How to teach your child to swim

A school sports coach gives expert tips

Teaching your child how to swim over the summer? Follow these tips from Mika Dronyk, head of primary school athletics at Beijing World Youth Academy

Start ’em young

When it comes to learning how to swim, the younger the better. My brother’s fiancée teaches babies less than six months old! Very young kids take less time getting used to the new environment; they have a lot of confidence as they’re as yet unaware of the dangers. They also enjoy the feeling of being in the water. Swimming is great for kids who are still too young for other sports, and it allows for some great bonding time with the parents.

Encourage, not force

Children learn better if they’re enjoying the experience – early positive experiences of swimming will set them up for life. Don’t force them to try anything they’re not physically or mentally ready for; it’s important that the sequence they’re learning in is appropriate. Encourage them through fun activities like splashing, kicking and blowing bubbles, and incorporate games and music.


Instill life-saving skills

Many casualties in children and adults who haven’t learned to swim properly occur in shallow water where the swimmer could actually stand up. Teaching a child to regain their feet in the water seems simple, but can save their life. Show them how to hold onto the side, how to move their hands along the wall to get to the steps or the shallow end, how to jump in then turn around to get back to the side, and how to float on their backs.

Teach them to love and respect the water

Kids should be encouraged to have fun, but of course they should also be safe. Teach them to wait for an adult to tell them when it’s safe to get in, and show them how to hold on to buoyancy aids like woggles and floats.

If they don’t like it, take it slow

Kids usually don’t enjoy swimming if they haven’t been taught how or if they’ve had a bad experience. If your child is unsure of the water they need practice and perseverance – the more time and fun they have in the water the more confident and happy they will be. Sometimes you will just need to go back to the beginning. Start by encouraging them to be independent in the water, for example by standing up, holding onto the side or holding onto woggles. You can then progress to blowing bubbles and putting their face in the water. It’s important not to rush them.

Find a quiet pool

Our schools are based in Wangjing and some of our parents recommend the pool at the Holiday Inn in Focus Square mall. Others closer to the Sanlitun suggest Gongti swimming pool. It’s great when you find one that isn’t so busy, so your child won’t be too distracted and can focus on learning in a positive atmosphere.

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