The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Back Floating Babies

First off, we NEVER float babies against their will. It’s simply not worth turning them off to the water, which is most often the result when you take the enjoyment out of the learn-to-swim experience. If you do stay child-focused, most infant and toddlers will take to it.  Children can learn other potentially lifesaving skills too, like getting back to the side of the pool if they fell in the water, which doesn’t require them to be on their back.   We think it is so important that swimming instructors are not overly aggressive or insistent that a child masters a particular skill.   At this young age, children should be closely supervised at all times no matter what, and there should be numerous layers of protection when it comes to water safety.  If parents can make sure their toddlers stay off a busy street, they can also ensure they don’t end up in a swimming pool without supervision.

At Swim Lessons University, our Certified Swimming Instructors introduce back floating and kicking using a “cheek-to-cheek” support with the child’s head on the parent’s shoulder.  In this first video, I want you to notice how I use the “cheek to cheek” hold and put my student Rex in a nice horizontal body position.  On the other hand,  my other student Kamryn is not very horizontal nor is she feeling her body’s buoyancy.  Now this is MY RESPONSIBILITY to correct.  I need to a better job teaching Kamryn’s father to get her in a horizontal position like Rex so she too can feel the water floating her.  Take a look:

I always stress that the best hold is the one that gives the student just enough support to be successful.

Within in a few weeks, you can progress to what I am doing in this next video IF the child is ready.  This is Baby Rex’s very first time floating without my support. I think it is critical for the safety of the child that you don’t allow water to continue to get on the face, in the mouth, etc. If that is occurring frequently, not only do you starting taking the fun out of it, but you are also putting the child at risk. Notice how closely I watch Rex’s face and the water, and as soon as it appears he is going to try and sit up or that his body position is going to cause water to get on the face, I resume my support, sit him up, and praise him.

With continued practice and instruction, this skill will naturally improve.  Don’t expect it all at once.  And don’t be surprised if there are days when your student doesn’t want to be on his/her back at all.   Stay child-focused and keep the experience positive.   About two weeks after the above video was shot, Rex kicked on his back all the way around a small lazy river (probably about 35-50 yards) in Myrtle Beach’s Dune’s Village Water Park because HE WANTED TO!   I just walked with him and enjoyed watching him have fun with it.   The next day, however, he didn’t want to be on his back at all (to my surprise), until he saw his 3.5 year old brother kicking on his back!  And BINGO…Rex wanted to do it too!  And he did.

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 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm Comments (0)