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Back Float vs. Water Adjustment - Play - Swim Programs

There continues to be the ongoing debate about whether to teach back float to infants and toddlers or whether to teach water adjustment/play ("mommy and me") or "underwater swimming”.

At WALLYPOGS our belief is that back float skills should be taught prior to introduction of fun and games.

We use songs and toys, in our teaching process, for distraction purposes only.

Water is serious and the staggering Drowning Statistics and near drownings cannot be ignored.

It should not be considered fun or safe for a child who does not know how to handle them selves in the water.

Our graduates learn to respect the water and how to successfully get to a safe back float position,

before they learn to play in it. Play is naturally and easily integrated into the process once a child has mastered

the survival float skill. We strive for a healthy balance of understanding and fun.

Those of us who are out in the world teaching babies how to back float feel very strongly that we have a calling

to help “make a difference.”

Drowning is a preventable accident.

That is why we strive to have ongoing informational and educational meetings, Classes Offered,

so we can continually raise awareness and aide in drowning prevention.

Our goal is to help parents come to an informed and educated decision

about their child's safety and early water experience. A child’s SURVIVAL is our first priority.And always remember…


Any swim program that professes drown proofing is giving a false sense of security.

There is no substitute, including Survival Back Float, for the constant, responsible, adult supervision of children.

That is the only true drown proofing. Survival Back Float is designed as only “one of the layers of precaution” in drowning prevention. It may give a child, at the very least, a fighting chance to survive

and gives a parent the extra couple of minutes to get to them in an emergency situation,

should they somehow get off by themselves and fall into a body of water.

Survival Back Float Technique

Introduction to back float can begin in the bathtub from the time of birth 2-9 Months SF Preparation.

Formal back float lessons start around nine months, when a child is mobile, until three years old.

At three “swim/float” (Toddler Swimming) is introduced,

continuing emphasis on the back float for breathing and resting.


In the Survival Back Float Technique the child is taught/conditioned to come to a free-floating,

face-up position, which is natural when relaxed (for child or adult).

In a slow, loving and gentle step-by-step progressive process, the child first learns to “free float” unaided.

Then a child learns how to always get to a face-up position while maintaining control,

getting mouth and nose out of the water, coming to a back float position.

The survival float lessons teach a child respect for water

while giving a better understanding of how their bodies work in the water.

The beginning is the same for all children, the middle is individualized, and Graduation Day is the same.

The Wallypog approach is very conservative in terms of submerging babies.

Our goal is to get a child’s face out of the water as quickly as possible to minimize possible water intake.

This is not drown proofing, and again constant, responsible, parental/adult supervision is also imperative.

However, learning this skill may give a child a fighting chance at survival

and the extra couple of minutes of breath necessary, until a parent gets to them,

should they unexpectedly slip off and fall into a body of water unattended.

Traditional swimming, with breathing, begins around four years old, still stressing the back float for resting purposes.


Drowning is caused by an intake of water and loss of air

due to a person’s inability to keep mouth and nose out of water to breathe.

In an attempt to keep mouth and nose “out of the water”

one creates unsuccessful movements that are “unconstructive/negative” and acomplis very little.

With the lack of success in the ability to get air, panic begins to set in causing the person to tire.

Drowning or near drowning occurs within minutes.

This is where the Survival Back Float can be important to the safety of a child.

We work with the child to create controlled, movements that aide them in getting to a back float position,

without panic, from which they can breathe.

We stop all of the negative behaviors and show them positive behaviors that will help get them to their backs safely. They are taught to do this in clothing, as 86% of the children who drown do so fully clothed.

Often times swim programs that support and teach fun, play, water orientation and underwater swimming,

at an early age, hold that teaching a child to only back float causes trauma and fear of the water…NOT SO.

In fact, quite the contrary is true.

When handled in a positive, loving, and constructive way, as is done in our program, the opposite actually occurs.

As explained in How We Teach, our program is a very gentle approach

allowing a child to become very confident, comfortable, secure and happy in the water

while learning to have a genuine healthy love and respect of the water.

Trauma is not caused by the back float process, but rather by inappropriate handling of children in water

and can happen regardless of age or teaching approach.

Parents should always explore, ask questions and check out the teaching attitudes and methods of any program. Parents should be totally comfortable with the approach and philosophy of the swim school

before enrolling their child in classes.

Infant and toddler swim lessons

These classes teach infants and toddlers swimming techniques.

Swimming with the face “in the water” or underwater is emphasized and back float may be introduced.

The child may be taught to jump in, turn around go back to the side of pool and pull self out.

Mommy/Daddy may or may not be involved in the process.

Varying methods and approaches are widely used throughout the world.

There is no question that young children can learn to maneuver through the water,

dive down and get toys, jump in off the side and sometimes be taught to successfully breathe

and get back to the side.

However, it can be a long process.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

“Children are generally not developmentally ready for formal swim lessons until their fourth birthday.”

They lack the coordination to be able to swim and breath for any significant length of time.

There also needs to be extreme caution and concern in terms of ongoing submersion and the unknown amount of possible water intake.

Adult presence is imperative when a child is in the water.

Water adjustment/water orientation classes

These classes are a “Mommy and Me” approach,

introducing play from the beginning of a child’s early water experience.

A “love of water” is promoted through play and fun, with games and songs being the core of the program.

We believe that this approach can actually compound the problem and potential for drowning,

as a child wants to get to water once they have been taught that it is a pleasurable place to be.

Children have no swim skills,

sustained back float skills or ability to effectively take care of them selves in the water, in case of an emergency.

Adult presence is imperative.

We don’t teach children to play in the street for a very good reason… it is dangerous.

Why should we consider it OK to teach them to play in water, which poses a far greater danger.

© Wallypogs 2018