Every level of swimming lessons should reinforce proper technique in the five beginning skills:
- flutter kick
- streamline position (glides)
- treading water
Verify that all beginning skills were learned correctly, and that sloppy habits don’t develop. It is quite common to find children struggle with crawl stroke because they never learned the correct way to do bobs, don’t know how to kick effectively, and/or have poor body position in the water. Make certain that kids are solid in their basics before proceeding.
With bobs, remember that bubbles must always be blown out the nose, and a breath should be taken every time the head comes out of the water. Kids who can smoothly do five consecutive bobs without stopping in between for a huge breath are ready to add some games to their bobs. One game is for the children to face the wall as normal for bobs, but to turn and look back over their shoulder while taking a breath. Another game is to do “sideways bobs” – also called “talk to the fish, listen to the fish.” Instead of dunking up and down, kids lay facedown and blow bubbles (talk to the fish), then turn their heads to the side, ear in the water (listen to the fish) while taking a breath. Mastery of this skill will help tremendously when kids learn rotary breathing with their crawl stroke.
Swimmers at this level should be taught:
- crawl stroke
- back stroke
- elementary backstroke
Technically, freestyle means that the swimmer can pick which stroke is done. In the racing world, one stroke is definitely faster than the others, so in practice, freestyle is used interchangeably with crawl stroke. You will hear front crawl, American crawl, Australian crawl, and Trudgeon crawl. There are minor differences in these strokes, but those technicalities are more appropriate for swim team competition than for beginning swimming lessons.
There are three components to the crawl stroke:
- Arm stroke
You have already taught the kick, and have laid the groundwork for breathing. Now it’s time to add the arms. Young children can simply stand at the edge of the pool and practice windmilling their arms, then get into the water and be instructed to add arm circles to their glides; they should do sideways bobs when they need to take a breath. Proper technique can then be taught to kids who are now excited that they’ve learned to swim. If you like, you can isolate the arm stroke and work on it before letting kids swim on their own.
There are three parts of the arm stroke:
- Catch - fingers enter at an angle and “catch” the water
- Pull – the hand pulls water back past the hip (some view this as pulling the body forward past the hand)
- Recovery (raise elbow out of the water keeping it higher than wrist, finger tips pointed downward, and move arm forward through the air in preparation for the next stroke)
- Arms should not cross midline – both when entering water above the head, and when pulling water back past the leg
- Just like in bobs, bubbles should be blown out the nose while swimming
- Maintain a good kick from the hip with thighs close, toes pointed/relaxed, and knees relaxed but nearly straight
How to Perform Front Crawl for Beginners
How to Swim the Freestyle Stroke – Overview of Arm Motion
Top Freestyle Flutter Kick Mistakes
Swimming Efficiency – Body Position & Stroke
How to Pull Underwater in Freestyle Swimming
Freestyle Tempo High Elbow Position & Catch
Backstroke is done with a flutter kick. Make sure the swimmer’s hips stay up on top of the water. The arm motion is: thumb out, pinkie in, bend the elbow, catch the water and push it to your feet
Teaching a Child the Backstroke
How to Teach a Child the Backstroke
Learn to Swim Backstroke – fix a common mistake
Whether you say, “up – out – squeeze – hold” or “chicken – airplane – soldier – glide,” children will have fun learning this easy stroke.