The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Swim Instructor Common Question: Fear of the Water

Dear Swim Professor:

I want to ask you how you deal with young children who have fear in water? I’ve heard about lots of different approaches. Some say put them underwater so they’ll be forced to learn to swim. Others say let them play and have fun until they feel ready. And with these children to you think it’s better to give them support aids like life vests so they can just play in the water? Or will that delay their learning how to swim and help them rely on support and lose confidence in their own ability to swim without support?

Thanks for taking the time to read my question! I’m hoping you’ll be able to answer quickly.

Thanks again,

Dear Chavie,

I admire your dedication on teaching children how to swim. What is just as impressive is that you are taking the initiative to research the best way to do it. What I am going to do in this blog is give you my short answer, and refer you to other blogs that I have already written on your common, but excellent questions to give you more detail.

1. Always use a child-centered approach. NEVER force. The child’s enjoyment of the process is just as important as the outcome. In fact, it is more important.
2. While unstructured play is good and encouraged, you can and should also incorporate age-appropriate “activities” in your swimming lesson setting. In other words, you make learning to swim feel like play, though you are actually teaching the child how to swim. This is paramount when teaching preschoolers how to swim.
3. If you use one of the SLU approved “Progressive Flotation devices” CORRECTLY, your students will not only learn to swim faster, but swimming will be a more enjoyable experience (and a safer one).

Here is what I would recommend that you do:
1. Go to SEARCH BOX on the right side of this blog page and type in the following topics:
            Swim 101
When you search these keywords, you will find more specific information AND more thorough answers to your questions. Many of them also include video examples as well.

2. The second thing I would recommend is that you consider taking our Swim Lessons University courses. All courses are video-based and you can take the certification exams online. Swim Lessons University training and certification is now being used by YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Swim Schools, Pool Management companies, and private swimming instructors in 31 states and 11 countries.

Based on your questions today, I would get started on these Swim Instructor Training courses:
1. Teach Like a Pro – The Foundations of Teaching
2. From Tears to Cheers – How to Help Children Overcome Their Fears (audio program)
3. Swim 101 – A Comprehensive Video Course for Teaching Young Children How to Swim

Once you go through the video course, then  go to Instructor Tools to take your online swim instructor certification exam. We also recommend 3 hours of practicum training per course with a Swim Lessons University certified Learn-to-Swim Professional.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at or CALL us toll-free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

Warm Regards,

Jim Reiser

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 certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

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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January 9, 2014 at 1:32 pm Comments (0)