baby and mom splashing in pool


Ten tips for introducing your child to water

  • Start small: Have your child kick his legs at the edge of the pool or lake.
  • Have your child bring a water toy to play with in or next to the water.
  • The bathtub is a great place for kids to practice getting their faces wet.

One of the best parts of summer is going to the pool or spending the day at the beach. Kids as young as 6 months can enjoy playing in the water on a warm summer day. But not all kids take to the water with enthusiasm. Try these tips to help your child play safely and confidently in the water.

  • Start small. If you are at a public pool or lake, begin by sitting on the edge of the water and encouraging your child to kick his legs in the water or by filling a watering can or bucket and gently pouring water on his arms, legs and tummy. If your child doesn’t mind, sprinkle water on his head.


  • Encourage your child to choose a water toy to play with at the pool or edge of the lake.


  • Get into the water first and bring your child in to you. This will make your child feel more secure, and she may enjoy getting you wet when she jumps in.


  • Once your child is in the water, hold him on your hip facing you. Gently bounce up and down. This will help him get used to the cool temperature and getting his shoulders wet. Encourage him to play with his toy as you hold him.


  • Next, practice getting parts of her face or head wet by demonstrating first: “Watch me get my chin wet. Can you get your chin wet?” Then do cheeks, forehead and the back of your head. For lips, be motorboats and blow bubbles, and for ears, suggest that you can listen to the fish. Avoid saying “get your eyes wet,” as this often scares kids. Instead, say “Let’s get our eyebrows wet!”


  • If your child resists getting his head or face wet, sit on the edge of the pool and fill a small pail or a bowl with water. Encourage him to get parts of his face wet using the water in the pail – it may feel less intimidating than being in the pool. The bathtub is also a great place to practice.


  • Use caution with children too young to close their mouths or hold their breath when putting their faces in the water. They can swallow water and get a tummy ache. If your child is too young to be able to keep the water out of her mouth, limit the amount of times she puts her face in the water to three times in 30 minutes to avoid an upset stomach.


  • Practice back floating. Get low in the water so your shoulders are just above the surface. Lay your child back so her head is resting on your shoulder, just slightly in the water. Bring a rubber duck or other small floating toy, and have your child hold it on her belly button to encourage her to keep her tummy up toward the surface. Support your child at her hips and under her back. From this position, she can practice kicking her legs. To encourage her to keep her head back, remind her to look up at the ceiling or sky.


  • Practice front floating. Have your child face you in the water laying on his tummy. While he holds onto your shoulders, support him under his tummy or hips. Walk him around and have him practice putting his lips or eyebrows in the water and blowing bubbles (talk to the fish), and encourage him to kick his legs.

Remember that not all kids will tolerate or like all of these suggestions. Go with what works for your child. Don’t force your child into a position or activity that she does not like. It is okay to touch on it briefly, but if she resists, move on to something she enjoys. The most important tip is to ensure that this is a positive experience.

Formal swimming lessons can help to introduce your child to water activities that he may resist initially, and they are a great idea for any child, whether or not your family lives by a lake or has a pool.


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