One of the very first skills we teach kids in our learn to swim program – once they’re acclimatized to being in the water and comfortable in a horizontal body position – is how to kick properly. Proper kicking is integral as they progress, so it’s important to lay the foundations of this skill early.
Thankfully, it’s not too hard! Naturally, babies will kick with their legs bent. Your role in helping them practice will be to progressively straighten out their knees and eventually have them kicking this way on their own.
Here are the progressive steps you can help your child through to ensure they develop a strong kick in the pool:
Learn to Swim: Flutter Kick 101
To begin, have your child hold the side of the pool, floating on their front, while you support them under their stomach. Instruct them to kick as hard as they can for ten seconds at a time. Form isn’t critical here, but rather that they get the general idea of the kicking motion and gain confidence on their front side.
While they hold onto the side of the pool, gently straighten your child’s knees and move their legs in a controlled kicking motion. Keep the range of motion small and the kicks fast (rather than long, drawn out ones). Through this manual manipulation, they will gradually build muscle memory.
There are a few important things to note when your child is at this level. First, you don’t need to constantly be correcting them or manipulating their movement when in the pool. This will only frustrate them with the learning process and tire you out. Second, when adjusting their leg position, aim to support rather than flat out stretch to straighten. This will help both with their comfort and learning the position naturally.
Like the last stage, you will support your child’s legs to help them straighten their knees. This time, however, have them complete the kicking motion on their own. As before, this is the progression needed for them to build proper kicking form into their muscle memory. It will also help ease them into solo kicking with greater confidence.
Following the steps above, your child will learn to swim with great form and the ability to kick with straight legs all on their own.
Remember that every kid learns at their own pace and the best thing you can do for them is be supportive every step of the way.