SWIM!  Because amateur teachers are doing one of two things:

  • Amateur Swim Teacher is sitting the student on the side of the pool (waiting for their turn).  In other words, the teacher is getting the child minimal reps.
  • Amateur Swim Teacher is holding the child or carrying him around the pool.  In other words, you aren’t letting the child feel what he/she has to do to move himself thru the water.

Professional Swim Teachers, on the other hand who understand this concept, will have their students learning through practice-quality practice and lots of it!

BUT WAIT, what about that “False Sense of Security?”  My response is simple:  If a child drowns because he couldn’t save himself, we failed as adults and caregivers to protect that child.

For more on making children safer in the water, you can get terrific water safety information from  I donate all the proceeds from my Safer Kids Water Safety Book and Safer Kids 101 CD to the fight against childhood drowning.  And lastly, my brand new Bathtub Baby 101 DVD has a whole section addressing water safety for parents.


Use Age-appropriate Kicking Activities with a Short Noodle & some FUN Props

In my new 2008 Swim 101 DVD and as well as the 1999 Home Swim School DVD, you can see video of some FUN, YET extremely effective ways to teaching kicking to the little ones.  Using the imagination and pretending is extremely stimulating for this age group, not to mention just kicking to kick is quite boring for this age group.  So at Swim Lessons University, we used our imagination and came up with some creative ways to make kicking fun!

One of several activities we do is called “LET’S GO GROCERY SHOPPING!”  You PRETEND with your students that they’re going to the grocery store with mommy and you pretend the noodle is their buggy.  Put 3 or 4 colorful, plastic grocery type items in the pool about 15 feet away from the starting point like carrots, ice cream cones, waffles, etc., which redirects their attention and makes learning fun.  When you say go, the children kick out with their noodle, get one grocery at a time, and kick it back and put it in a little grocery basket.   Of course this is repeated until all the floating groceries are put in the basket.

It’s very important the noodle is held properly and I recommend a short noodle, which we simply cut.  As seen in the Swim 101 video, the noodle is held in the center, right underneath the chin, with the elbows resting on top of the noodle.  We tell them “like chicken wings.”  By holding the noodle in this manner, not only do the children develop a propulsive kick, but they learn balance and how to move themselves about with their kick.

In the Swim 101 DVD Video, we also demonstrate a variety of activities as well as demonstrate some more secrets in how to teach the kick more effectively!  In addition, we cover fun and creative ways for teaching breath holding, breath control, in-line kick, back kick, swimming using both a pop-up and roll-over breath, and some safety skills that could save a child’s life.

Don’t miss my next blog where I will share more success strategies from the Swim 101 DVD Video!  Feel free to order your copy today at

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April 10, 2009 at 11:33 am
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