How to Teach Little Kids to Float on their Back

Anyone watching how pre-schoolers play will notice how much of it is pretend play. Young children love it. They are not good with drills, ha ha!

The “show me and let me try and let’s have fun” approach works well for them.

Tips to teach young children how to float on their back

TIP 1: Do not start your swimming lesson with floating. Instead, teach them to move through water first.

This could be something fairly simple like kicking their legs with a floatation aid like a pool noodle under their arms. When they have built confidence that way and even more importantly have spent energy they are more than ready for something relaxing.

And floating in the water is all about relaxing, after all!

TIP 2: Throughout your “lesson” give clear, short, and simple instructions.

TIP 3: Use imagination wherever you can think of it. It will make it so much more fun.

TIP 4: Always tell the child before each step what you are going to do, make sure they are comfortable.

Watch the swimming instructor Phillip Toriello teaching Kyle to float. Notice how he stays calm and makes sure the boy knows what to do and feels comfortable.

This video is only 3 min long -- that’s all it takes to teach a pre-schooler to float if you follow the tips on this page. 

How to Swim : How to Teach a Child the Back Float

Step 1: Get into a safe floating position with your head on your shoulder

When your child is calm and ready to relax after some energetic play let him put his head on your shoulder. Usually, his body and legs will follow and float on the water surface. If not, just guide them up with your hands.

Give him some simple instructions to get him to look up and lifts his belly up towards the sky.

For example:  “Look up and see the clouds/ lights up there. Make your belly button look up to the sky, too.”

Step 2: Safe floating position away from your shoulder

Once the child is floating you can slowly move him from your shoulder, supporting his head and lower back with your hands now to help him feel secure. You could also put his legs on a lane line.

Tell him to point his chin up to the sky so he tilts his head back more and his mouth and nose clear of the water.

Step 3: Floating with head close to your chest for up to 5 sec

Ask him if it’s ok to remove your hand from his head/ neck.

Tell the child that you want him to float for 3 (or 4 or 5) seconds. Is this ok with him?

Put a finger on the bridge of his goggles. This helps the child to keep his head in that position when you remove your hand. Staying still very close to him, remove your hand and count aloud to 3 (or 4 or 5.)

Move your hand back under his head to come up.

Step 4: Floating unsupported for up to 5 sec

Move your chest away from his head and repeat as above so your child gets a sense of being supported in the water without you.

Then guide him to come up and tell him how well he did.

Want to learn more? You can find out about floating for grown-ups and children here.

1 Comment
  1. I have been trying to teach my daughter to back float without too much success :) Keeping that belly up seems like the hardest thing for her. Thanks for the tips and instructions!

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