How to Teach a Toddler to Hold Their Breath Under the Water
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Count to three and encourage your toddler to take the plunge.

With your toddler's Coast Guard-approved safety vest in hand, you lead your anxious little swimmer into a nearby lake, river or public swimming pool. He's starting to get the hang of the doggie paddle, but cannot quite get past that fear of holding his breath underwater. Instead of reliving your own childhood nightmares of a cruel older sister throwing you into the deep end to teach you to hold your breath, get your toddler comfortable with the water in stages before encouraging him to go for it and dunk under.


  1. 1
    Teach your toddler to hold his breath before your day of fun at the beach. Tell him to take a deep breath until his cheeks are puffed out and to count to three. Hold your breath with him and practice several times a day. As the days continue, ask your toddler to hold his breath for a few more counts each time until you can count to five or six.
  2. 2
    Count to three and then gently pour water over your toddler's face as he holds his breath. Continue to count and remind your child to keep his mouth closed. Slowly pouring water over your toddler's face helps prepare him for the real thing.
  3. 3
    Splash around and play before encouraging your toddler to take the plunge. Once you’re at the beach or pool, start a game of splash Dad in the face and have fun in the shallower water. This also allows your toddler's body to get accustomed to the water temperature.
  4. 4
    Hold your toddler's hands and gently lead him into deeper water. Move slowly and if your toddler freaks out, go a few steps towards the shore and try again in a few minutes. Turn adventuring out into deeper water into a game by telling your toddler you're off to catch the vicious sea monster otherwise known as Daddy.
  5. 5
    Teach your toddler to blow bubbles in the water. Slowly lower your face into the water and blow a few bubbles before helping your toddler do the same. Be patient if your toddler is scared to put his face in the water, but continue to blow bubbles yourself to show him that there's absolutely nothing to fear.
  6. 6
    Instruct your toddler to plug his nose, take a deep breath and dive in. Once he's underwater, tap on his shoulder three times before gently pulling him from the water. Give your toddler a high-five and a hug if he makes it to three. If he doesn't, try again in a few minutes.
  7. 7
    Continue to take frequent trips to the beach or pool and each time, encourage your toddler to hold his breath a few taps longer.


  • Practice in the bathtub. When your toddler is taking his nightly bath, encourage him to practice holding his breath underwater.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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