Bilateral Breathing

When should swimmers learn bilateral breathing?  It is a question or topic of debate that has been among swimming industry professionals for many years.  At World Wide Swim School (WWSS), we believe that as soon as a swimmer is ready to learn side breathing, they should learn to breathe to both sides.  Learning to breathe to both sides does not necessarily mean bilateral breathing where swimmers alternate which side they breathe to each time they take a breath.  This can easily be done in learn to swim programs so that by the time swimmers are in squad groups, bilateral breathing will be a breeze.

At WWSS we focus on breaking down individual skills and mastering them to a tee so that when the time comes to put it all together it is automatic and there is little effort required to get it right.  Keep reading for some tips and important considerations when teaching breathing to young swimmers.


Tips for teaching side breathing:

  • First and foremost, swimmers should only be introduced to side breathing when their kicks are strong enough to hold them in a good streamline body position. If kicks are weak in the early stages of breathing development, poor body position will create resistance and make it harder for swimmers to keep moving efficiently through the water as they turn to breathe.


  • Start on a ledge or in shallow water where swimmers are supported when they first learn to turn to the side. This will ensure correct technique and head position is achieved before combining kicking and breathing skills.


  • Once kicking and breathing skills are mastered, instructors can introduce arms into the mix building on each individual skill until great freestyle technique achieved.


  • Whenever choosing breathing drills for your lesson plan pick a focus point (e.g. grandstand, kiosk, change rooms) and have swimmers breathe to that side at all times. This will mean swimmers will learn to breathe to both sides without having to concentrate too hard on the skill.  When swimming in one direction, students will breathe to the left and then to the right when they come back in the other direction or vice versa.


  • If you are instructing a class from the pool deck, ensure swimmers are breathing to the side where you are positioned. This allows you to communicate and give non-verbal feedback queues to swimmers as you pace along beside them.


  • By following a building block approach in the initial stages of teaching side breathing, once swimmers are more advanced and are asked to breath on the count of 3, 5, 7 and so on, it will be an easy and natural transition to the traditional bilateral breathing technique used in freestyle.


Remember, it is natural that some swimmers may favour a particular side when they breathe in freestyle.  This is often attributed to whether they are left or right handed.  It doesn’t matter which side is more comfortable for a swimmer and it may help them to find a better rhythm in races and competitions.  It is important, however, that swimmers are capable of breathing to both sides as it can aid in seeing where their competitors are for tactical reasons when competing.

When teaching side breathing always focus on mastering pre-requisite skills and following a building block approach to ensure success for both you and your swimmers.

What techniques have helped you teach side breathing?  Share your experience in the comments section below.


To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!


Laurie Lawrence


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Managing Different Abilities Within A Swim Lesson

Swimming teaching is a fun and rewarding experience.  Unfortunately sometimes it can also be an overwhelming experience if instructors have a multitude of different levels in their class.  It is recommended that swimmers are groups homogenously for swimmer and instructor ease.  Infants should be grouped within the growth and development stages.  Older swimmers should be grouped according to skill level instead of age.  Unfortunately there are instances when this may not be possible so instructors will have to work on strategies to manage different levels within a lesson should this ever arise.  Here are some handy tips for instructors who come across this in their teaching.


Infant Swimmers with Parents in the Water

Having parents in the water is a great opportunity to manage different levels within the lesson without too much stress or hassle.  A good instructor can let the parents know what they expect and then supervise as each parent in the lesson teaches their own child specific skills and drills within the lesson.  Once the instructor has gathered the group and discussed drills/skills to practice they can then send them on their way to practice.  The instructor can then move around the group and give specific feedback and support to parents and swimmers when needed.


Older Swimmers Participating by Themselves

This can be a more challenging experience for instructors trying to manage a medium to large group of swimmers with different abilities.  Remember that it won’t hurt a more advanced swimmer to practice easier skills and drills but they need to be challenged too.  Swimmers who don’t have the necessary skills to perform a specific drill will struggle and form poor neuromuscular patterns if practicing incorrectly.


Suggestions for Managing Different Abilities in the Lesson

  • The use of circuits can help by having swimmers practice a different skill for 5-10 minutes in a different section of the pool and then move along to the next skill when instructed. Supervision and feedback is key in the use of circuits – instructors should be confident managing different activities.
  • Have swimmers practice the same skill but vary the difficulty for swimmers. For example breathing can be taught in a variety of stages – swimmers can all do breathing activities together – kickboard to the front, kickboard to the side, kickboard one hand on board, no kickboard breathing, 6 kicks change arms breathing, freestyle drill etc.
  • Practice the same skill with different recovery activities – for example every swimmer kicks down, better swimmers kick back for recovery others walk back for recovery.
  • Utilise more advance swimmers for demonstration. Then have all swimmers practice.  Be careful not to always use the same swimmer for demonstration as it may look like favouritism.
  • Combine classes with another instructor for more supervision and support. Each instructor can help with a specific level within the lesson.


It is definitely a challenge trying to manage different abilities within a swimming lesson but if done correctly can be extremely rewarding.  Good luck in achieving this.  Much like all skills the more you can practice the better you will be!


How do you keep swimmers interested and engaged? Share your ideas in the comments below.

To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!

Laurie Lawrence


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5 Easy Steps to Master Butterfly

Many people find butterfly one of the hardest strokes to master in their swimming.  Butterfly can be an easy stroke to swim if instructors and swimmers take their time and use a building block approach to learning – that is don’t move onto harder skills and drills until previous ones have been learned and mastered.


Below are some important steps to ensure swimmers achieve great results in learning butterfly in their swimming lessons.


Separate the skills

  • Isolate the skills so they can be practiced alone and improved upon (just kicking, just arms, breathing).
  • Use equipment when needed – kickboard, pull-buoy, flippers etc.
  • Go slow initially – separating the skill will allow for skill isolation, slow movement will allow perfect skill acquisition and muscle memory.
  • Correct mistakes straight away to help build good quality strokes.


Perfect the timing

  • Once the arms, legs and breathing have been practiced and perfected swimmers can begin to put them together.
  • Timing may start to naturally come as arms are being practiced by themselves – don’t stifle this movement/timing if it is correct.
  • Use key-words during instruction to assist in learning and participation.
  • Lots of practice with lots of rest will produce good timing and swimming.


Use drills

  • Drills are a perfect way to work on all aspects of a swimmers stroke.
  • Stop often, ensure understanding and repeat instruction of drills.
  • Ensure swimmers take the time to perfect drills and don’t rush.
  • Give feedback and ensure drills are perfect before moving on.


Build stamina

  • Once stroke is perfect swimmers will be able to swim for longer distances while putting all elements of the stroke together.
  • Ensure stroke is perfect when increasing distance number of lengths completed.


Perfect practice makes perfect

  • Movement creates neuromuscular patterns between the brain and the muscles.  If something is practiced incorrectly the body will remember it to be this way and continue to swim incorrectly.
  • It is the instructor’s job to stop swimmers if they are producing an incorrect stroke.  The earlier a swimmer is stopped and corrected the easier it will be for them to repair faults in their stroke.  The longer a swimmer is left doing something incorrectly the harder it will be to change these faults.


If instructors can use these 5 Easy Steps in their teaching their swimmers will be turning out great butterfly strokes in no time.  Don’t forget to use your teaching peers and community for ideas of drills and skills for teaching butterfly.


by Jane Lawrence


How do you keep swimmers interested and engaged? Share your ideas in the comments below.

To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!


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Teaching Swimming Without A Ledge

Teaching Swimming Without A Ledge

Swimming is such an important skills for all ages.  Young infants to older adults can all benefit from swimming lessons.  Some pools have the luxury of having a teaching ledge built in to assist with lessons but many don’t have access to a teaching ledge.  Instructors will need to think outside the box to create an appropriate learning environment for the swimmers in their lesson.  How are some ways we can teach swimming without a ledge in our lesson?


Assess the Depth of Your Teaching Space

What is the pool depth that you are teaching in?  If swimmers can stand up it will be easy for instructors to teach swimming in this space.  If swimmers are unable to touch instructors will have a challenging time using the teaching space and keeping their class moving.  Smaller group sizes or 1 on 1 lessons may help for both supervision and safety concerns in deeper water.  If teaching infant classes ensure parents have access to the side or can touch the bottom for best practice teaching.  If this is not an option ensure parents are confident in the water first.


Using the Side of the Pool

Teachers can incorporate the side of the pool into their lessons to help with safety, supervision and independence for their swimmers.  If swimmers are old enough to grip and hold on to the side of the pool this will help swimming instructors incorporate maximum practice time in their lesson while instructing their swimmers to grip, hold onto and move over from the side of the pool.

Teachers may like to send all swimmers at once from the side of the pool.  This is a great option to keep swimmers moving in this wave formation.  Swimmers can also “circle” the teaching space by swimming in one direction, moving over at the end and swimming back in the other direction.

Things to consider when using the side of the pool instead of a teaching ledge:

  • Can swimmers hold onto the side of the pool safely?  Are they developmentally ready and responsible enough to wait in the water at the edge of the pool for their turn?  If this is not an appropriate activity consider having swimmers climb out of the pool to wait for their turn.
  • Is the side of the pool deck level or a high wall?  This may determine whether swimmers will stay in the pool or climb out.
  • Will teaching equipment such as kickboards help or hinder your swimmers if they have to contend with gripping the side of the pool and holding onto their equipment?


Ladders, Steps and Other Fixed Equipment

Some pools have fixed equipment at their facility that instructors may be able to incorporate into their lesson.   Swimmers may be able to hold onto or push from entry/exit ladders or fixed bars in the pool area.  Ensure that activities are appropriate from this equipment – for example:

  • Do not send swimmers towards ladder, bars on their back without warning or preparation as this may be a dangerous situation if they clash with the equipment.
  • Be wary if weather or elements affect this equipment – often the sun can heat up metal bars/ladders and become quite hot it grabbed by young hands.
  • Be mindful if you are sharing your teaching space.  Allow other instructors to utilise this equipment too – working together keeps everyone happy!


Portable Equipment

Some centres may be able to purchase or build portable equipment that can be added/removed to water when lessons are scheduled.  Plastic or metal tables may be slipped into the water to create a temporary ledge in the water during swimming lessons.   Another type of portable equipment is teaching mats made from thick plastic or rubber.  These mats can be used to climb, sit, lie on to have swimmers participate in activities on top of the mat in the water such as climbing out, kicking while laying down on the mat beside other swimmers, practicing paddles or bubble and breathe off the mat while lying down with face in the water.  Implications of using this type of equipment may be:

  • Cost – not all centres may be willing or able to afford these teaching tables and mats.
  • Instructor Safety – ensure that instructors know where the tables are situated once they go in the water.  It can be a big shock (and hurt) if you walk into these ledges and hit your shin/legs.
  • Swimmer Safety – this equipment can help swimmers if used correctly but instructors should be aware that there are safety implications such as swimming under, jumping off and pushing around these tables while participating in a lesson.   Mats need to be used appropriately too as they can also be a safety hazard if left floating in the teaching space.


Using Body As A Teaching Aid

Swimming instructors may be able to use their body to help swimmers within their lesson.  Young infants may be able to swim to and pull up on instructors or parents shirt or body as a ledge.  They may also be able to bend down in the water and create a “ledge” with their knees that swimmers can push off.

It is hoped that instructors have gained some ideas from this article about teaching swimming without a ledge.   Thinking outside the box will really help you become more confident in teaching without a ledge.  Try to plan activities that incorporate safe swimming and maximum practice time while teaching your swimmers.  The more a swimmer has a chance to practice swimming skills the better they will become.


How do you keep swimmers interested and engaged? Share your ideas in the comments below.

To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!

Laurie Lawrence


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Using Mats Within A Swim Lesson

Using Mats Within A Lesson.

Using equipment can be a rewarding and interesting part of your lesson.  It’s important that all equipment used in your lesson has a swimming related purpose.  You may have the world’s cutest toys but if you’re not using them to further your swimmer’s skills then you are wasting your swimmer’s time!

Mats are a great addition to any swimming program.  There are so many ways to use mats within a swimming lesson.  This article will discuss some of these uses.  The possibilities of using equipment in a swimming lesson are endless and bound only by the teacher’s imagination.


Learn To Swim Uses 

  • Swimming Under the Bridge – create a bridge with your mat by butting it up against one wall and pushing the other end to create an arc for swimmers to go through.  This can be a good activity for breath control – eyes in under the bridge. Be aware that as an instructor you will be taken away from helping your class a little bit as you will be holding “the bridge” in place.  Ensure your class is independent enough to move under the bridge without help before attempting this activity.


  • Run Run Run – the mat can be placed against the wall and swimmers stand outside the pool.  They then step down onto the mat and run to the end and jump/fall off.  Swimmers must then return to the top of the water and the side by kicking and paddling.  Ensure this activity is done in deep water as larger swimmers can go quite deep when jumping off the mat.  Supervision is a must in this activity as instructors need to ensure that swimmers are out of the way of the next participant before they jump in.


  • Floating/Kicking assistance – swimmers can climb up and lay down on the mat in a prone position to practice their floating.  Timid swimmers may like the feeling of being on top of the water with an aid in helping them float.  More experienced swimmers can lie down on the mat with their legs of the edge and practice their kicks in one direction.  They can then ‘fall off’ or have the teacher gently ‘tip them off’ and practice their kicking/paddles propulsion in the other direction back to the start.


  • Giant Kickboard – swimmers may lie in the water with their fingers over the top of the mat like a kickboard.  They can all kick with their eyes in the water in wave formation at the same time using the mat as a large kickboard.  This can be an exciting activity and can be used to enhance kicking skills by having fun with your swimmers.


Infant Swimming Uses

  • Climb Out & Turn Around – this is a great introduction to the safety skill of climbing out of the pool.  As the mat is close to the water, younger swimmers will have more success working on their climbing skills.  Using trigger words such as ‘elbow, elbow, tummy, knee’ will help them understand the climbing process.   Once the swimmer has climbed out of the water they can then turn around and swim back to their parent.  With a large enough mat all swimmers can participate in this activity at the same time, which will help the instructor with supervision and feedback opportunities.


  • Swim Out and Climb Up – teachers can use this activity as part of a circuit so they can keep their class moving and practicing this important safety skill.  Young swimmers can climb up on the mat, crawl/walk to the other side and jump/slide off to their parents at the other side.  This is an extension to the previous activity where the child not only has to use the safety skill of climbing up but moving along to the other side.


  • Tunnel work – this activity is the same as ‘swimming under the bridge’ discussed earlier in the article.  Swimmers are asked to ‘go through the tunnel’ and often find it a fun and exciting activity.  It can be a great way to keep swimmers moving in a circular pattern – one following the next.  Swimmers can be helped through the tunnel or independently swim to parent, who is standing underneath or on the other side of the tunnel.  It can also be a great distraction for back floating and kicking under the bridge – the infant who is resisting back floating moves through the tunnel and watches the colours above or discusses with parent or instructor and forgets about fighting against this activity.  Instructor should ensure they are in a correct position for supervision.


  • Core strength activities – there are many activities that instructors can schedule for core strength activities with a mat.  Younger infants will benefit from lying on their front and back on the mat in the water.  They can also sit up on the mat.  All of these activities will work their core as they work on their stability on the mat in the water.  Moving younger infants from a lying position on their backs to a sitting position can also help in core strength activities.  Older swimmers can work on their standing balance.  As they improve with this skill the instructor can wiggle the mat a little in a supervised setting.


  • Assisted Kicking – by placing all swimmers on the mat with their feet off the edge the instructor can observe them and hold the mate facing the swimmers while the parents stand behind and help them with their kicking.  Parents can manipulate the kicking one way and swimmers can attempt to kick unassisted on the way back.  This is a great activity to keep your group together, watch and observe progress and give constant feedback to the group.


It is hoped that you have gained some ideas from this article about using mats as a teaching aid within your lesson.  All equipment can help but it is very important to make sure that it is used under supervision within your lesson.


The more experience an instructor has, the more ideas they will have about using mats within their lesson.  Don’t be afraid to experiment – it is how we learn what works for us as instructors.  Good luck using mats within your lesson!


How do you keep swimmers interested and engaged? Share your ideas in the comments below.

To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!

Laurie Lawrence


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Watch Laurie take a group of frightened beginners for their first class Now!!!!

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The Importance of Water Familiarisation

Making children feel relaxed and comfortable in the water is essential before structured teaching and learning can take place. Apprehensive or frightened children will naturally have a serious barrier to learning. In many cases they will not even attempt some of the simplest learn to swim activities.

Therefore, teachers should spend time establishing a comfortable and secure learning environment for their pupils. This acclimatising period is often referred to as water familiarisation and is best done in a fun way in shallow water. Simple activities such as lying on their back in very shallow water with the ears submerged or rolling over kicking fast with lots of splashing without even putting the face under are two very simple water acclimatisation exercises.

Beginner swimmers very often are frightened of the water. Very often the parent or caregiver may have unintentionally frightened the child in their attempts to keep them safer around the water. For example by simply saying, “Come back from the side of the pool you’ll hurt yourself,” or “Don’t go near the pool its deep,” will be ingrained into the child’s psyche and often is remembered by the child as they go to participate in their first swimming lesson.

Around 2 years of age and above, if children have not been regularly exposed to the water, they may show signs of discomfort, apprehension or fear. It will not be easy to condition these children for submersion as we do with young babies. These children must be handled quite differently and must initiate their own submersions. They must never be forced underwater for any reason whatsoever.

With practical teaching experience, swimming teachers will soon be able to observe and recognise these fears. The children’s tell-tale body language will alert the teacher they will be able to identify common characteristics of a frightened beginner. Teachers may notice children:

  • Shivering or shaking, even in warm water
  • Shutting the eyes and holding the breath
  • Clenching fists, shrugging shoulders and observed body tension
  • Frequent talking or even crying
  • Pulling back as soon as the teacher goes to touch them.
  • Arching their back if the teacher tries to support them

Swimming teachers should be aware that children’s early experiences in the water, will determine their future attitudes. For this reason we should aim to make these early learning experiences positive safe and pleasurable in an attempt to shape a love of the water that s that children will carry with them through to adulthood. Force has no place in the teaching of swimming. Teachers need to find fun ways to encourage children to perform swimming activities voluntarily.

Before learning can take place children must feel comfortable. Having shallow water is fantastic for teaching beginners. In fact for frightened beginners shallow water is vital. It allows the child to feel and be in control as they practices basic water familiarisation activities such as walking, jumping, splashing and attempting breath control activities like pouring water over their face or even attempting self-submerging.

Shallow water not only makes children feel in control but fosters the child’s independence in the water. This will allow the teacher to teach with a “hands off” approach building more and more independence and confidence in the child.

There will be no need for the teacher to handle the frightened beginner in the early learning stages the child will be able to initiate their own water familiarisation activities with encouragement from the teacher. Experienced teachers will find that the child becomes relaxed much sooner.

During deep water orientation teachers must be extremely vigilant to ensure the safety of their class drowning is a silent killer and there have been reported instances of a children actually drowning during supervised swimming lessons. During deep water activities teachers should call on the parents to provide that extra pair of eyes to help with supervision. This type of parental involvement will build a good rapport with parent and child alike.

Ensuring maximum practice time in deep water with beginners can be difficult. Teachers often fall into the trap of taking students one at a time while others wait for their turn. The innovated teacher will come up with ways to keep their class moving. First trips to deep water may be as simple as having the class hold the side of the pool and all submerge together. As the children feel their own buoyancy they will rapidly grow in confidence. If the children are kept busy and active they will progress sooner and the teacher will avoid behavioural distractions in the class.

Once the teacher see the students’ confidence growing, they may set up a deep water follow the leader circuit. This can help to generate maximum practice time during the lesson. Teachers should look to utilise teaching benches, ledges, deck level pool edge, rails, ramps or ramps depending on what is available at your swim school. Lesson planning is the key when teaching beginners in deep water.

Having a defined class area which is roped off is important for the safety of your class. This will ensure that you can keep your group together and avoid students wandering outside of your supervision. It is not necessary to have a large teaching space particular with beginner students or when taking inexperienced swimmers into deep water. Experienced teachers will set up a confined area which gives them good supervision of the class and the ability to move easily and quickly if they need to respond to their student in trouble.

Teachers must have all of their teaching equipment on hand. If this is done there will be no need to leave students to get teaching equipment. Should the teacher, for some reason, need to leave the water all their students must go with them. Young children must never be left unsupervised in and around water and certainly not in a supervised teaching class.

It is important that teachers don’t rush the water familiarisation stage with students. Basic skills like pool entry and exit, breath control, submersion and floating skills are all vital to a child’s progressive learning. These simple floating skills, established early, will form the child’s base for learning to swim and stroke development. Teachers must remember that floating is the basis of all learn to swim and must not be rushed. It must be mastered before trying more complex swimming skills. If children learn to relax and float independently on their front and back for up to ten seconds, then once propulsive patterns are introduced a more relaxed stroke will be developed.

Swimming teachers often observe those children who struggle, thrash, and fight the water have difficulty keeping themselves afloat.

We as teachers must remember the importance of progressively building swimming skills to develop a relaxed and natural stroke which will last a lifetime.

Good stroke develop requires perfecting a perfect streamline body position. Teachers are reminded that this position in the early learning stages is not very stable for beginners. Beginners may need to perfect their balance and body position in the water by floating with a kickboard then floating with a wider arm position to assist in buoyancy before building more streamline position…. Always build skills…. Remember floating is the basis of all learn-to-swim and should be a consistent part of any lesson plan.

How do you keep swimmers interested and engaged? Share your ideas in the comments below.

To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!

Laurie Lawrence


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Watch Laurie take a group of frightened beginners for their first class Now!!!!

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Engaging 2 year olds in swimming lessons

Working with 2 year olds can be challenging. They are increasingly independent in their day to day life as they navigate activities and tasks and explore their surroundings. They can be strong willed and know their own mind. Often 2 year olds will be easily distracted or totally focused on their favourite activity. Being aware of these characteristics can help you in your swimming lessons as you plan your class strategies and swimming programs. While teaching a 2 year old to swim can present challenges, it is not without fun or reward. If you tackle it correctly, it will feel more like fun and play time than a job. Here are a few tips to help you engage the 2 year olds in your swimming lessons:

  1. Change activities frequently. Using a wide range of activities can help keep swimmers interested in the task at hand.   For swimmers who are easily distracted or get bored quickly, changing activities often is a great tactic. It is important to revisit activities to ensure swimmers are given enough time to practice and in-turn learn the swimming skills they are working on. Circuits are a great way to incorporate lots of activities while still allowing for much needed repetition.
  2. Adapt to student led learning situations. This can be great for the toddler who is determined to do what they want, when they want. Swimmers may point in a direction or vocalise what activities they are interested in. By allowing this independent and exploratory type of learning, it can help you find out what your swimmers like and what motivates them in the water. This is particularly helpful for future planning allowing you to prepare swimming classes that will engage your students. Remember to guide activities so they still have purpose and focus on important swimming skills.
  3. Control your voice to add interest to the class. Varying the tone and volume of your voice can keep swimmers alert, interested and awaiting your instructions. Remember lessons will often be in swimming pools where there are other aquatic activities or classes going on at the same time. Keep instructions simple and gather the group close together if you are in a noisy environment.
  4. Communicate with parents and guardians. Tapping into the knowledge of those closest to your swimmers will enable you to find out their likes, dislikes and motivating factors much quicker. Some swimmers may take longer to warm up to new faces and swimming instructors than others. Knowing what motivates your students can help you build a bond fast and allow you to get to work on swimming skills right away.

Watch this footage of Laurie Lawrence and granddaughter Harper having fun while exploring the water in their swimming lesson together. Harper is striking out independently in the water, and is clear in what she wants to do and where she wants to swim. Laurie happily obliges and expertly guides the activities to ensure there is still learning value. They work on breath control, turning, swimming varied distances, and controlled propulsive skills in a short space of time.



How do you keep 2 year old swimmers interested and engaged? Share your ideas in the comments below.

To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!

Laurie Lawrence


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Watch Laurie take a group of frightened beginners for their first class Now!!!!

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Teaching beginners to swim in deep water

Utilising shallow water where children can stand is the ideal way to teach frightened beginners to swim. In this instance the child feels safe and in control as they independently progress through the water familiarisation stage. The shallow water environment also enables maximum practice time of all the swimmers. The teacher is not required to take children one at a time and can move all the children together as a group. But what should swimming teachers do when they don’t have access to shallow water? Laurie Lawrence has put together his top tips to help teachers make their lessons as efficient as possible.


Plan the lesson

Planning the lesson will be vital to ensure that you can achieve the best learning environment and progress the children as quickly as possible through the learn to swim process. During this stage think about; what skills the group needs to work on, what activities you should use to help develop their skills and how will you keep everyone safe?


Use teaching equipment

Organising teaching equipment before the lesson will be essential. Setting up your teaching space prior to the lesson with lane ropes and moveable teaching benches/platforms will help to make the class run smoothly.


Encourage independence

Establishing independent mobility like monkeying along a high wall and climbing in and out of the pool will help the class flow. If you teach the children to move around the pool space independently it will avoid you having to take the children one at a time.


Build skills slowly

It is important to build children’s confidence slowly and reward even the smallest success. Following a building block approach of water familiarisation, breath control, submersion and free floating will get the best results. If you rush these early learning steps children will not become relaxed and at home in the water.


Encourage exploration

Play outside of the formal swimming lesson will be essential for children to learn quickly. Explain the value of exploratory play to parents. They should know that not only will it help to progress their child but it’s also essential to teach children a respect for the water. The more children are exposed to the water the sooner they learn their capabilities and limitations.


To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!

Laurie Lawrence


FREE 3 Part Video Series…

Watch Laurie take a group of frightened beginners for their first class Now!!!!

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Diving for Toys

Swimmers of all ages love diving under water during their swimming lessons. Children can have so much fun playing in the swimming pool, diving and retrieving toys from a ledge or the bottom of the pool. As swimmers mature and become more comfortable diving to the bottom they can also use this skill for dolphin dives in learn to swim and stroke development classes, as well as in open water and surf swimming.

There are many smaller aspects to the whole skill “diving for toys”. Many of these steps will be discussed in this article.


Swimmers shouldn’t try to dive directly to the bottom for their first try. Ledges or shallow steps should be used initially to introduce the skill. Once that has been mastered swimmers can graduate to a deeper area of the pool. Skills should be broken up into easily achievable smaller skills and put together once each step is mastered.


Swimmers will need to go from a horizontal floating position in the water to a vertical recovery. You can see in this video footage that Laurie shows Harper how to “pull down” where she moves her arms through the water and recovers to a standing position. Once again it’s important to build the skill so that activities are easily mastered and swimmer can continue to learn and develop their skills in the water.

Once swimmers have mastered recovery in shallow water they will eventually move on to the more difficult activity of swimming out horizontally, diving vertically and returning to a horizontal position to swim back to the edge of the pool. Swimming in different depths, recovering in the water, turning around and returning the way they came from are all difficult skills in themselves let alone putting all these skills together in one activity. Teachers and parents should be patient and celebrate every small success along the way.


Swimmers will initially need guidance to the bottom of the pool to pick up rings from the deeper area of the pool. There is no point in introducing this skill if swimmers are timid and scared in the water. Swimmers need to be comfortable under water holding their breath and floating. You can see in this footage that Harper is happy to float in the water with help from Laurie to take a breath. She is totally happy and relaxed in the water and is completely ready for help in diving to the bottom of the pool.


Laurie helps Harper to swim to the bottom by guiding between her shoulder blades. It is important to never touch a child on the back of the head. Swimmers will resist and try to move their head up for a breath if teachers or parents touch the back of the head. Even as adults we don’t like the feeling of someone pushing our head under water, as we feel powerless. Young children feel the same – they like to have the freedom and ability to lift their head and take a breath in their own time. You can see Laurie change Harper’s body position in the water so she is swimming down vertically in the water. Laurie doesn’t just push Harper under so her entire body goes to the bottom horizontally as she needs to learn to twist and move her body so that she swims down in a head to toe fashion.   Laurie is adjusting Harper’s body so that she can get the feeling of swimming to the bottom. Once she has a hold on the diving rings he then lets her go and she floats up using her body’s buoyancy. Harper is really enjoying this activity as you can tell by her squeals of delight. This is a fun game and she loves this bonding time with her Poppa in the water.

Laurie then introduces the mat as an extended activity. Harper crawls across the mat and then dives to the bottom by putting her face in the water and having the rest of her body follow. This activity can be performed from a ledge, the parent or teacher’s knee, side of the pool or anywhere that can give the swimmer a platform to go from a horizontal position into a vertical position down to the bottom.

Once these skills are all mastered swimmers can jump or push from the wall and change their body position in the water to swim down and retrieve toys from the bottom of the pool. Diving for toys is one of many skills that swimmers enjoy and will use in playtime out of the swimming lesson as well as learning and mastering within their regular class. If taught efficiently swimmers will enjoy every aspect of this skill and become very confident and happy swimmers in all depths of water.


To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!

Laurie Lawrence


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Floating for babies

Floating is the most important skill in the learn-to-swim process. Floating is the basis of all learn to swim and gives baby the opportunity to feel their own buoyancy. Once baby feels that fun floating sensation and that feeling of weightlessness, they will become relaxed and at home in the water.

Free floating is also great for baby’s independence. There are many different types of free floating activities that parents and teachers can practice with baby. In free floats we should start off with free float and catch. Once baby is comfortable we can further advance the skill through to free float with an independent recovery where the baby pulls up on the adult’s t-shirt or pools edge. When introducing free floating onto the adults t-shirt it is easier for the child if the adult leans back and makes a shallow ledge with their body. Here the baby can easily grip and climb/crawl up the adults chest.

Do not attempt free floating until baby is totally comfortable with conditioning and submersion.

Free Floating To Adult

Baby’s first free float should be performed in open water to parent, where the parent or teacher counts two seconds and baby floats towards them. As baby’s breath control improves the time and distance in free floats can be increased.
1) Ensure baby is in the horizontal floating hold (this allows the water to run head to toe)
2) Get baby’s attention
3) Use the “trigger words” (child’s name ready go)
4) Lift, lower, submerge and release baby underwater (remember the lift acts as a kinaesthetic trigger)
5) Catch or let baby pull up independently
6) Celebrate free float

Free Floating Between Adults

Free floating between adults is a great skill as children become more confident and relaxed in the water. Now children get double the amount of floating time as they are passed back and forth between adults. Remember if baby resits floats in any way stop and go back to conditioning and submersion.

1) Adults stand and face each other (eg 1 metre distance)
2) Catching adult get down low in the water and stretch out arms
3) Passing adult hold baby in the prone side hold (remember to look at baby in the eye)
4) Passing adult use the “trigger words” (child’s name ready go)
5) Lift, lower, submerge and release baby toward catching adult
6) Catching adult, pick up or let baby climb up independently
7) Celebrate free float

Free Floating From Ledge to Adult

When introducing this activity start with playing on a shallow ledge so baby can learn balance and stability. If baby has been preconditioned don’t worry if they self submerge. But always stay in arms reach for supervision. Always be careful not to vertically submerge baby during any floating activity. If a child is vertically submerged they may experience water up their nose – an uncomfortable feeling at any age. We want baby to be in the horizontal swimming position at all times. Start with assisting baby off the ledge to you while using the trigger words ‘ready go’. Slowly build and gradually encourage baby to attempt independent floats out to you.

Once baby starts floating to you off the ledge by his or her own free will, they may not push off correctly. As a result, baby may submerge vertically. Gently guide baby toward you and praise all attempts. To help rectify this vertical submerging problem you will have to repeat assisted submersions over and over, encouraging baby to put their face down.  Never push a child’s head underwater.  Children need guidance and support in the water and may get scared if their head is forced underwater.

1) Sit baby on ledge
2) Use the “trigger words”
3) Lift, lower, submerge and release baby toward you (baby will soon begin to initiate free float, encourage this)
4) Pick up or let baby climb up independently
5) Celebrate free float

Free Floating From Adult to Ledge

Before performing this activity teacher/parent must ensure that the water level is shallow enough so baby can independently keep mouth clear of the water. If the water level is too deep, do not attempt this activity as baby is likely to ingest water.

As baby becomes stronger and more mobile this free floating activity can be partnered with free float from ledge to adult. Baby will grow in confidence and independence as they practice floating back and forth.

1) Ensure water level is suitable when baby is crawling or resting on hands and knees
2) Stand about a metre from ledge.
3) Put baby in prone side hold
4) Use the “trigger words”
5) Lift, lower, submerge and release baby to ledge
6) Give baby an opportunity to climb up independently, assist if necessary
7) Celebrate free float

This article has only touched on a few different types of floating activities that you can practice with babies. Remember floating is the basis of all learn to swim and therefore the teacher should experiment with many different floating activities during their swimming lesson. Warning, if baby resits floats in any way stop and go back to conditioning and submersion.  Learning to swim must be a positive experience for both parent and child.

To learn more about what you need to know CLICK HERE!

Let me know some of your swimming stories while on holidays! Comment below.

FREE 3 Part Video Series…

Watch Laurie take a group of frightened beginners for their first class Now!!!!

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