The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

How to Teach Babies to Swim Safely

Whether you are a swimming instructor or parent, when it comes to teaching infants and toddlers to swim–PLEASE choose your approach carefully.   It is absolutely imperative that you really research the pros and cons of the teaching method before enrolling in an infant swimming program, especially one that may promise drown-proofing or mastering survival skills.  These approaches can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening.  Simply put, your baby’s (or student’s) life and emotional well-being is in YOUR hands.

Teaching an infant or toddler to swim can be done successfully in a naturally progressive, child-centered learning environment.   One that is gentle and kind.  It is my professional opinion that this is the ONLY method any responsible person should consider for a baby.   We certainly want children to learn to swim for safety, but there is no iron-clad, guaranteed defense against drowning.  There is no such thing as drown-proofing.

In fact, the Broward County Drowning Prevention Task Force in Florida published a program called Water Smart Babies.  They created the program to help educate parents on how to best protect their children and keep them safer around the water.  Water Smart Babies stresses that the parent is the most important factor  and encourages parents to Follow the Safer 3, a layered approach to drowning prevention.

To keep infants and toddlers safer, parents should be taught to take every precaution when the child is in or around the water.  Never let your guard down no matter how many lessons a toddler has taken or how many times they have shown the ability to swim.  To keep children safer, we must combine learn-to-swim with as many layers of protection as possible, from touch supervision, to lifejackets, to fences, to self-closing gates, and pool alarms.

But you ask:  What about those infant-survival skills that  I’ve seen on YouTube?  I believe former NDPA Executive Director Kim Burgess hit the nail on the head in the position statement for the Broward County Drowning Prevention Task Force, “The water-survival skills program make compelling videos for the internet, but no scientific study has yet demonstrated these classes are effective.”

The report also concludes that these types of programs place inexperienced swimmers in what he perceives as life or death situations.”  If practiced repeatedly this places a child in a chronic stressful situation of “saving his life” every time he swims, which could detrimental to the child’s emotional and cognitive development.

Karen King, also referenced in the report, states:  “Putting babies in life or death scenarios is not an acceptable teaching practice in swimming or any learning situation. It’s like showing a child a busy street, putting him IN the road, and watching to see if he makes it to the curb.”  Do you see the cruelty and absurdity in this?

The bottom line is that the ultimate goal of teaching infant, toddlers and young children to swim is so that they love their swimming experience and learn to be safer in the water in the process.   Like any other worthwhile skills, skill mastery is a process–not an event.  Don’t be fooled!

Here is a short video example of what the Swim Lessons University “Parent & Tot” learn to swim program looks like.

Give a child a lifetime gift–teach a child to swim using a gentle, loving approach.   An approach that has proven effective for not only my own three boys, but for the thousands and thousands of students who have safely learned to swim with a Swim Lessons University certified instructor.

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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December 8, 2016 at 3:03 am Comments (0)