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Swimming Lesson Ideas: Teaching the Back Float

Back Float: Swimming Lesson Ideas

Teaching new swimmers or swimmers who just never learned Back float swimming, is a great responsibility and a tremendous privilege. Nevertheless, it is a very necessary skill to learn if a swimmer wants to improve or learn to swim.

There are many ways to teach a Back float. One way I have shown in a teaching floating video at the end of a previous post. But as I said in that post it's not as easy as that because most in cases your student is terrified about being on their back.

Here are some alternatives that I have found work when the method in the video doesn't (which is most of the time).

Start with the student's head on your shoulder.

Talking to them all the time.

Assuring them that they are safe.

Maintain a firm grip to make them feel safe.

Next whilst encouraging them to breathe in through the nose and out through their mouth (with the head out of the water of course), slowly move them away from your shoulder.

Once They Are Comfortable

Once they are comfortable with the above, which may take a few sessions (in some cases many sessions) then you should help them to lay crosswise in front of you.

In this position, your student may start to bow sideways usually in your direction. You should ignore this at first. As the student begins to feel safe they will usually straighten out.

Image of a boy floating like a boomerang because he is being hled in the wrong way.: this article is about Swimming Lesson Ideas for Back float
Wrong Position: How To Help Some Learn To Float On their Back

If they don't straighten out you will have to change positions. If you have the head on your right side sometimes laying the swimming students down with their head on your left side will do the trick. If not try holding them under the arms with their head in front of you and feet away from you.

Image of a girl helping a boy to Back Float whilst standing at his head in the water and holding his shoulders: this article is about Swimming Lesson Ideas for Back Float
How To Help Some To Learn To Back Float Step 1

Once Your Student Starts To Relax

Once your student starts to relax you can then encourage them into their float. Say "Hands up above your head, head back (not underwater), tummy up (sometimes bottom or hips up communicates best), legs under and straight.

When you feel them begin to float off your hands you can then release them momentarily (tell them you are going to do it first and get the permission if you can). One second to start with (or the count of one). Then progress to 2 etc.


DON'T BREAK YOUR PROMISE! Do what you say you are going to do. If you do something else you will lose their trust and that will take a long time to restore and make your job that much harder.

Help them to feel what you are going to do by using only one hand to do the action whilst your other hand remains supporting the swimming student.

Image of a girl helping a boy to Back Float whilst standing at his head in the water and holding his shoulders, momentarily letting go from time to time: this article is about Swimming Lesson Ideas for Back float
How To Help Someone Learn To Float Step 2

The next step is teaching the swimmer to Sit up and Stand in the water from a floating position



  1. Thanks for the great information. I am trying really hard to learn how to swim. Unfortunately, I am not having much success. :-( Any tips that you have for beginners about breathing, basic skills, overcoming fear of water would be appreciated.

  2. G'day Pfunk,
    Thanks for your comment.

    I have a number of pages that you may like to look at if you haven't already.

    About half way down the page on the left hand side, under the heading "Labels" there are a bunch of links.

    The ones that are most relevant to you concerns are "Breathing", "Getting your head under water", "How to swim" and learning how to swim as and adult".

    If they don't help let me specifically what you are struggling with and I'll be very happy to try and help.

  3. any ideas when using a comparison? making it fun in some way. i teach 4 year olds and their attention span isnt big enough if its boring!

  4. There are lots of things that you can do that will stop your 4yo'ds from getting bored.

    The one which seems to be most popular at most of the schools I've visited, is to count to ten, out loud, as each child does their float and have the children count with you. It doesn't matter it they don't know their numbers yet the act of being involved is what it is all about. Make sure that the number ten is said in a big excited way. You know clapping, cheering, that sort of thing.

    My personal preference however is a song. Kids love to sing! I've listed two below that I like but they can be anything really, as long as you use the same one every time you do your floats. Little kids have to have consistency or they won't joint in.

    It may take a week or two for them to get the idea but as long as you are enthusiastic they will get it. And that It the Main key.

    Whatever you do with 4yo'ds you have to be enthusiastic about it! If your not the kids will detect it and it wont work.

    Hear are the songs I mentioned:
    Dingle dangle scarecrow

    Dingle dangle scarecrow

  5. P.S. I'm not really sure what you mean by "when using a comparison"