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6 Tips for Helping Kids Overcome their Fear of Water

6 Tips for Helping Kids Overcome their Fear of Water

Many small children are frightened by the idea of swimming — or more specifically, sinking. If you’re looking for ways to help your child become more comfortable in a pool or lake, consider these six tips from Circle of Moms members who’ve tackled their own childrens' fears of the water.

1. Small Steps and Positive Rewards

The consensus among Circle of Moms members is that overcoming a fear of water is often a very gradual process. Jennifer P. recommends encouraging and rewarding even very small steps. “First start with sitting with his feet in the water. When he does it, even for a few seconds, make a huge deal and give positive reinforcement. When he is comfortable with just his feet in, ask him to go a little further. As soon as he does, give lots of positive reinforcement…Once he is comfortable just being in the water, then you can work on teaching him to swim. It may take some time, but he'll begin to associate the positives with swimming."

2. Floating Products

Water wings, kick boards, inner tubes, life jackets…there are numerous floating products that may make your child feel more comfortable in the water. You can even offer yourself as a stable safety object. Anita M., who herself was "terrified of swimming…feared the deep and also drowning," shares this advice from personal experience: "It might help if you are in the water with him or put floaties on him so he can feel secure.”

3. Wet Faces

Many children specifically dislike getting their faces wet. Tactics to try in this scenario include well-fitting goggles or face masks, or even encouraging them to blow bubbles in a bowl or sink in the bathroom. As Stevie W. advises, the point is “just getting him used to water going over his head.”

4. Water Play

Younger children sometimes become more comfortable in large bodies of water only after they’re first convinced that water is safe (and fun) in other situations. Louise G. recommends: “Boost his confidence with water by playing with water pistols or squirters and...bubbles and things like this to assure him he has nothing to fear. Even get in the bath with him to play…[or] buy a paddling pool and put his toys in there...and let him help you wash them.”

5. Peer Pressure

If your child sees other kids in the pool having fun, she might be tempted to join in. As Heather H. shares of her 6-year-old: "All it took was wanting to be in the pool [with] friends.

6. Swimming Lessons

Call in the pros! Swimming lessons are sometimes the best tool for helping a child overcome a fear of water. As Ame B. raves: “SWIMMING LESSONS!!! It may take a while for him to feel comfortable but don't give up and take him out. My son struggled for over a year in swim classes twice a week, but now after 2 years he is confident and comfortable in the water.”

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lrwhitney lrwhitney 5 years
Our little girl was going through an anti-water phase (18 months old). I just started taking her to swim club every day (at a local high school). We spend 30 minutes in the pool for mommy and me class. She hits a beach ball and we just walk around the water a bit and sometimes practice kicking and making scoops. I am AMAZED at what a difference it makes!!
AndreaMiller60949 AndreaMiller60949 5 years
Also...don't forget ... don't add to the fear. Be careful with bath time. Make sure that washing your child's hair and face (from birth, really) isn't scary. As a small child, I was TERRIFIED of water going over my face when having my hair washed. Be sure to protect a young child's face from the water running over his/her face and when it does [and she rubs it away] make encouraging and happy responses like: YAY!!! What fun! and Wee! The water is slippery! and smile. Be sure to take your hand and rub the water away. The comfort of "my parent taking care of what scares me" along with a reassuring reaction will help your child understand that water does not need to be feared. I started swim lessons at 4 (because I was FRANTIC about water and my mother knew she needed help!) and by age 6 was on the swim team. Ever since I have LOVED swimming. It can be done.
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