Active Play

How to Help Your Kids Get More Comfortable with Swimming

Aug 23, 2013

Confession: This summer was the first time I put one of my children in swimming lessons. My son (and first born) was fearless when it came to the water. In his efforts to play with the older kids in the deep end of the pool, he basically taught himself how to swim. My daughter Caitlyn, however, was more cautious at the pool. I would spend our pool-time juggling her clinging body while simultaneously trying to entertain my preschooler, Tara. Caitlyn would never play with her brother in the water, and was missing out on pool play with her friends. I knew I had to do something to help boost not only her water safety, but her confidence.

Plan ahead
I went straight to our local community pool only to discover that the lessons had been sold out for months. Lesson one for parents: PLAN AHEAD when it comes to finding swimming lessons for your child. I regrouped, and the next time we were at one of our other favourite community pools, I asked the lifeguards about assessing Caity's swim level. The lifeguard basically took her through her paces; checking to see if she could float, put her face below water and dog paddle. They recommended we start at the beginner's level for her age group, and I managed to get her into lessons before the summer holidays started, and the swimming fun began in earnest.

Boosting confidence and having fun
Water safety and confidence are probably some of the most important things you can impart on your children. I feel terrible when I see children who are petrified of the water, as this will hinder them for the rest of their lives. We live in a place blessed by oceans, lakes and great pools. Being too afraid to swim in them is truly a shame. Not to mention a lifetime of not participating in swimming fun with friends and schoolmates. Also, I think swimming is the perfect sport for kids as they don't realize they're getting exercise because they're having so much fun. And community pools are a great, affordable activity for the whole family.

Choosing a swim class
Community pools are not the only choice when it comes to swimming. There are private swim clubs and even the Red Cross. When choosing a swim class, make sure the class size and scope fits your child. The community centre groups were one teacher for six to eight kids. This meant each child had enough time with the instructor to master each challenge such as face under water, swimming from wall to teacher, and so on. My daughter was fine and loved all the challenges, however, there was a boy whose fear crippled his ability to learn anything, and the teacher had to spend more time with him than the rest of the class. He would have done better with one-on-one lessons, which the community schools and places like the Y do provide.

A suggestion: Speak to your child's instructor. Keep abreast of how your child is doing, and ask what you can do to help. Our classes had "meet the instructor" day about halfway through the classes where we could chat about progress. Communicating with the teacher allowed us to practice whatever they were working on at that time.

Fun in the pool
One thing I found that helped, too, was letting Caity show off her newfound skills after each lesson. This way, lessons became part of the fun right away. This boosted her confidence and allowed her to show me her new skills. Thus, her dad or I sat poolside during the lesson or we were swimming in the other side of the pool with her siblings, ready for a quick thumbs up anytime she needed it.

Caity was eight when she started her lessons. I recommend not waiting that long. Get your preschoolers in the water, and breathe easy knowing you are raising strong and safe kids. I will be signing my youngest child up this fall, while she is fearless in the water—but I need her to be safe, too.

According to the Red Cross:

  • In the last 10 years, more than 570 children drowned in Canada. Two thirds of children who drowned were younger than 15.
  • Weak or non-swimmers made up 6 in 10 children who drowned while engaged in aquatic activities like swimming or wading.
  • In cases where the depth of water was known, nearly 4 in 10 (37%) drowning occurred in water depth of one metre or less. More than 90% of children who died in these conditions were not being supervised by an adult.
  • Canadian parents see adult supervision as the key to preventing drowning and water-related injury, yet only 50% say they always supervise their children around water.

For more stats, visit the Red Cross website.


Kerry Sauriol is the Vancouver mom behind the blog, Crunchy Carpets. She has three children and sundry pets, and tries to balance it all while keeping her sanity. Her blog focuses on the juggling act called parenting - in her case, the act of juggling a preschooler, two burgeoning "tweens" and keeping everyone out of therapy when they're older. 

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.