Singing while you swim – nursery rhymes for water confidence

These days, nursery rhymes are a big part of baby and toddler swimming lessons. There are lots of reasons for this.

Music is a wonderful  tool for helping children overcome their fears. Your little one is probably already familiar with many popular nursery rhymes and may find them comforting. Even young babies tend to find the repetitive words and melodies of nursery rhymes soothing (especially as they get to listen to your much loved voice, even if you can’t sing a note in tune!). As such, nursery rhymes tend to be reassuring, familiar and provide a welcome distraction for little ones who have some anxiety about going in the water.

Some swimming classes even use the beat and rhythm of nursery rhymes to help young children understand how to count their strokes and breathe while swimming.

In our experience, singing also promotes lots of eye contact and smiles, which is great for relaxing mums and dads in the water too. If you are calm and confident, your little one will be more likely to take their cue from you and feel the same.

Singing in the water doesn’t have to be reserved for swimming lessons. If you take your baby or toddler to the pool at other times – perhaps for a family fun session with an older child – why not sing some nursery rhymes to help build your little one’s water confidence?

Not sure what to sing? We’ve got some suggestions for you (plus some tips about what actions to try):

Entering the pool

For little ones who are cautious about entering the pool, try sitting on the steps or poolside and dipping their toes in the water:

 There’s a worm at the bottom of the garden

There’s a worm at the bottom of the garden (Action: Hold your little one on the side of the pool facing you)

And his name is Wiggly Woo ingworth 04 cr

There’s a worm at the bottom of the garden

And all that he can do

Is wiggle all day and wiggle all night

The neighbours say it’s a terrible fright.

There’s a worm at the bottom of the garden

And his name is Wiggly Woo (Action: Swivel your little one so they turn and enter the pool safely with you holding them initially, the aim is always to enable the child to do as much for themselves as possible).


These songs help encourage children to lie back and relax so that they can float with you supporting them. This helps them to get used to having the water lines near their ears and looking up at the ceiling while they’re on their back:

everything 039

 Rock-a-bye baby (with boats not trees!)

Rock-a-bye baby in your small boat (Action: Cradle your baby in your arms and glide them gently through the water from side to side )

When the wind blows, your small boat will rock

When the wind falls, your small boat will float

Safely to shore, baby and all


Water sprinkling

Young children are often worried about getting their face wet when they are in the bath or swimming pool. Gentle songs and games where you sprinkle water can help with this anxiety. If your child is reluctant, you could always get them to sprinkle you instead so that they can see that you’re fine and still having fun:

 London’s burning

London’s burning, London’s burning.

Fetch the engines, fetch the engines.

Fire, fire! Fire, fire!

Pour on water, pour on water (Action: Pour or sprinkle water over your child’s head)

London’s burning.


I’m a little teapot  feb24 053

I’m a little teapot,

Short and stout.

Here’s my handle,

Here’s my spout.

When I get all steamed up

Hear me shout

Tip me up and pour me out! (Action: Pour or sprinkle water over your child’s head)


Moving through the water

There are some brilliant nursery rhymes to help get your baby or toddler used to the sensation of moving through the water:

 Five little ducks

Five little ducks went swimming one day,

Over the hill and far away

Mother Duck said, ‘Quack, quack, quack, quack’

And only four little ducks came back (Action: Hold your child on their tummy to your side with their face out of the water and walk across the pool, then walk back again – repeat with verses four, three, two and one)

 Zoom, zoom, zoom


Zoom, zoom, zoom, we’re going to the moon (Action: Stand against the side of the pool and get your little one to lay forward with their head above the water and their feet against the pool wall)

Zoom, zoom, zoom, we’re going very soon

Five, four, three, two, one – blast off! (Action: Push and glide away from the pool wall, – this can also be lots of fun with the aid a woggle – the woggle is placed around both you and your child, your child in facing forwards in front of you and your arms latched over the woggle – dads tend to like this one)

 Bouncing and submersion

If you feel confident with submerging your child briefly under the water, then you’ll love these songs (you might want to try submersion in an organised baby swimming class the first time). Alternatively, these are good songs for getting toddlers to put their face in the water:



A pocketful of poses



We all fall down (Action: Submerge for your little one or get them to dunk their head under the water)

Fishes in the water (Action: After your child has lifted their head out of the water, carry on singing)

Fishes in the sea

We all jump up with a 1, 2, 3! (Action: Lift them out of the water and back down again for a lovely splash!)

 The Grand Old Duke of York

The Grand Old Duke of York

He had ten thousand men.

He marched them up to the top of the hill (Action: Lift your baby up out of the water)

And he marched them down again (Action: Lower baby back into the water)

And when they were up, they were up (Action: Lift again)

And when they were down, they were down (Action: Lower again)

And when they were only half way up,

They were neither up (Action: Lift baby) nor down (Action: Lower baby)

He marched them to the left (Action: Move baby through the water to the left)

He marched them to the right (Action: Move baby through the water to the right)

He marched them all round and round (Action: Turn in a circle with your little one)

He marched them out of sight (Action: Submerge)

Blowing bubbles

Children love blowing bubbles. Encourage them to put their mouth below the water line and breathe out to make lots of bubbles on the surface of the water:

 Puffer trains  feb24 059

Down at the station, early in the morning

See the little puffer trains all in a row

See the engine driver start up the engine

Puff, puff, peep, peep and off we go! (Action: Both blow bubbles in the water and them move across the pool)

Jumping In 

I’m a little Penguin

I’m a little penguin – black and white       splishsplash

Short and fluffy – what a sight

I can’t fly – but I love to swim

So I waddle to the edge and jump right in (action – depending on how confident your child is, they either sit or stand on the pool edge – if sitting you assist them into the water by leaning them into the pool – if standing , ensure toes are on the edge of the pool and you assist them into the water)

Remember to repeat a nursery rhyme and the actions in the water several times in succession. This will help your child learn the words and also to understand what comes next. The more familiar they become with being splashed or blowing bubbles in the water, the more you will see their water confidence bloom.

If you feel self-conscious about singing to your baby in the pool, just remember that they will love this chance to bond with you and have lots of fun. You can always come along to an organised baby swimming lesson so that you’re not the only adult singing as you swim!

What nursery rhymes does your little one love? Do you sing when you’re in the water together? Do nursery rhymes make bath time easier? Which nursery rhymes does your child love? We’d love to hear from you in the Comments section below or over on our Funky Fish Swim School Facebook page.


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