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3 yr old HATES Swim Lessons

My new 3 year old hates swim lessons, he is fine in the pool with us, his family, if his feet are touching the bottom. But after two mornings of 30 min lessons he now refuses to get in the water. Any tips…? I let him hold his favorite swim toy, and he gets his fav candy at the end of each lesson if he stays in the water. (I have also tried to drop off and leave and also drop off and stay).

It could be that he realizes he isn’t on the ground and is dealing with some gravitational insecurity which is developmental (although I’m not sure when it occurs). My guy has started doing the same thing in the pool with me although if I’m holding him he tends to be ok. I would try getting him used to being in with someone holding him securely and then easing him into it. I’d love to hear other suggestion from people though!

Hi @Laura1! I am actually lifeguarding this summer and have worked with several children who are nervous about the water.

A few suggestions:

  1. You can get in the water with him. He obviously trusts you and if you are there, it might help him if you initially get in and the instructor tells you what to do and you are the one who guides your child for a bit to help him adjust.

  2. Sometimes we have to backtrack to make progress. Start with just toes in the water. Maybe then sitting on a step and then standing on the step with the water waist high. If a child doesn’t feel safe, it’s very hard to make any progress, so slowing down and going back to the basics can be very helpful.

  3. You or the instructor can hold him very securely in the pool, then once he is calm, adjust slowly like asking him to let go of you to touch the wall with one hand. Then with two hands….slowly slowly allowing him to feel that you or the instructor are keeping him safe but encouraging him to move more freely in the water.

  4. If he’s in the water and uncomfortable, try counting to 5 or 10 then going back to the wall, or singing a song like “twinkle twinkle little star” then going back to the wall. Praise him that he accomplished that length of time. It can help children knowing that there’s a finite time that they will feel the discomfort.

Hope this is a bit helpful! Keep us posted on his progress.

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