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Basic Swimming Strokes for Kids: How to Do the Backstroke

Learning the different swimming strokes helps your child avoid injury, grow to love swimming and dedicate themselves to it, and improve the other techniques they’ve learned. These basic strokes include the backstroke, which is done with their back on the water.

Plenty of practice goes into perfecting this technique. Hence, we’ve made a step-by-step guide to help your child learn the backstroke. Let’s dive in!

How to Swim Backstroke: The Basics for Kids

Learning the backstroke involves the following steps:

Look at the Sky or Ceiling

Your little one’s head position makes their backstroke perfect. With their heads over the water, the world’s top backstrokers can swim while balancing a cup of water on their foreheads.

Whenever your child swims, they should look at the sky or ceiling. As a result, the head stays neutral, and the hips are above the water for easier swimming.

Finally, make sure your child avoids looking forward because they’ll slow down. The hips drop as the head moves forward, producing drag while swimming.

Keep the Hips Over the Water

The hip position is also crucial in swimming backstroke. To get the technique right, your child should keep their hips near the water’s surface.

Raising the belly button over the surface can help your little swimmer’s hips stay close to the water. However, their back should be straight, with the core engaged and the head neutral.

Rotate the Body

As a long-axis stroke, the backstroke technique involves turning the body side to side along an imaginary line. The axis starts at the top of your child’s head, runs to the center of their body, and extends out the toes.

When swimming backstroke, the hips should be used to turn, with the arms as aids. Here’s how your child should rotate in the water:

  • As the right arm enters the water, the body turns slightly to the right.
  • After pulling on the right side and as the left arm enters the water, your child should turn to the left.

Pull, Pull, Pull

Doing the backstroke also means pulling like a continuously spinning windmill. One arm exits the water, while the other pulls.

To do a backstroke pull, your child’s arms should enter the water pinky first. Both pinkies should be a bit wider than the shoulders — think of how the hour hand on a clock is positioned at 11 and 1.

Next, your child bends their elbow, giving way to a powerful, early vertical forearm catch. One hand should go over the water thumb first, with the recovering arm straight and turned slightly to bring the hand back into the water pinky first.

Just Kick It

The backstroke uses a flutter kick that’s done constantly. Most swimmers use a six-beat kick — that is, three kicks whenever each arm moves. As your child kicks, they should point their toes and use their hip flexors, keeping the knees slightly bent.

Tip: Flutter kicks should look small for enough power. Big kicks produce drag, slowing your child down.

An Easier Alternative: The Elementary Backstroke

If your little one finds the traditional backstroke challenging, have them try its much simpler form in the elementary backstroke.

Here, your child faces upward so they breathe freely. They start with arms straight along the body, then move the hands from the hips to shoulder level. Afterward, the arms become straight again and move toward the hips, pushing your child forward.

For leg movements, the legs should be stretched out and held together. Your little one’s next step is to bend their knees, extend their legs, and bring their feet to their butt. Then, the legs are spread and held together for power.

Finally, you can encourage your child to breathe while moving their arms and legs. In this case, they inhale whenever their arms move toward the shoulders and stretch sideways, then exhale whenever their arms return to the sides.

How Your Child Can Improve Their Backstroke Technique

Constant practice leads to a good backstroke. Here’s how your little swimmer can improve their technique.

  • The body should be as flat as possible to keep it streamlined with the water. Also, it should form a little slope down to the hips so the legs stay underwater.
  • While swimming, the water should cover your child’s ears, and the eyes should look up and back.
  • Quick pulls with the hands create resistance. Get your child to direct their palms toward the bottom of the pool, then move their hands outward and downward until they line up with the upper chest and shoulders, keeping the elbows bent.
  • Next, the hands should be turned, with palms facing toward the feet. They should be pushed through the water until the arms completely straighten and are ready to exit the water as the shoulders rotate.
  • If your child slows down while swimming backstroke, they can do an alternating or dolphin kick and move their arms while their body stays slightly underwater. In turn, the head rises to the surface.

Encourage Your Child to Learn the Backstroke

Swimming backstroke lets your child work and strengthen their muscles while improving their feel of the water. However, it can be challenging as your little one has to swim on their back. Consider saving and using our step-by-step guide to help your child improve their backstroke technique, boosting their confidence and expanding their knowledge of the basic swimming strokes.

Do you need help preparing your child for swim lessons or creating a more enjoyable learning experience? Get valuable tips from the Bear Paddle blog today.

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