Time to Play! Going Underwater

Kids learn by playing. The more you can make learning to swim fun for your kids, the more they’ll like it, the quicker they’ll learn, and the more fun you’ll have teaching them. Once your kids have the basics of going underwater down, you can use this game to help teach them to be really comfortable with this swimming skill.

Have your child put his head underwater while you say something above the water. Can he figure out what you said? How about if you say it while you’re both underwater?

Time to Play! Going Underwater

Kids learn by playing. The more you can make learning to swim fun for your kids, the more they’ll like it, the quicker they’ll learn, and the more fun you’ll have teaching them. Once your kids are comfortable going underwater, try this game to help them develop this swimming skill without realizing they’re practicing.

Play duck. Quack on the surface together and then dunk your heads under to look for food. Did you find any? Can ducks quack while they’re underwater? What do they see while they’re under there?

Teaching Your Kids to Go Underwater: Mastery

Once you’ve got taught your kids the basics of putting their heads underwater, you can help them develop mastery of this swimming skill. Here’s how to do it.

Tips for Teaching Your Kids to Master Going Underwater

  1. Practice going underwater together, holding your child securely against your body.
  2. Explain what you’ll be doing. If your child expresses fear, don’t do it. Work towards it instead. Keep practicing putting his head in the water face first.
  3. Count to three. Rise up a little with a fairly quick, sharp movement, make a big show of taking a loud deep breath, complete with puffed out cheeks. For a lot of kids, the quick, sharp lift triggers an intake of breath. Quickly and smoothly lower both of you under water for just a second, maintaining eye contact the whole time, even under water.
  4. If you move slightly sideways into the water as you go under, water is less likely to get into your child’s nose. You can try having your child hold his nose with his fingers the first few times if he’s worried about his nose. Once he gains confidence, do it without holding the nose.
  5. If your child sputters, demonstrate a little cough to clear your own throat. Praise and explain that it will get easier.
  6. Keep practicing and repeating this exercise, gradually extending the time under water to a few seconds. When he feels really comfortable, go underwater together having him hold onto you by your arms, so that there’s plenty of space between your bodies and he has a strong feeling of independence in the movement.
  7. As a last step toward mastering putting his head underwater, have your child hold onto the edge of the pool with you nearby but not touching him. Have him put his own head under the water, preparing himself and choosing for himself when to resurface.

Teaching Your Kids to Go Underwater: Starting Out

Once your child knows how to hold his breath and put his face in the water, it’s still a jump to put his whole head under the water. The pressure he’ll feel in his nose and ears will be uncomfortable and unfamiliar, and it will take a lot of practice to make dunking his whole head feel effortless and unremarkable. Here’s how to teach this swimming skill.

How to Teach Your Kids to Put Their Heads Underwater

Demonstrate what you’re aiming for. Watching you do each step will help your kids see what’s possible and understand what they’ll be learning.

After you demonstrate, teach your kids in the following steps.

One Cheek at a Time

While you hold your child, have him hold his breath and put the side of his face in the water. Have him gently lower his cheek into the water so that it’s fully submerged but his nose isn’t in the water. This will give him his first experience of having water fill his ear. Try it on both sides.

Moving Around

Once he’s used to putting his cheeks in the water, practice moving his body while he’s in this position. You can hold him so that he’s lying on his side in the water or cradled on his side in your arms, whichever feels more comfortable for him. Have him face you so that he can look up to make eye contact if he needs the extra security.

Start moving your child’s body gently, always moving in the direction of his head. This will allow the water to flow over his face toward his chin and will keep water from getting into his nose.


Have your child put his whole head in the water by himself while you hold him. It’s easiest if he puts his head in the water face first. Have him start with his mouth in the water first, then the rest of his face, and finally the rest of his head. This way of entering the water is less likely to force water up his nose. Let him hold his nose if that’s a concern.


Do encourage your child to burp. Learning to hold your breath often involves swallowing some air.


Don’t force your child’s head underwater. It’s important to let your kids go at their own pace when they’re learning this swimming skill.