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Baby and Toddler Swimming Classes: What To Expect

What To Expect At Your Baby and Toddler Swimming Classes

Introducing your little one to the world of water can be an exciting and enriching experience, and baby and toddler swimming classes are the perfect way to embark on this aquatic adventure. These classes offer a unique opportunity for both parents and children to bond, explore, and learn valuable water safety skills from an early age.

Let us delve into the world of baby and toddler swimming classes, providing a comprehensive guide to what you can expect from these programs. If this is your first time swimming lessons here are almost all if not all, the things you can expect on this exciting journey of introducing your baby or toddler to the wonders of swimming:

Picture of a wet toddler looking into the camera. Baby and Toddler Swimming Classes: What To Expect
Photo by Barrett Ward on Unsplash

Age-Appropriate Classes

Swimming classes are typically divided into age-appropriate groups. You'll be in a class with other parents and children in a similar age range.

Age-appropriate classes are designed to meet the unique requirements and capabilities of children within specific age brackets. For example, there may be classes for infants, classes for toddlers, and classes for preschoolers. These classes are organised to provide age-specific learning experiences, safety measures, and teaching techniques that are most effective for the children in each age group.

Typically Age-appropriate swimming classes for infants focus on water introduction and developing comfort in the water. As children grow into the toddler age group, classes may shift to teaching basic water skills and safety. In this way, the curriculum and activities evolve to match the developmental stage and abilities of the children, ensuring that the learning process is both safe and engaging.

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Lesson Structure

Lessons for young children are designed to keep their attention and enthusiasm. They should include games, songs, and playful activities to make learning fun.

Different swim schools may have varying lesson structures, and this can depend on their teaching philosophy, the specific needs of their students, and their available resources. Here are some common elements that may vary between swim schools:

Lesson Duration

The length of each swimming lesson can vary, with some schools offering more frequent sessions and others providing longer less frequent classes. They should run from between ½ an hour and 45 minutes.

Group Size

Swim schools may have different preferences for class sizes, which can impact the level of individual attention each student receives. Often between 8-12 including parents.

Curriculum and Teaching Methods

Swim schools may have distinct curricula and skill progressions, meaning they may focus on different skills or emphasise certain techniques over others. No two swim schools will have the same. This is because there are myriad of different ways to achieve the same goal. This should not be a concern as long as you are not constantly swapping between schools as they should all successfully teach the basic skills required.

Even within the same swim school, you may have different instructors employing different teaching techniques and lesson plans. Using different games, songs, or specific training aids, to engage students and help them learn. This is less than ideal. All baby-infant classes, of the same school, should have the same lesson plan [These are my lesson plans] regardless of the teacher. Children learn better with a consistent routine. Anything else is confusing slows the children's progress. In fact, this should be the same for every level of learn-to-swim classes. Consistent teaching builds skills better and faster and this should be a major consideration when choosing a swim school.

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Qualified Instructors

Classes are usually led by experienced instructors who are trained in working with babies and toddlers. They will prioritise safety and fun having undergone specialised training and certification in teaching infants and young children in aquatic environments. Qualified instructors play a critical role in creating a safe and enriching environment for children to learn and enjoy swimming. Parents should have confidence in their abilities to teach and guide children in the pool while prioritising safety and fun.

The various levels of qualifications will vary from swim school to school and even from one instructor to another. Here are some of the variations:

  • Swim Instructor Certification
  • This is the most common. The instructors have completed some form of formal training and certification programs designed for swim instructors. These programs cover teaching techniques and child-specific instruction methods. Most importantly the training should have included water safety (see below)

  • Pediatric or Medical Training
  • This is a very high level of qualification and is usually reserved for specialists. Instructors have a deep understanding of child development and child psychology. They are trained to work with children of various age groups, including infants and toddlers.

  • Water Safety Certification
  • This certification includes CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), and first aid training. It ensures instructors can respond to emergencies effectively. Every instructor should have this in their basic training. Stay away from any schools that don’t require this from all their instructors.

    Some instructors will have an additional lifeguard certification. This is a bonus but not essential.

  • Experience
  • Experienced instructors have a track record of successfully teaching babies and toddlers to swim. They are knowledgeable about age-appropriate activities, techniques, and safety measures.

  • Patience and Communication Skills
  • They possess excellent communication skills, particularly in conveying instructions and building rapport with young children and their parents. Patience is a key quality as they work with children who may have varying comfort levels in the water.

Age-Appropriate Classes, Swimming Abilities And Assessment For The Right Class

Swimming classes are typically structured to cater to specific age groups. Having your child enrolled in a class that aligns with their age ensures that the activities and instructions are tailored to their developmental stage. This promotes a more engaging and effective learning experience. Selecting the appropriate swimming class for your child is a pivotal decision.

Any good swim school will assess your child's existing swimming abilities before they assign them a class. Choosing the right level ensures that your child is neither overwhelmed nor held back in their progress. This process should take into consideration any assessment of your own. But it may not be the same as yours.

Discussing The Assessment

By all means, discuss this assessment with the person doing it but the school's placement should be the final one. This is for two reasons:

  • The schools are the ones that understand their own classes, curriculum and lesson plans. They are therefore the most likely to know what will progress your child in the most efficient way. Hence they are the most likely to get the placement correct.
  • No matter what your experience is, they are usually more experienced in teaching than you.
  • Some swim schools conduct regular assessments and provide progress reports to track a student's development, while others may take a more informal approach.

Gradual Progress

The classes will often introduce skills gradually, starting with simple activities like floating and blowing bubbles. As children become more confident and competent, they can move on to more advanced skills.

Young learners are introduced to swimming skills and water-related activities in a step-by-step manner. Instructors and parents ensure that children build their confidence and competence in the water by mastering one skill at a time. This approach helps children feel comfortable, safe, and in control as they develop their swimming abilities over time. Gradual progress is often considered an effective and age-appropriate method for young swimmers, as it acknowledges their developmental stages and the need for patience in acquiring new skills.

Parental/Carer Participation

For very young children, such as babies, you'll be in the water with your child, providing support and encouragement. For older toddlers, there may be a mix of independent and assisted activities.

Here's why parental/carer participation is significant:

  • Safety and Comfort
  • For very young children who may not have the water confidence or skills to swim independently, parental presence in the water provides an additional layer of safety and comfort. It helps children feel secure and reassured as they explore the aquatic environment.

  • Bonding
  • Parental/carer participation fosters a strong emotional bond between parents/ carers and their children. Sharing the experience of learning to swim and exploring the water together creates a unique and positive connection. Classes usually incorporate games, songs, and activities to make the experience enjoyable and to facilitate bonding between you and your child.

  • Support and Encouragement
  • Parents play a crucial role in providing support and encouragement to their children during swimming lessons. Their presence helps children build confidence, especially when attempting new skills or activities.

  • Active Learning
  • Parents can actively participate in teaching their children basic water skills under the guidance of a certified instructor. This hands-on approach can accelerate the learning process and make it more enjoyable.

  • Parental Education
  • Parents also benefit from participating in swim lessons as they learn essential water safety skills, teaching techniques, and how to support their child's swimming development outside of class.

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Facilities and Equipment

Creating a swimming environment that caters to the specific needs of young children is essential for their safety, comfort, and enjoyment. Here's what to consider:

  • Pool Cleanliness
  • A clean pool is not just a matter of aesthetics; it's vital for health and safety. Clear, well-maintained water minimises the risk of infections and accidents. Ensure that the pool area is free from debris and that the water is crystal clear. You may want to rethink doing lessons at a pool that you don’t feel is clean. But before you do you should talk to the supervisors about it. Some pools, because of the way they are purified are meant to be a little bit cloudy.

  • Water Temperature
  • Babies and toddlers are more sensitive to water temperature than adults. A comfortable water temperature, typically between 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit (29-32 degrees Celsius). Water that's too cold can lead to discomfort and distress for your child. Pools that specialise in younger learners know this and good schools will keep a careful eye on the temperature to ensure an enjoyable experience for all.

  • Shallow and Warm Water Pools
  • Young children, especially babies and toddlers, should have access to pools with shallow water. This allows them to stand or move about comfortably, promoting a sense of security and independence in the water. Additionally, maintaining a warm water temperature, typically around 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit (29-32 degrees Celsius), is crucial. It prevents discomfort and helps ensure that your child doesn't become too cold during the class.

  • Age-Appropriate Water Toys
  • Water toys and equipment should be suitable for the age and developmental stage of the children in the class. These toys can make the learning experience more engaging and enjoyable. For babies and toddlers, simple and colourful toys that float, squirt water, or make noise can be particularly appealing.

  • Lifeguards and Supervision
  • There should always be lifeguards or trained personnel who are actively watching over the pool area. Their expertise in water rescue and immediate response in case of emergencies is essential for a safe experience. If there are none you may want to consider another school.

Other Benefits Of Baby and Toddler Swimming Classes

By providing a swimming environment with these considerations in mind, your child is more likely to feel comfortable and secure in the water. This, in turn, fosters a positive and enriching experience during swimming classes, encouraging their confidence and skill development.


Encouraging social interactions in swimming classes benefits both you and your child. Here's why it's valuable and how to make the most of this opportunity:

Parental Networking

Swimming classes are a fantastic avenue to meet other parents who share similar interests and parenting experiences. You can exchange advice, tips, and stories, which can be a great source of support and camaraderie.

Child Socialization

For your child, these classes provide a chance to interact with other kids. They can form early friendships, which can be vital for their social and emotional development. It's an environment where they can learn to share, cooperate, and communicate with peers.

Building a Support Network

Developing connections with other parents can lead to a support network that extends beyond the swimming class. It's an opportunity to bond with like-minded individuals and create lasting friendships.


Overall by providing a swim environment with these considerations in mind, your child is more likely to feel comfortable and secure in the water. This, in turn, fosters a positive and enriching experience during swimming classes, encouraging their confidence and skill development.

One Final Note

It's important to note that the degree of parental participation can vary between different swim schools or programs. In some classes, parents may be required to be in the water with their child throughout the lesson, while in others, they might observe from the pool deck. The level of participation often depends on the child's age and the specific program's philosophy and goals. Regardless of the extent of involvement, parental participation plays a vital role in creating a positive and nurturing swimming experience for babies and toddlers.


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