A series of nanocomposite hydrogels based on polyvinyl alcohol containing 0–10 wt % of the organically modified montmorillonite clay were prepared by freezing-thawing cyclic method. The morphology of the nanocomposite hydrogels was observed by the scanning electron microscopy technique. The structural properties were determined by measuring the network mesh size, crosslinking density, and average molecular weight of polymer chains between crosslinks. The swelling behavior and the effect of swelling medium temperature on the swelling kinetics and characteristics of the nanocomposite hydrogels were also investigated. The results showed that two structural characteristics i.e., network mesh size and average molecular weight of polymer chains between crosslinks have inverse dependence on the clay loading level in the nanocomposite hydrogel, while crosslinking density shows completely direct dependence. Swelling measurements demonstrated a linear relation between the degree of swelling and the square root of immersion time at all swelling medium temperatures. The results indicated that the swelling characteristics of the nanocomposite hydrogels including the equilibrium degree of weight and volume swelling and the equilibrium water content were decreased by increasing the quantity of the clay incorporated into the hydrogel as well as by decreasing the temperature of swelling medium. While, the time required to reach to the equilibrium condition, as another swelling characteristic of the hydrogels, exhibited a completely opposite behavior. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2011.