The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

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 Comments (0)

Swim Lesson for Babies

Should you start your baby (under the age of 2) in swimming lessons? Swim lessons for infants? Swim lessons for toddlers? In my opinion, that really just depends on two things:
1. It depends on whether or not the experience will be a positive one.
2. It depends on whether or not you have reasonable expectations.

If you can answer yes to those two questions, baby swim lessons can be a wonderful experience for your baby. If your instructor takes a child centered approach, if the water is warm (87-94 degrees), if you are looking develop prerequisite skills to swimming and have realistic baby swimming goals, then you are on your way to having a great time and a beautiful bonding experience with your baby.

Toddlers as young as 19 – 24 months can learn some real swimming skills, even lifesaving skills, but no infant or toddler should ever be expected to save his own life. Parents must use a layered approach to drowning prevention and see to it that their infant or toddler never has to save him/herself from drowning. If they do, the parent has failed the child.

My advice to parents looking for opinions on these so-called infant aquatic survival techniques is quite straightforward: Pick up your baby and run the other direction! Stay far away from instructors and programs who’s one and only goal is survival swimming. Instructors who force skills on babies before they are ready are putting their lives at risk in the lesson itself. Would you like to see what this approach can look like? Check out the video clips on linked up in a fantastic blog by Katrina Ramser Parrish called Infant Aquatic Survival Techniques. Personally, I had to turn the video off because it was so sad. It literally had me in tears. I can’t imagine any parent thinking this is okay. I want to publicly thank Katrina for her excellent work in communicating what this approach can look like.

As a parent of three young boys myself (Rex, 3 months, Nolan, 2 years, and Jeb, now 7 years), I know that what I want for my children. Nothing is more important to me than my boys knowing that I love them. Nothing is more important to me than my boys knowing that I will protect them. Nothing is more important to me than the safety of my children. But you will never in a million years see my children in that environment. Innocent children are being put at risk by their own parents, because they are being led to believe that their baby can be drown-proofed.

At Swim Lessons University, we train instructors to teach infants and toddlers to swim through a child focused approach. Swim lessons for infants and swim lessons for toddlers can be of great value. Infants and toddlers can learn to swim in a setting that is positive and joyful. You can watch video samples of young toddlers (including my own) doing some very amazing things in our classes as well, but as a result of a completely different approach. An approach that puts the child first . . . an approach that makes learning enjoyable . . . an approach that shows our children that we love them.

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November 11, 2010 at 12:08 am Comments (4)