Teaching Swimming is fun!

How to Teach a Child to SwimthumbnailFollowing on from my Teaching different levels of beginners how to swim, I thought I’d share some other points in relation to teaching swimming and how I provide motivation for those I teach.

I’ve been teaching swimming for almost 10 years now, and I’m fortunate in that I love it, and kids (and adults) seem to like being taught by me.  😀  I think it’s very rewarding and has great levels of job satisfaction.  Here is some more information about how I got into swimming and swimming teaching.

I teach children and adults to swim.  The information below is mainly directed at children, but will work with adults to an extent too. 

Here are a few things I’ve learned in my time teaching swimming:

There are a number of ways you can motivate and encourage people who are learning to swim.  I generally have a jovial and fun attitude when teaching swimming, however where discipline is needed, I use it.  I’ll also include how I use discipline in my lessons.

First off, make the kids feel at ease.

  • Let them know your name (if you’ve had them before, ask them if they remember it from before.)
  • Remember their name and use it.Children's Swimming Lessons
  • If they forget your name, make a joke that you remember ALL their names, and they don’t remember yours.
  • Check that they’ve been in the pool before, if not explain pool rules and depth.
  • Be friendly and make the session fun and enjoyable.
  • Try to smile lots and relate to the kids.
    (Tell them they have a nice swimming costume or goggles.)

I believe that it’s not neccessary to go in with children when you teach them, and you can usually see more and control the class better when you are standing on the side.  However there are occasions where it helps for the teacher to be in the water

During the lesson let them know if they’re doing well.

Use positive phrasesPre-school Swimmer Enjoying a Swim Lesson

  • ‘I like your swimming costume – is it new?’
  • ‘Keep going’ (as opposed to the opposite and more negative ‘Don’t stop’)
  • ‘Well done’
  • ‘That was brilliant’
  • ‘Excellent’
  • ‘Good kicking’
  • ‘Wow, you’re really good at that!’
  • ‘You can do it’
  • ‘Was that easy?’
  • ‘You were trying really hard there’
  • ‘See, that was really easy!’
  • ‘I thought you said you couldn’t do it? That was ace!’

And you can use gestures too.

Gestures can be used to motivate, and direct children to where you want them to be (without you having to say anything – which saves your voice!):

Motivational gestures:

  • Thumbs up.
  • Clapping and telling them they did well.
  • Big smile followed by thumbs up.

Directional gestures:

  • Make eye contact, point from where they are, to where they should be.
  • Pointing at their feet, moving hand/fingers to suggest they kick harder.
  • Demonstrate correct arm / leg action.

Giving instruction and getting your message across

  • Be clear and concise in your instructions.
  • Ask if they understand your instructions or if they know what they have been asked to do.
  • Remember they may be scared of water, you (big bad scary adult!), or the pool environment.
  • Pools can be noisy places, you may need to shout.
  • Aim to shout to be heard, but do not shout in anger or frustration.
  • If you do shout and children get upset, make sure you comfort them after.
  • In comforting them, explain your reason for shouting (to be heard or for safety issues – ie if they are going into deep water).
  • Aim to provide individual specific feedback for each learner in your lesson.
  • Use pupil demonstrations where appropriate to help understanding.

How to make things fun and keep them wanting to come back!

  • Have a positive and freindly attitude.SymSwim Swimming Lessons
  • Remember their names and use them.
  • Make sure they know your name.
  • Play games at the end of the lesson (different ones each week).
  • Let them splash you (within reason).
  • Laugh with them and at yourself… don’t take life too seriously.
  • Make fun of yourself 😉  (works for me!)
  • Let them do handstands, tumbles, floating – let them show off to you.
  • Tell them you look foward to seeing them next week.
  • Let them show you something/a skill (at a time you decide) if they want to.


Whilst it’s important to make swimming lessons fun, it’s equally important to maintain discipline.  Muslim father makes official complaint against mixed-sex swimming lessonsI’ve seen lots of ways swimming teachers discipline children in swimming lessons in my time.

One method I’m not too keen on is making the child sit out of the water after having had 1-3 warnings for their bad behaviour.

I understand the method, but I don’t agree with having a child sit on the side getting colder and colder when there are other ways to deal with it.

The method I tend to use is to:

  1. Become more serious than I would normally.
  2. I ask the child to behave and stop the bad behaviour (explaining what it is I want them to stop doing).
  3. If they don’t stop, I warn them again.
  4. If they continue (or their behaviour is bad enough in the first place) I ask them to climb out and stand on the side so I can talk to them.
  5. Once they are out of the pool I ask them why they are doing it when I asked them not to (usually this results in a blank worried look of ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I hope I’m not in trouble’)
  6. I tell them to stop doing it and explain the consequences if they continue.

This works in four ways:

  1. When they have to get out of the pool, they know they’re in trouble.
  2. They know their parents can see them getting talked to.
    (And will probably ask them to explain why at the end of the class),
  3. It acts as a proper/final warning to them.
  4. They tend to respect me more and their behaviour improves.

If the child is continually misbehaving each week, I talk to them before the lesson and tell them I expect good behaviour from them this week. 

If they don’t behave, I’ll address the behaviour with them during the lesson, and as a last resort discuss the behaviour with the parent.

Written FeedbackOur Main Pool

When writing feedback, don’t write things like:

‘Kick needs to improve’
‘Swimming could be better’
‘Legs bent when kicking'(unless you write, ‘needs to kick with straight legs’ after it)

Try to write specifically what the child needs to do to progress:

‘Kick and make a splash’
‘Swim consistenly for the whole 25m’
‘Swim with arms more straight, head back, tummy up’.
‘Kick with straight legs, point toes’

What if you want to learn how to teach swimming?

ASA LogoGo here for more information on the ASA Quailfications you can get.

If you are going to take the ASA courses, or you’d like to know a bit more about how to teach or learn to swim, I’d highly recommend the following books:

1. Swimming Teaching and Coaching Level Two by Lynn Hogarth
   (More detailed for Level 2 course)
2. Introduction to Swimming Teaching  by J Lawton 
   (Introduction for Level 1 course)

You could contact your local council like I did and see if they offer any training or have any other information which might help you get into swimming teaching.  (Here’s the link to the Swimming Lessons section of the Glasgow City Council website.)

Children's Swimming Lessons

Anyway, I hope this helps  🙂

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