The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

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How to Teach Breath Control to Infants and Toddlers

The goal of today’s blog is to give you insight on teaching breath control to infants and toddlers, including how and when to teach it and why and when you should leave the activity and come back to it on another day.

First of all, at Swim Lessons University, we strongly recommend that instructors wear goggles while teaching breath control to infants and toddlers.   NEVER do consecutive dips if the child is not happy and getting his or her breath between dips.   You can see earlier breath control videos where we only did one or two dips with Rex because that is what he was ready for, and he wasn’t ready for three or more.  Each dip should be  an individual attempt to successfully get the air exchange.  The bottom line is to stay child-focused, and avoid “one more dip” for the sake of doing it.  So how do you know if you should do another one dip?   Your young students facial expressions, body language, and obvious level of comfort will answer that question every time.

Whatever you do–DON’T FORCE a dip when infant or toddler is communicating “no,” or you find the task to be upsetting him, even if he has done it before!  This is precisely what causes “regression.”   Make no mistake about it, it is not uncommon for a child who has performed a skill in previous classes or even earlier in the same class to get upset.  If the infant or toddler is not up for the task at that point in time, let your experience do the talking and leave it alone until the next class.  Parents and instructor need to accept that and understand that it is no uncommon and okay.   When an instructor or parent pushes a skill on a young child “just because the child has done it before, you are setting the child up for more of the same or worse the next time you meet because you would be reinforcing a negative experience.  The result of pushing an activity on a child that is upsetting him for whatever reason, is he will often start to associate negative, unhappy feelings with the task at hand or even the pool all together.   That is a path that you don’t want to take.

As Mr. Roger’s used to sing:  ” I like to take my time, I mean, when I want to do a thing, I like to take my time to do it right.  I mean I just might make mistakes if I should have to hurry up, I like to take my time to do it right.”   Take Mr. Roger’s advice.  Take your time and do it right!

Here is a video of example of doing it right:)

For step-by-step information on how to teach infants and toddlers to swim, check out Swim Lesson University’s “Parent and Tot” Video Course.  This 90-minute video is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to teaching infants and toddlers to swim in a progressive, but child-centered environment.

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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October 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm
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