On Back

Our main goal is for baby to relax and enjoy time being on their backs in the water, so they are buoyant and feel themselves floating on the water surface.

There are a number of different float holds to show parents how to hold their baby/ toddler in the water, comfortably and secure.

The age, experience and confidence of the individual baby/ toddler will all effect how they react to be on their back in the water and how they need to be supported.

Parents should talk, have eye contact (when possible) and relax with their baby/ toddler.

Looking for baby/toddler’s back of head and ears to be in the water.

Toys/ Mirrors/ Tunnel bridges can be used to help entertain baby on their back in these holds as well as a number of floating/kicking songs and games!

Baby and Toddlers should be encouraged to kick their legs while in these float holds and feel the buoyancy on their bodies.

*Remember some babies/toddlers aren’t great back floaters.  Respect the baby/toddler and go at their pace. Never force a child into a back float. Try mixing up holds with the baby/toddler – if they are not willing, stop and play something else as happiness is essential!

*Independent back floats should only be attempted with an individual Parent-baby pair, with the teachers agreement and guidance.  Never do as a ‘group’ activity!

6 Weeks to 6 Months

Younger babies who have not yet started sitting up, will enjoy gentle introductions to floating on their back and should be content and relaxed when supported in back floats.
Parents are able to work on back floats with baby for a longer period of time around 7 minutes.  
Giving baby lots of back floating experience this early will increase the likelihood they will enjoy experiences on their back when older.
Babies are encouraged to move their legs on their back, parents can hold babies legs and do kick leg action. They can bend and stretch baby’s legs to encourage leg movements.

Back Holds

Holds:Cradle Hold:

Open Cradle hold from the Cradle hold, parent opens their arm out (the arm the baby’s head is on) and stretches it out into the water, leaving a slightly bent at the elbow, for baby’s head to lay.  Parent’s other hand supports and corrects baby’s seat/lower back in to floating position.  Baby experiences buoyancy.

Swing dips

Progression from cradling, parent rocks baby from upright to reclining position, feet first.  Parent can remove the seat hand while in the dip part of the swing dip for baby to float and experience the buoyancy of their body.

Varying time, length and rhyme of the swings and dips – baby enjoys and relaxes with the rush of water up their body, and relaxes into floating hold.

Supported Back Float

Baby/toddlers head rests on parents shoulder/ top of chest,

Parents arm stretch down babies body at the side they are on and parents other hand supporting back float position.

Helping baby to relax and feel comfortable on their back.  

Parents can gently lower their shoulders down into the water, getting back of baby’s head and ears in the water.

Lots of communication with baby/child, eye contact.

Parent holds back of baby’s legs just below knees and helps with kicking.

If baby/ toddler is comfortable parent can move baby off their shoulder into the water in front of them – into Head and Shoulder Supported Float.

Head and Shoulder Supported back Float

Younger babies – Parent gently supports back of baby’s head and shoulders, with both hands and fingers stretched out, underneath and thumbs rest over shoulders.

Floating young babies in gentle relaxed swishing and side to side motions.

Older babies/ toddlers are supported under the arms and shoulders, with relaxed hands.  Flip-flops from front into back position.

Floating hold

Parent uses both hands; one hand supporting back of baby’s head and other hand supporting baby’s seat in reclined position. Parent can use whole arms behind head if they want, back of baby’s head in the crease of their elbow.

As baby is relaxed and comfortable, gently remove hand/fingertips off the seat – Allowing baby to feel the float on their body.

Tell parent to watch for baby/toddlers body movements when they remove their hand.  As babies explore free movement in the water, they start to correct and maintain their own buoyancy . Parent can also correct and help baby continue the float.

Side to Side Swishing Parent holds baby in head and shoulder supported float or if semi reclining under the arms and moves baby side to side swishing and bigger figure of eight movements.

Woggles can be used to float and swim together on back.  Encourage parents to do this in playtime rather than an activity.  Due to space and parents confidence.

Arms:  Reflex arm movements – arms curled in to chest and stretch out.

Legs:  Reflex leg movements – legs curl up to chest and hold feet. Moves legs in the water. “Kick, Kick”

Head:  Back of head and ears in the water.

Body:  Buoyant, Floating. Wiggling and jerking (reflex) movements.

6 Weeks to 6 Months

Progressive practices:

  • Introduce Cradling hold. (Stationary)
  • Cradling Hold and movement on the spot.
  • Open Cradle Hold.
  • Introduce Open Cradle Hold movement on the spot.
  • Introduce Open Cradle Hold and move across/around the pool.
  • Introduce Gentle Swing Dips (Stationary)
  • Gentle swing dips and twirl around on the spot.
  • Introduce Head and Shoulder Supported Back Float (Stationary)
  • Head and Shoulder Supported Back Float and move across the pool.
  • Side to Side Swishing and move across/ around the pool.
  • Introduce Floating Hold (Stationary)
  • Floating Hold and twirl around on the spot.
  • Swing Dips to Open Cradle/Floating Hold and move around the pool.
  • Introduce Supported Back Float (Stationary)

6 Months -12 Months

Older babies aged 6-12 months are rolling over and sitting up (reflex they have developed), so reclining on their back becomes a little more work.
Parent must support baby’s head in back floats so they are not straining, and sit them up for short breaks to maintain happiness.  
Back floats