The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

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How to Alleviate Anxiety in Your Infant & Toddler Swimming Lessons

Steve Graves, Executive Director of the World Aquatic Babies and Children’s Network, asked me if there was a “tough teaching task” and “remedy” that came to mind to share with WABC Members in their newsletter.  The first one that came to mind to me was the difficult task of alleviating anxiety and fears in young children, especially one and two-year old toddlers enrolled in Parent & Me classes.

Here are five remedies that we have found extremely effective for alleviating anxiety in toddlers at Swim Lessons University:

1.  Especially on the first few classes, have parents hold their toddlers in a “hug hold” when entering the water.   The children feel much more secure.  I have seen parents holding children every which way, and this is certainly a critical element of getting started on the right foot.

2.  Allow the parent and child to spend the first few minutes with “just each other.”   One-on-one time so to speak, so the child can get acclimated to the environment.  For years I debated on starting the class off with a song, but determined it was best to incorporate the group acclimation songs AFTER the initial warm up to the pool, new people, etc.

3.  Gently introduce yourself to each child.  Talk softly, smile a lot, and be very sensitive to the child’s readiness to accept you.  Take your time.

4.  When teaching skills, stay child-focused and introduce skills based on the child’s readiness–not yours.

5.  You are the expert.  You do it!   When it’s time to teach skills such as breath control, surface swimming, or safety skills, you be the one to assist the child in practicing the technique.  You have done it hundreds of times.  Parents have not.   Parents are anxious.  You are not.  The child senses this anxiousness.  Most importantly, you can lead the child to the parent when practicing skills.  So the child is going TO THE PARENT, which is more comforting than the parent sending them away and toward you.  Keep in mind when you take the child from the parent to start the skill, don’t hesitate a second to begin.  You want to start immediately using a start command such as 1, 2, 3.   This is especially important until the child gets to know you.   If the child sees right away he/she is going to mom or dad, most of the anxiety is alleviated within seconds.

Hope these tips help you and your staff!  If you would like to become a Certified Swim Lessons University “Infant-Toddler” Instructor, you can take a comprehensive video course designed to teach you everything you need to know.   You can also do your certification exam in the comfort of your own home using our online testing program!  Enroll in a Parent & Tot Instructor Certification course today!

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University Online Swim Instructor Certification  and curriculum, make sure to visit us at

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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June 18, 2012 at 6:58 pm
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