A good strong kick is the basic skill behind every strong swimmer. Teaching a child to kick properly when they swim can be one of the most difficult tasks of the entire swimming process. The key to teaching a child to kick properly is to be patient with your child and to make sure they can see the difference between what they are doing and what they should be doing.
Kicking is a hard thing to teach kids because they like to bend their knees when they kick, and a good strong kick comes from the thighs and upper legs, not from the knees down. When you first start teaching a child to kick properly, have them start on the steps of a pool with their stomach up so that they can see their legs. You can also kick with them, right next to them so they can see what a straight leg kick looks like. When your not kicking or demonstrating, make sure you help them keep their legs straight. You can do this a few ways. The first is by pointing their toes. If they can keep their toes pointed, they wont be able to bend their legs as much. The other thing you can do is hold your arm over their ankles just above the water line. This will keep them from making their kicks too big, and the bigger they kick, the more their legs will bend.
It is always good to practice kicking on the front and back at the wall, but just as important is kicking away from the wall with a noodle, barbell, of if your child is big enough, a kickboard.
Whatever you use to have them kick away from the wall, the key is to keep them moving forward and to see if they can move forward faster while keeping their legs straight and keeping their kicks as small as possible. The best place to keep yourself is back by your child’s feet. Again, you can keep your arm over their ankles just above the water line to help them keep their legs straight and the kicks small. If needed, you can put your other arm under the water below their legs just above the knees.
You can have your child practice kicking on their backs with a noodle or a barbell as well, just make sure that you make sure they are comfortable because being on their backs in the water can be quite a bit more frightening then being on their front. The key to back kicking is to make sure that they look up at the ceiling and keep their bellies up so that they do not sink, or fall into a habit of putting their bottom toward the bottom of the pool.
Kicking is an important part of learning to swim, and is a key to being a good swimmer in the future, so beginning to teach kicking early and the right way is important. Just remember that being in the water should always be fun and exciting.