My 5 years old boy is not listening to his instructors at all, he is confident inside the pool and likes it, but he thinks it is a playground. During last 2 years (once a week lesson)he made some progress in the beginning, but now because his foot reaches to the pool ground he prefers just walking or pushing the ground and not kicking. I tried with different instructors, tried to push him hard tried to cheer up him, but it doesn't work. Should I stop his learning and start it again couple years later?

  • 1
    Is it your son who asked to take swimming lessons or did you push it on him? In any case, there seems to be little point in continuing...
    – user7953
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 3:04
  • Did you try to let him play with quite big, floating, inflattable objects, like a swim_ring? Once ge grabs a toy, he may discover a pleasure of floating by himself pretty soon. Then you'll show him how to move. Finally he will do good enough to abandon the ring... In short: instead of pushing, make a possibility and let the child to explore it.
    – CiaPan
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 9:06
  • I was a competitive swimmer. A love of the pool must be encouraged so playtime is good! I started a 5 years old in a "short" lane (~10yds) for <1hr a few times a week. I think it's important to have him be part of a group (to follow, foster a little competitiveness). Swimming by himself will always just be play time. You can't expect a 5 year old to just swim laps if he's by himself!
    – acpilot
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 15:20
  • I had a swim teacher who would give me candy if I did a good job. I learned to swim pretty well!
    – AAM111
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 21:39
  • @CiaPan Inflatable toys as swim helps are disputed among swimming instructors. Some recommend them for making children more comfortable with water. Others think they lead to developing bad swimming techniques or even consider them dangerous (the argument being that parents and children get careless, the children can lose them while in deep water and drown). The truth might be somewhere in the middle.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 12:03

5 Answers 5


I made the experience that it is easiest to get children to focus by giving them a goal they want to achieve.

I taught my niece (6years at that time) in a small local pool where the depth of the pool was adjustable. They had times where it was very shallow so they could stand (this was the time I was practicing with her) and times later when it was very deep. Only children who could swim where allowed inside at the "deep times".

So I would show her the clock each day and said: If you can swim by 4PM we will stay here 2more hours in the deep water and play. In the beginning it was difficult because she would see other children play but she began focusing as soon as she looked back at the clock. She quickly tried her best to learn how to swim and after a week she got her badge (a thing in Germany that says you can swim safely).


  • Set a fixed goal, make sure he can (and wants to) achieve it!
  • Show him the upsides of staying focused!
  • Make sure to show that you care about his progress! (Maybe by rewarding him with a small thing to symbolize his achievement.)

In swim classes kids start to actually learn about age 4. Before that is mostly group fun and play and just getting water sense and comfort.

Your son is 5, just one year off of average learning age for swimming. I would not worry much. If he enjoys his time in the pool, that's a good sign he will pick up the swimming. Be sure you are not forcing him to it. Also, be sure you're not distracting him in trying to tell him what to do during his class. It's okay if he still exhibits playfulness. Being in a peer group is important at this age all the way up to about 12. Basically, adjust your expectation a little because he seems fine (from experience as both parent of two accomplished swimmers & a swim instructor).

If you're still anxious, you may want to talk to the swim instructors & encourage them to add more group games that force the kids to swim for them. There are toys and tools such as dive toys that can be used and creative rewards that will encourage the kids to go get them by swimming there. Even without the toys, there are plenty of games the classes can do where part of the rule requires swimming at least a few strokes.

In the end, your goals should align with what is normal to expect. We do know that most classes before age 4 are for social fun and getting comfortable in water because kids normally don't take instructions well enough for swim techniques. This doesn't negate the fact that the classes with their peers help them enjoy their time in the water and feed on to their further exploration of swimming at later ages.

If it's not a burden to you, and more importantly, if he enjoys his time, do continue his class.

Swimming is both science and art, and then discipline and individuality and power of will at a later stage. For your son, it's still fun, and that's a healthy way to enter the water!


If it was my child and I felt that he needed to learn to swim soon, I'd forgo lessons and take him swimming myself. I would spend time playing games. Here are some suggestions:

  • Talking and singing or blowing bubbles underwater teaches breath control. Keep it fun.

  • Grabbing a toy from your hand, make it easy to start and increase difficulty until your son is putting his face underwater to reach the toy.

  • Give him 'rides' on your back. In the beginning it gets him used to moving in the water. After a while, suggest that he kicks his feet to 'help' you. Keep it fun.
  • Use a flotation device like a flutter board. He holds one end and you hold the other. He kicks and you help him move along the edge of the pool. Do not let go until he wants you to. Keep it fun! (I think you get this part! ;))
  • Kick while sitting on the edge of the pool. "Make the biggest splash!"
  • Catch him when he jumps in. Try not to put his face in the water if that is a problem, in time, his time -- it won't matter.
  • If he can stand with his head out of the water, let him walk the width of the pool. Knowing he can reach is a big boon to the process, but is not necessary.
  • Jump! Show him he can jump in the water, even when the water is over his head. Learning to swim in a pool makes this easy. This teaches him he can reach the bottom and the air on his own.
  • Play games in the water. Basketball, catch, tag, splash me/splash you -- this last game only works when everyone is happy being splashed.
  • Model swimming. You go jump or dive into the deep end. You swim and show him you are happy and confident in the water. If he asks to join you in the deep water, it is a sign of trust.
  • After he is comfortable and showing an interest in swimming, go to swim lessons to watch and encourage your son when he's participating. BUT leave the teaching and discipline to the instructor.

You pick and choose the items that will work for you both.

If you are positive and happy, whether it is swimming or riding a bike or skiing, your child will catch on and probably enjoy the activity.


Two years ago (now he 4 years old) I did teach my boy to swim once every week. He did think that pool is playground until he wears a LifeVest and follows me to a deeper pool. He is freak out, somehow, he enjoys it. I know this is a dangerous method until I let him know for not going to a deeper pool if there is no guidance at all (without me or my wife). With my guidance, I show him what happen if he doesn't have a LifeVest on a deeper pool.

I continue to teach him that way and after two months, I buy him Inflatable Arm Bands. He more flexible and aware of every action he does but still with my guidance. On year one, he already swims by side, circle me, and swim around 10 meters (32.8084 feet) to reach me in the middle of the pool.

I teach my boy how to avoid fear by giving him a little fear on when swimming and he can be more focus on how his hands and legs follow my instructions. And then he can let the fear goes by time and keep aware after all (But don't let him swimming alone, after all, even he can swimming far, they still a child).

My advice is to get involve with the instructors for a couple of days and spend your time to teaching him by your hands.


Always swim with a buddy (older person); do not allow anyone to swim alone. Never leave a young child unattended near water. Do not trust a child’s life to another child; teach children to always ask permission to go near water. Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear inflatable, life jackets, life-vest, but do not rely on life jackets alone. Maintain constant supervision. Make sure you learns to swim well.


I had the same problem when I was a child. I was taken to a pool with very shallow water, I could swim already, but I could stand there. I only started to learn to swim when I was taken to a pool with water deep enough. I suggest to do the same.

Maybe you should start with a pool with parts of different depth, just in case your child needs some rest.

If your child is with a trainer, it's unlikely that something bad happens even if things go very wrong -- trainers are taught for those purposes. Maybe you may stay with your son for some time to watch him.

Also remember that group games in a pool will actually force him to swim to win if the pool is deep enough. That was probably the only thing that could keep me motivated to learn when I was small.

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