Water Safety Series: Skills #4 & 5 – The Water Is Your Friend

Kim Shults
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For Water Safety Month, we decided to discuss 10 basic swimming and water safety skills, which are introduced in my children’s book, Life with Lou. So far, we’ve shared three skills…

Skill #1: Getting your face wet

Skill #2: Blowing bubbles

Skill #3: Front float

As we move on, please remember to practice the previous skills, especially Skill #1. To help your child foster a healthy relationship with water, practice using a cue to pour warm water on the face in a controlled environment. The benefits will last a lifetime.

Moving on…


This skill can be introduced as an extension of Skill #3 (Front float). Support your child in front of you in a horizontal position on the surface of the water. Reach your arms out and with your thumbs on the back of the knees, keep his legs straight and help him kick to make little splashes on top of the water. Walk backward to show that the effort is moving him forward.

Water Safety Tips

Pay attention to body position, which needs to be horizontal, NOT vertical. If  legs are “bicycling,” use your hands to help kick with his entire leg. This is important because with muscle memory your child can develop maximum efficiency.  If you are working with infants, be sure to support the head and neck so your child’s face doesn’t fall into the water. Then, practice putting his face in the water and/or blowing bubbles.

Quick tip: If this is a difficult skill for your children or they are kicking with crazy legs all over the place, help them out. Use your hands to help them kick properly for 5 seconds, then let go and have them practice by themselves for 5 seconds. Although perfect stroke technique is not the focus right now, it is important to make corrections for proper body position.

Water Safety Tips

Kicks can be powerful and create propulsion, so they are an important swimming skill to learn. Kids can practice kicking on the steps, on the wall, with a kick board, and even on the floor or in bed! With your help, your child will have efficient kicks in no time.



This is my favorite skill to teach! It is so much fun and kids can really use their imaginations to make it interesting. In this skill, we are basically adding arms to Skill #4 (Front glide with kicks). Start by sitting on the steps of the pool with your child and practicing your arms together. Put your fingers together, then reach and pull your arms through the water one at a time. Use your hands to create ‘scoops’ and pull the water toward you.
Water Safety Tips for National Water Safety Month

Make it fun – scoop ice cream, paint rainbows in the sky, high five the sun, use big dinosaur arms! Remember that we are focusing on survival and comfort level in the pool, not training for the Olympics. So if your child’s technique isn’t perfect, it’s okay. In fact, children may not be physically able to lift their arms out of the water. The stroke doesn’t have to be pretty; it just has to get them to safety!  If the pool is shallow enough, children can practice using their big arms to reach and pull the water while walking. This is wonderful for balance and motor skill development.
Water Safety Tips for National Water Safety Month

As an incentive, throw a rubber ducky or any floating pool toy for your child to “swim” to. He can reach and pull to the toy and you can celebrate when he reaches it. High five! The goal is to move forward horizontally.

Quick tip: Avoid “beating up” the water and frantically thrashing.

Try my technique:

Me: “Are you angry with the water?”

Child: “No.”

Me: “Are you sure? You’re beating it up! Be gentle to the water. It’s your friend.”

Child: “It is?”

Me: “Yes! If you are nice to it, it will hold you up.”

Water Safety Month

The water really is our friend and we want to create a healthy relationship with it. Use these skills to do that. They are being introduced in isolation, so practice them alone, then put them together to excel learning. Always practice horizontal position with the face in the water blowing bubbles, bubbles and more bubbles.

The instructional methods discussed are based on my personal teaching philosophy. This is one of many ways to teach swimming.


National Water Safety Month

Click to the next water safety skill


Water Safety to keep your kids safe in the water. Read the entire series to keep your child safer in the pool or at the beach or lake this summer.

Kim Shults lives in San Diego, California where she has been providing customized swim lessons for all ages and abilities since 1991. She is an innovator in swimming instruction for people with autism and those overcoming water phobias. Her successful record of aquatic breakthroughs inspired her to found Face in Water, a non-profit organization that helps individuals develop lifesaving water skills. She has a California Teaching Credential in English and is now focusing on bringing aquatic health education to the classroom through her children's book, "Life with Lou".