Swim Lesson Plan – Infant Day 1 plan

Check out this post for a more up-to-date version of our Parent Tot plans. https://www.swimminglessonsideas.com/blog/parent-tot/

Parent and tot classes are for children between 6 months and 3 years old. We require that the parents enter the water with their child. Parent and Tot classes will be run with an instructor, up to 10 participants which includes the parent and the child. You can allow both parents to enter the water with one child if you want, but do not allow one parent with two children. This class should require a 1:1 maximum of parents to children.

  • Ages: 6 months – 3 years
  • Parents required to enter water too with their child
  • Instructor facilitates and works with each parent and child.

Swimming Ideas identifies three goals in a Parent Tot class.  We want the parents to be comfortable holding their children in the water and doing similar skills that they’ll learn in swimming lessons. The parents are just as much students in these classes as the infant/tots are. Our instructors have a responsibility to teach the parents more than the children as the main “instruction” comes from the parent-child interaction. The parents are directly interacting with their children to do the listed skills and songs, while generally the instructor describes the activity, demonstrates it and attempts to do it with each participant’s child (if they’re willing to).  We also want the infants/tots to become comfortable interacting with the water. Our goal should be to gradually introduce them to being in the water, going underwater and ultimately, moving through the water on their own. This is a gradual and significant process that one lesson each week for a month will not achieve. Finally, we want the swimmer to be comfortable with the language, hand holds, and body position that swimming lessons will demand.


  • Teach parents how to teach their swimmers.
    • Hand holds
    • Songs
    • Games
    • Cuing
    • Glides, passes, scoops
  • Teach swimmers how to go underwater, move independently
  • Prepare swimmers for group lessons when they turn 3 and can stand and move on their own.

Parent Tot Instructor Goals

The Parent Tot class instructor should have a good understanding of some basic concepts. They should be aware of the correct ways to hold an infant on front and back glides. Infants will naturally hold their breath, open their eyes and relax underwater. Instructors should be confident, calm, and gentle. It is often the parents that inflict their fear on their children and cause hesitant and scared crying from their infants. While this is not done on purpose, it can be disruptive, and difficult to teach beyond above water floats and glides. Remember that we are teaching the parents as much as the infants/tots.  The Parent Tot instructor also needs to know the different games and songs we play, hopefully knowing the lyrics by heart. We include lyrics and descriptions in the swim instructor lesson plans found in the All Access Memberships.  If you’re using the lesson plans, you can focus more on each individual without worrying about what you’ll do next or panic when you forget a lyric or song.  Finally, we expect that the Parent Tot instructor will sing the songs, actively participate and initiate conversation with the parents.

Instructor Goals:

  • Know the material
  • Be confident and gentle remembering the parents are the students too.
  • Sing, play, laugh, initiate conversation


Start your lesson


  • Introduce yourself, your background (swimming history), and experience.
  • Tell the class that you will be focusing on teaching the parents how they should work with their children in the water.
  • Make it clear to the parents that their emotions, fears, and hesitation will be picked up by their infants and either make the whole experience easy or difficult.  Parent’s fear about their child going under will translate into that baby crying when its time to go underwater because they will pick up on the parent’s fear. Make it clear that they should be strong for their children.
  • Review “Cuing” with the parents before you enter the water.

What is Cuing?

Que, Cue, cue-ing. We mean, “One, Two, Three, GO.” Every time we do something with the infant/tot we need to give them a cue that something is going to happen. For swim lessons the easiest thing to do is to count to 3 then do the activity. If each number is a beat (like a drum) then we would do the activity on the fourth beat, or what would be “four.”

1, 2, 3, do the action.

Explain to the participants on the deck this concept of “Cuing” before every action in the different skills and games you’ll play. The number one most important part of cuing is….


Cue constantly and always. When the instructor interacts with a child remember to cue. When the parent does an action different from what they currently are doing, cue. “1, 2, 3, go.” Every time.

What cuing does for the infant

If we constantly say the words, “One, Two, Three, Go” and do an action on the word go, the infant will recognize that something is going to happen and prepare for it. We are setting the stage for going underwater and after 1, 2, 3, the infant will remember and know to close their mouth, and relax they’re going underwater. They will be prepared for it.  In order for the cue to work, we need to be consistent with the constant, 1, 2, 3, go format. The instructor and the parents should both use it with every activity.

#2 Entering the water

Have the parents and the child sit side by side on the edge of the pool. The instructor should get in the water first.

Tell parents to enter the water slowly while still holding on to their child. The parent should enter first while the infant stays seated on the deck. Most infants will not have the strength to keep themselves upright, and parents should maintain some contact with the infant while then slide in and rotate to face their child.

Parent Tot Entr


  • Sit side by side first.
  • Keep a hand or arm connected to the infant while the parent slides in
  • Rotate towards the infant, keeping in your field of view
  • Face infant once in the water.
  • Maintain physical connection while entering



#3 Motorboat with infant sitting on side

With the infant still sitting on the side of the pool, we are going to play a quick game while singing a short song. This is a kicking game to get used to start singing and playing. We will play this game again in the water slightly differently later on.

Sing the following:

Motorboat, motorboat, go so slow (drawn out)

Motorboat, motorboat, go so Fast…..

Motorboat, motorboat, STEP ON THE GAS!!!!

For each stage of “motorboat,” move quicker as you sing. When you sing, “go so slow,” move the feet really slowly while speaking in a slow drawn-out voice. With “go so fast” speak just slightly faster than normal speech. Finally, when you sing, “Step on the gas,” smile, laugh, super increase the speed, and make large splashes.

Remind your parents that when you do “step on the gas!” to move your infant’s feet fast, and change your tone of voice.

Here is a quick video of Motorboat song done with noodles. We encourage you to do it on the side of the pool 1st.

#4 Infant enters the water, Alligator Song / Jumps

4a) Song to enter, jump to enter

We’ve played motorboat, we’ve sat on the side, and the instructor and the parents are all in the water. Now we want the infants to join us.  This is a Day 1 parent-tot class, and we are not going to take the child underwater yet. Instead, we are going to slide in or jump in restricting the swimmer’s head position so it does not get submerged.  *You can make an exception here for repeat class attendants, and they can jump ahead if they and their child are ready to.

Alligator, Alligator Song

Hold your child’s hands with yours. Sing the following:

“Alligator, Alligator, on the wall.

Alligator, alligator, in you fall!”

“One, two, three, go!”

On “go” gently pull the child into a hug by lifting and pulling their hands towards you and then wrapping their arms around your neck.  Smile, laugh and be happy.

Restrict the depth the infant goes underwater. Limit the water to only go up to their shoulders. Keep the infant’s face above water as you gently pull them into the water and into your embrace.

4b) Turn around, and pass to the wall.

Parents and infants should remain close to the wall and not walk away. We want to do this entry more than one time. Ideally, we’ll do this entry 3-4 times.

Grasp the infant like you’re holding a football (American) with thumbs pressed into the chest, and fingers wrapped around the back and sides.  *see picture below:


From this position, pull the infant into your chest, and rotate them so your thumbs are pressing into their back, and your fingers are wrapped around their chest. The infant should be facing away from the parent and pointing to the wall. Do your verbal cue, “one, two, three, go.” and extend arms to the wall. Infant should grasp the edge of the pool on their own.

Instructor and parents help boost out of water

Parent should then put their hands over the infant’s hands and help boost it out of the water into a seated position like we began with.

Repeat the alligator song.


#5 Show and do: How to hold for front floats

After doing four or five different jumps from the side with the “Alligator, Alligator” song, we are going to move into supported front floats.  Instructors should explain how to hold the infant, and encourage the parents to walk backwards while doing this.  Ask parents to blow bubbles with their shoulders in the water and keep the infant at the surface.


Front Float Palm Up support for smaller swimmers:

palm up front float support

Here, we place our pinky fingers from each hand close together with our palms up. The instructor lifts the child’s chest on their open palms face up, and allows the child’s weight to fall onto their hands. You can easily control depth and encourage kicking using this hold. It can be more effective for smaller and younger swimmers than the football position described before.

Key Points of Front Float Palm Up support:

·         Swimmer’s chest rests in the upturned palms of the instructor (or parent).

·         Gently wrap pointer finger and thumb around participant’s torso and shoulders to maintain balance and grip.

·         Let the weight of the swimmer dictate depth and gently support up with hands.

·         Walk backwards to simulate motion.

·         Excellent hold for drifting, scoops, and chin, lip, nose submersion.

As an instructor, I would never go upside down with the infant and scoop like that without cuing and warning. What is significant is the baby’s reaction and the instructor’s response.

The baby is about to freak out crying, but does not.

She looks at the mom, and sees how happy, smiling, and excited she is. The baby is confused, and then SMILES!!! Amazing!

Just don’t do that type of dunk in your lessons.You can teach great Parent Tot classes too!

Use the swim lesson plans for you and your staff:


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    1. Then you did everything too quickly. You’re supposed to take your time and do these activities multiple times. Don’t rush through this.

      Remember that you’re working with infants and possibly up to 2 years. They can’t do much at all, and you should spend most of your time doing each activity with each participant. Your job is teaching the parents as much as teaching the children.

      Take your time, and repeat everything.

      Fill gaps with songs or toys.