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Swimming with your kids: create a swimming culture

My father taught me how to swim when I was 4 years old, I have loved swimming ever since. I grew up with a swimming culture, enjoying a swim in lakes, rivers and the ocean. The summers were used to practice the best strokes and racing among friends and my father. My father (75 years old) who passed away this past winter would swim every day during summer, about 200 meters every day in the local lake or ocean in Norway. In the winter he would swim once a week in an indoor pool, about 1000 meters each time.


Today I love swimming. This is the kind of swimming culture I’m trying to teach my kids; it is not just about swimming skills, it is more about passing on a swimming culture. The joy of swimming in lakes, rivers and ocean in the summer.

Recently Globe and Mail did a story about teaching your kids to swim, the journalist asked a question I have been wondering for a while, why don’t parents teach their own kids to swim anymore? I was quoted in the article. I have to admit I have been thinking about doing a post about this for a while, but I did not know how to present it. I started teaching both my kids as infants swimming, and not just in pools but in the ocean, rivers and lakes. I guess it is considered pretty free range today in the English speaking world, it not so uncommon to teach your kids how to swim in other cultures. I also have got a quite a bit of comments from parents on Twitter and Facebook telling me they taught their kids to swim by themselves as well.

Please note I’m not against swimming lessons I think they are wonderful especially for parents that do not swim or are afraid of the water. If you are afraid of the water I encourage you to take swimming lessons with your children, so you both will be safe in the water and hopefully start a new love of swimming and create a swimming culture together.

However I do not think swimming lessons are enough for kids to create a swimming culture and teach water safety for kids. Kids need to practice their swimming skills and parents can be very important role models. It is different to swim in wild waters, being exposed to cold water rather than a heated pool. Teaching your kids how to jump off of cliffs and look for currents and reading water are important life skills. Not only do you create a swimming culture, you teach your kids water safety.  Kids will always seek the dangers of playing around the water, especially teenagers. (Each year teenagers drown in Ontario, even on supervised beaches) I think if the parents show them how to read the water (oceans, rivers and lakes) and how to swim in different environments we can prevent more accidents from happening.


This is what the experts say on how you should start to swim:

1. Submersion

2. Floating


4. Arm movement

5. Breathing

I also like this Australian resource . They think professional swim teachers are the best teachers but also stress that swimming lessons alone are not enough to teach your children how to be a confident swimmer and that kids need to be exposed to different water types to be safe.

Teach your kids how to swim a blog by a woman in California and she also has a book about it.

Kari Svenneby is the founder of

Outdoor play advocate,nature lover, foodie, biker, skier,
gardener, entrepreneur and speaker.

She and have been featured for her work on getting kids and adults outside in many publications. The list includes the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Wildlife Federation, Norwegian Public Radio, Backpacker Magazine and Kaboom,

Read Kari's bio


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