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What are The Different Strokes in Swimming: Four Techniques Kids Must Learn

Swimming is one of the most popular recreational activities for children and teenagers. It provides numerous benefits for their mental and physical health. In fact, it teaches an essential life-saving skill. 

As kids learn to swim, they will encounter different techniques of swimming: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly. Each stroke has its unique characteristics and challenges, but all contribute to helping train a well-rounded swimmer.

What are the different strokes in swimming? This blog compares the techniques and highlights the benefits of mastering each one. Whether your child is a beginner or looking to improve their skills, understanding the differences and nuances of these strokes will help them become confident and efficient swimmers.

Are you ready to dive in and explore the world of swimming strokes?

What are the Different Strokes in Swimming?


Also known as the front crawl, freestyle is the most common and fastest stroke. It’s one of the first strokes a child will learn in swim lessons. Swimmers use alternating arm movements to pull themselves through the water and a flutter kick for additional propulsion. This stroke requires coordination and breathing techniques so your child maintains a steady pace over long distances.

The freestyle swim stroke is straightforward. Your child lays on their stomach, with their body parallel to the water. They propel themselves forward by driving an arm forward with cupped hands acting like paddles and pushing the water below the surface. Your child must tilt their hips and shoulders to perform this stroke effectively.

The key to freestyle swimming is always looking to the side or bottom of the pool and never lifting your head to look straight ahead. Your kid’s legs should be in a constant flutter kick to stay afloat.


This swim technique for kids is highly technical, making it difficult to master. It’s the slowest of the four basic swimming strokes for kids but offers excellent control and efficiency in the water. Most swimmers who learn this stroke will use it as a recovery stroke when their body gets tired. Although challenging to learn, many beginners favor the breaststroke as it allows comfortable breathing, giving them a gentle and relaxing swimming experience.

The breaststroke is known for its distinctive frog-like movements, requiring simultaneous arm movements with a whip kick to match. To perform this swim technique for kids, start by having your child float with their stomachs in the water. Ensure they stretch their body as long as possible while keeping their hands together. Let their arms move in a half-circular motion beneath the water’s surface.

The arms and legs must be in complete coordination to execute a breaststroke properly. Your child should then perform a whip kick, pulling their legs from behind and straightening up close to their body while bending both at the knees and hips. Their legs come back together after moving backward and to the side, similar to a frog’s motion.

Because of the technical difficulty of this stroke, children will often learn the kick and arm strokes separately, and put them together once they are comfortable with the movements. 

Fun fact: The breaststroke engages your forearms, chest, and upper back more than any other swim stroke, making it an excellent exercise for people of all ages. 


As its name suggests, the backstroke is performed on the back, partnered with a flutter kick and alternating arm movements. Swimmers must rely on their sense of body position and coordination to stay afloat while moving backward. This basic swimming stroke for kids is ideal for beginners as it provides a clear view of the surroundings while allowing easy breathing.

Kids can think of the backstroke as the first technique they learn after floating. Like the front crawl, it’s also straightforward to understand. They have to lay on their back, extend their arms, and pull them behind their head with their thumbs out alternatingly.

However, unlike the breaststroke, the movement of the arm doesn’t stop when it hits the water. Your child must continue pulling their arms until they reach a full 360-degree turn, like a windmill. Repeat this process with the other arm while the feet remain in a constant flutter kick. 

The key to a successful backstroke is maintaining the straightness in your child’s torso while submerging their legs in the water. Avoid excessive torso bending or letting your hips sag too low, as it will slow them down.

The most challenging thing about this basic swimming stroke for kids is orienting themselves in the water. While downward-facing strokes have black lines on the pool floor as a basis, backstrokers need to find their reference points. Indoor facilities often have a spot on the ceiling, while outdoor pools pose a greater challenge.


Considered the most challenging and physically demanding stroke, the butterfly showcases grace and power. It involves performing a simultaneous dolphin kick and overhead swinging of the arms as if resembling the wings of a butterfly. This swim technique for kids requires a strong core, upper body strength, precise timing, and coordination. Although it may take time to master, the butterfly provides an exhilarating and dynamic swimming experience.

This swim technique was initially developed from the breaststroke, but swimmers recover their arms above the water instead of beneath it. 

How do these Swim Techniques for Kids Differ?

You can differentiate these strokes according to their speed, technical demands, and overall efficiency in the water. The freestyle stroke stands out for its speed and versatility, while the backstroke offers easy breathing and excellent body awareness. Meanwhile, the breaststroke emphasizes control and relaxation, while the butterfly showcases strength and coordination.

Each stroke has varying difficulty levels, and mastering all four strokes contributes to becoming a well-rounded and confident swimmer.

Dive into Excellence with Basic Swimming Strokes for Kids

Encourage your child to explore and practice each swimming stroke. It’s essential to focus on proper technique, body position, and breathing patterns to maximize their performance and minimize the risk of injury. Enrolling your child in swimming lessons with the expertise of a trained professional can provide valuable guidance and support. 

It also helps to give your 100% support throughout their aquatic journey. Swimming isn’t just about mastering the technique — it’s about fostering a love for the water while spending time with loved ones. So encourage your child to enjoy the process, stay motivated, and embrace the joy of swimming.

To assess your child’s current swim skills and swim strokes, sign up for a Complimentary Swim Lesson. We will have them try each stroke to identify the right swim level for them. 

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