While swimming is a great full-body exercise, it doesn't come easy to some people. Whether you are helping your child learn to swim or you're an adult with a fear of water, the key to swimming safely is to acclimate yourself to the water and understand some built-in safety components of the human body.
Become comfortable in the water. Choose a location where there are no waves and where the depth is fairly even. It's probably safest to start in a location with a lifeguard. Another good safety precaution is to swim with a buddy, who will notice if you run into trouble. One easy beginning trick to get used to the feel of water on your face is to blow bubbles in it. You also can blow table tennis balls across a bathtub.
Go deeper into the water until it is almost up to your head. This allows you to experience the way your body works underwater while knowing that you can instantly feel secure by putting your feet down. Practice walking and moving your body in different ways.
Prepare for your head or face being submerged by practicing holding your breath, closing your eyes and putting your face in the water. Wearing goggles can make this a more comfortable experience by keeping water out of your eyes and allowing you to open them underwater. If you don't breathe in or move suddenly, you shouldn't get water up your nose, but if you are uncomfortable, start out by holding your nose. When you're comfortable with your face in the water, bend your knees and dunk your whole head. You can breathe out while you're underwater and come up in time to breathe in.
Understand that your body is naturally buoyant. Practice floating by holding your breath and relaxing your body. Your feet will probably come up and your head will bend down into the water, but your body as a whole will not sink. This is a great position to practice because you can float for quite a long time like this, without expending much energy. Just relax and practice bringing your face up whenever you need to breathe. Try to do this without putting your feet down, so that you know you could do it in deeper water.
Be aware that the rest of swimming is using various methods to move your body around in the water. The most basic, intuitive swimming style, the dog paddle, comes naturally to most people. When you feel comfortable floating in the water, try moving your legs and arms without touching the ground, and see if you can propel yourself forward.
Kick your legs up and down quickly, and you will probably find yourself moving forward more strongly. A lot of the power of swimming, especially in beginners, comes from kicking your legs. When you are comfortable with this stage, you are ready to learn some specific swimming strokes, like the crawl or breaststroke.
Use floating tools that help with practicing swimming. You can hold a kickboard in your hands, which helps you float with your head out of water, while you practice moving by kicking. There also are floats that you can hold between your legs while you practice arm movements for swimming.