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.

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The Importance of Manipulation

When a child is learning to swim, more often than not, it will be a totally new experience. They will be using muscles in a different way and context to how they use them on land for sport and recreational activities.  As an instructor, how many times have you seen young swimmers use a “bicycling” motion with their legs when you ask them to kick in a swimming lesson?  Tens, hundreds, thousands of times?  This is just one of the reasons why using a hands on approach of physical manipulation is so important when you are teaching swimming.  At World Wide Swim School (WWSS) we subscribe to Laurie Lawrence’s methodologies where a huge part of the philosophy involves a “show – practice – show – practice” strategy.

Show – Practice – Show – Practice

Whether you are trying to teach basic floating skills or you are going into more detail with propulsive skills, it is vital that students are shown the correct technique as part of the “learn to swim” process.  Give them a good visual demonstration.  You may be required to do this yourself, or choose another student in your class whom you know can perform the skill with good technique.  Then gently guide the swimmer and show them what it feels like to physically perform the skill themselves.  Once swimmers have seen the skill and practiced it with some guidance from you as their swimming instructor, allow them to perform the skill unaided and practice it independently.  Ensure you watch your swimmers practice their skills to enable you to provide regular feedback to improve their technique.  Repeat this process over and over until swimmers master each individual skill they are trying to achieve. Don’t forget to use the skill name as you are physically showing swimmers what you want them to achieve.  Word action association is a powerful tool.

Word Action Association

In conjunction with the “show-practice” technique, it is important use words as you are demonstrate and manipulate.  Keep it simple and use key words or short phrases for the most effective results.  This is especially important in infant and toddler swimming lessons where they are not only learning to swim but learning new words a vocabulary associated with the swimming pool and their class.  Here are some simplified examples:

  • Say “kick, kick, kick” as you manipulate the swimmer’s legs up and down performing a fast flutter kick motion.
  • Say “paddle, paddle, paddle” as you manipulate the swimmers arms through the water performing a freestyle motion.

Using this simple technique can assist with helping to create neuro-muscular pathways to the brain.

Creating Neuro-muscular Pathways

Underestimating the value of manipulation may be detrimental to a swimmer’s development.  In the early stages of swimming development when children are first learning a new skill their muscles and brain are working in unison to hardwire or match the physical skills to their name or label.  It is important to be consistent with your words, demonstrations and physical manipulation techniques.  In doing so, you will help your swimmers learn each new skill correctly through muscle memory.  Allowing a child to repeatedly practice with incorrect technique can help build poor muscle memory and can be more difficult to correct as the swimmers get older.

Experiment

Incorporate physical manipulation into swimming lessons over the next few weeks, month, or swimming block at your swim school.  Watch your swimmers improve over this time and enjoy the results. Remember, perfect practice makes perfect.

 

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Weekly Swimming Lessons

I love attending weekly swimming lessons with my daughter Harper, who is turning 3 this month. Not only does it give me special one on one time with her without any distractions, but it gives me some great inspiration and ideas for my own swimming teaching. This week I particularly enjoyed the lesson that our teacher Jane planned for the class. It was a great mix of fun, independence and skill building, with that important parental manipulation and reinforcement of swimming skills.

Class Background

To give you an idea of the class background, all of the children in the class have been swimming together since 4 months of age and some attend 2 lessons per week. There are 6 booked into the class but on this particular day only 4 were in attendance. We have a half hour lesson but because there were only 4 in the class we were able to fit more skills into the allocated time. The children are between 2 and a half to 3 years of age and are confident independent swimmers. They are all capable of popping up for a breath and many are capable of swimming and rolling onto their back for water safety skills. Mum or Dad is still in the water with their child to give one on one direction and encouragement.

Kicking on the Shallow Ledge

We started with warm up kicking on the shallow ledge. Here we alternated between independent kicking and manipulated kicks by the parent to reinforce the correct motor skills. This simple warm up is always the same, children thrive on routine and it makes it very easy for the parents and children to enter the water at their own time without class disruption. This is also an opportunity for the teacher Jane to greet all the children individually. This warm up lasts about 5 minutes in total and allows all class members to be ready to start by 10.05.

Bucket of Toys

Today Jane gets a bucket of toy donuts and empties them near the rope 3 meters from the shallow ledge where the children are sitting. The parent is instructed to stand at the rope (or a distance their child can swim) so that the children can independently swim to them on the ‘ready go’ cue. We are still enforcing the ‘ready go’ cue but now this is for safety as the child is learning to be invited into the pool. Once the child reaches the parent they can pick up 2 coloured donuts and hold these donuts as they return to the ledge in an assisted back float back.  The toy donuts are used for incidental learning as the parent talks to their child about the colour, but importantly it is used as a distraction for those children who are resisting back floating activities. Once the children get close to the ledge they are performing an independent recovery from the back floating position and pulling themselves up on the shallow ledge.  This activity continues until all the toy donuts are retrieved and takes approximately 5 minutes.

Square Circuit

The next activity requires the class to follow a square circuit with the parent travelling around the pool with their child to give direction and assistance. Circuits are great for children of this age group because the fast rotation of skills keeps the children engaged. Children at this age group do have a very limited attention span. The children are encouraged to crocodile under a tunnel on the shallow ledge. Jane wants the parents to ensure that the children are doing this skill correctly. If performed correctly the crocodile allows the children to practice long reaches which will help develop their paddling skills. It also keeps children in a horizontal position as they take a breath which assists in the pop up breathing action. Once children complete their crocodile they perform an underwater stingray. This underwater stingray is designed to teach children to swim along the bottom of the pool. The children are encouraged to crouch on the shallow ledge with their over, put their eyes in and bottom up as they push to the bottom of the pool. There are a variety of ability levels in this skill but the parent is there to assist and guide the child along the bottom of the pool. The children love this underwater stingray but it’s also an important water safety skill as the children are experimenting with buoyancy and learning their capabilities. The next step is a push and back float off the wall with parental support where needed. Again the children revise a previously introduced skill and perform an independent recovery to a shallow water table in the middle of the pool. The final part of the circuit requires the children to perform an independent swim back to the shallow ledge where they will start their crocodile again. Circuits take time and children should have at the very least 4 laps through the station. So make sure that you allocate enough time in your lesson plan, approximately 10 minutes.

Correct Kicking & Paddling

The next activity is designed to reinforce the correct kicking and paddling actions while teaching the children to work together as a group and follow instructions. Jane had all the children stand up on the shallow ledge and practice their paddles on the spot. The parents were at the rope 3 meters away also demonstrating the paddling action. The children were then instructed to swim out to their parents. Once the children reached their parents the group did 10 manipulated paddles on the parents lap before retuning back to the side of the pool. Once again the children are not only receiving good swimming instruction but incidental learning with the maths concept of counting. On the next wave the children focus on the kicking skill. We alternated this routine 6 times before moving on to the next activity.

Build on the Previous Skill Set

You should notice that all the activities in this lesson plan complement one another or build on the previous skill set. This next wave formation activity revisits the stingray skill as the children to swim through mum’s or dad’s legs. They return to the ledge by pushing off the parent’s legs. This is a vital step in their learning as many children need to learn the technique of pushing off correctly. I’m sure you would have regularly seen children who enter bottom first instead of pushing off properly with their eyes in. Again the focus is on toes over the ledge, eyes in and bottom up as they push to the bottom. The children are becoming more competent at this skill now because it has been practiced previously in the lesson plan. After practicing this skill about 4 or 5 times Jane introduces a class challenge which makes the parents and children very enthusiastic.

End of Class Challenge

The end of class challenge was for the children to climb out on the high wall, and perform a seated dive to the bottom of the pool to retrieve a sink toy. The climbing out skill is very important for safety, but the dive to the bottom is equally important. Being able to swim to the bottom of the pool opens up the world of exploratory play, this teaches children their capabilities in the water and also develops their understanding of buoyancy. While all the children are capable of climbing out of the pool independently many still require gentle assistance to reach the bottom of the pool. There is one boy in the class who is particularly skilled at independently swimming to the bottom but the majority of the others still require assistance. Jane instructs the parents to help them to the bottom if needed but allow them an opportunity to resurface independently. All the parents and children are thrilled with the activity and it’s a great way to end the class.

Goodbye Song

Now that our time is up Jane gathers the group for a goodbye song. This helps the children to realise that it’s time to hop out of the pool and allows Jane to eyeball all children and tell them what a great job they have done. We finish with a slow and then a fast teddy bear song that goes like this. “Teddy bear teddy bear up and down, teddy bear teddy bear swim around, teddy bear teddy bear to and fro, teddy bear teddy bear time to go”.

I hope this lesson plan has given you some food for thought. I love learning more and more about swimming teaching by participating and watching other instructor’s lessons. If you don’t physically participate in lessons with your own child I would encourage you to go and observe some of your fellow teachers. It really does open up new ideas and topics for discussion which will help to improve your swimming teaching.

 

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Dealing with an increased swim class size

The start of the swimming season always sees swim school numbers grow. This usually means that the student numbers need to increase to accommodate for the influx of new or returning swimmers. This increase will certainly change the dynamics of your class and make your job a little more challenging to ensure that everyone is receiving equal attention and maximum practice time in the swimming lesson. Here are a few tips to ensure that the season is off to a great start.

 1. Revise rules and expectations

Now is an ideal time to revise the class rules and set expectations with your swimming class. Children must learn to look and listen while you are talking. But remember you need to use simple instructions and key words with children otherwise they will get easily bored and loose their focus. Remember you want to instil rules and expectations that the children can actually meet. Be upfront with children about the consequences if they don’t follow the rules. You shouldn’t be mean or have to yell at children. But you must be consistent with your expectations and follow through with consequences because this will set the stage for future lessons. Positive praise for good work is always the best option.

2. Teach children to circle the lane

It’s important that children learn how to circle the lane so that you can ensure maximum practice time in the lesson for all swimmers. Teaching children to work together and encourage their friends to move over and go can help. Also using markers so that the children know when to go will help keep the flow of the lesson smooth. That way the children don’t have to wait on you to say ‘go’ all the time. Other formations like wave formation and circuits can also help to keep the group moving. Mixing up the teaching formations will also give variety to the swimming lesson and avoid boredom. Active children are well behaved children because they don’t have time to get distracted and cause disruptions.

3. Revise your program or lesson plan

Revising your program will be vital to ensure that it meets the abilities and needs of the new and existing students in your class. Even when children are grouped according to their ability level there will still be slight variations on how they perform certain skills. Lesson planning is the best way to ensure that you are providing the best possible lesson to all swimmers in your class. Once you get to know your class you will likely need to make adjustments to a lesson plan or program that was made previously. Think of lesson planning as more of a guide that needs constant review and reflection. Swimming teachers need to learn to be flexible and adapt to a variety of situations.

4. Assess your swimmers

Now is the ideal time to ensure that all your swimmers are in the correct class group. Moving children up or changing them to a more suitable class will not only help your teaching but will also help their learning. Sometimes the dynamics of the group just don’t work well together and sometimes an individual in a class will progress more rapidly than the others and need to advance. Communicating with the administration or the deck supervisor is essential. Speaking to the parent before a suitable class is arranged can cause frustration or embarrassment.

So now we’ve covered all our tips, it’s time to get our classes full and our children ready for a safe summer swimming season. Don’t forget to talk to the parents about water safety and encourage them to give their child lots of opportunities to play outside of the lesson to speed up the learning process.

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

How do you class sizes in your swimming lessons? Comment below.

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Laurie talks with Brooke Hanson

Laurie sits down to talk with Brooke Hanson OAM, Olympian and AUSTSWIM Ambassador.

Brooke talks about her journey in swimming, missing the 1996 and 2000 Olympic games through to her success in the following Olympics and what were the important lessons she learnt through her mixture of disappointments and success!

What was it that drove Brooke to continue on with her Olympic dream, that inspired her to never give up until she made her dreams come true.

Brooke talks about why her role as AUSTSWIM Ambassador it is important to her and the near drowning’s she experienced as a child and the role her family plays in her love of swimming and drowning prevention.

Brooke talks about her move to the Gold Coast with her family and how being part of the lead up to the Commonwealth Games through her new city.

Watch this short video of Laurie talking with Brooke Hanson


Give us some of your stories after competitive swimming? Comment below.

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Building Trust in Swimming Lessons

 

Building trust is an integral part of the “learn to swim” process.

As instructors we need to be aware of the importance of building a trusting relationship with the babies, toddlers, and children under our guidance in a swimming lesson. In addition to building a great relationship with the swimmers themselves, it is essential to build the same relationship with their parents or care givers. Parents are the ones who put their faith in you to provide their children with lifesaving swimming skills and water safety, and a love of the water.

Parents and their babies have already created a trusting bond through their everyday activities.

Use this bond to your advantage in your swimming lessons – especially with swimmers who are new to your class and may be unfamiliar with your face, voice, or the swimming environment. Communicate with parents and guide them through activities, swimming skills and drills with their children in the water. This can help alleviate any stress the baby may feel in a new environment. It also gives you the opportunity to start working on building the trust of the parents. 

You can build a great relationship with parents by focusing on communication.

Talk to them about their goals and expectations for their child in the swimming lesson. Answer any questions and ease any concerns they may have and make it relatable and specific to their child. Ask them questions about their child to find out what motivates them and figure out the best way to help them achieve their swimming goals in a way that best suits their personality and individual needs. This will allow the parents to see you are dedicated to helping their child. It will provide you with information you will need to create appropriate lesson plans for the swimmers in your class, and a bit of background knowledge on the individual swimmer to help when building their trust.

Building a trusting relationship with the swimmers in your lessons will make teaching a breeze.  

By creating an environment where students feel safe and happy, you provide an atmosphere where swimmers will be eager to learn and please. Once they see their parents are comfortable with you they will be open getting to know you, following instructions and participating in the swimming lessons you conduct. Ensure you have fun with the students in your class, allow them to get used to your voice and tone, and make each individual feel special. Remember that trust is easier to break than it is to earn. Make sure you follow through with promises you make within your class. For example, if a frightened swimmer wants you to hold them for the duration of an activity and you agree make sure you do it!

 

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

How do you build trusting relationships with the swimmers and parents in your swimming lessons? Comment below.

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Soak It Up 2015 – AUSTSWIM Conference

World Wide Swim School and Kids Alive are exhibiting at the ‘SOAK IT UP’ 2015 National Aquatic Education Conference held at Twin Towns by AUSTSWIM on Friday 25th – Saturday 26th September.

Laurie Presenting

There are few who do not know of Laurie Lawrence or his spirited personality, sense of humour and zest for life. Swimming and water safety play an important part in Laurie’s life. In swimming, his career highlights include swimmers gaining standout performances at Commonwealth, Olympic and World Championships. In the water safety arena, Laurie is a tireless advocate and innovator for drowning prevention; particularly for infant and preschool children and their parents. Generous in time and spirit, Laurie is a valued supporter of AUSTSWIM.

Share 40 years of successful swimming and water safety teaching techniques as Laurie imparts his effective and eminently achievable approach targeting your career, students and their parents. Laurie has unique insight into the essential attributes of AUSTSWIM Teachers of Swimming and Water Safety, and guides you towards a GOLD AUSTSWIM career pathway.

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

We would love to hear your swimming success stories as the result of hard work and persistence. Please share in the comments section below.

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Position of strength in swim lessons

As a teacher of swimming and water safety you are entrusted with a huge responsibility. Not only do you have to ensure the safety of a number of children within your care but you also have to teach them in an environment that is conducive to learning. For this reason you need to put yourself in a position of strength where you can actively supervise as well as communicate effectively in order to facilitate the children’s learning. This can be a daunting task and may take some practice before beginner teachers become skilled in this role. This article will give some tips to the beginner teacher and remind experienced teachers on the importance of putting yourself in a position of strength to ensure a safe and productive swimming lesson.

The Pool Design

The pool design will have a huge bearing on how you conduct your swimming lesson. Ideally you will have access to shallow water where non swimming children are able to stand while they go through the first steps of the learn to swim process. In this instance it becomes easier to ensure the safety of the group and keep swimmers active and busy during the entire lesson. If children are kept busy and active the entire lesson, not only will the progression be more rapid but you will also avoid distractions and the disciplinary problems that arise as a result of boredom. During the first lessons teachers should spend time teaching children how to simply walk and circle the lane. This sets the scene for all future lessons but can also be a very effective water familiarisation activity. The teacher can then stand in the middle of the lane while all the swimmers circle them. In this instance the teacher can communicate with each child as they pass them and give them relevant feedback to progress their skills. Furthermore if the teacher is standing on the side they have excellent vision of all swimmers and can easily move their head from end to end while never having turned their back to any one child.

If you do not have access to shallow water then more time is required during the lesson planning and pool set up stages to get the learning environment right. The prepared teacher however can set up a very effective and safe learning environment which allows for maximum practice time in the swimming lesson for each child. For example, setting up a circuit style triangle lesson plan, can be very effective when teaching in deep water. The teacher can position themselves in the deep, facing the point where two pool walls meet. Once again the teacher has good vision of all students, the students follow the leader and do independent activities along each wall while the teacher can assist them over the deep water section and back to the safety of the pool side. Remember this maximum practice time avoids behavioural problems and helps children’s progression.

Teaching Non Swimmers

If you are teaching non swimmers in deep water and feel like you need assistance with supervision don’t be afraid to get the parents involved to the learn to swim lesson. Parents want to know how their child is progressing and will be delighted to be involved in the learn to swim process. Parents can help by simply sitting close by on the pools edge to supervise and help keep the group moving. However you may find yourself in a situation where you need a little bit more assistance from the parent and actually ask them to get into the water. For example with a very scared child they may feel more relaxed if Mum or Dad gets into the water with them. This can also help with giving equal attention to all children in the group as inadvertently the timid child requires much more assistance than the confident child.

Swimming and Water Safety Teachers

Swimming and water safety teachers must also become skilled at communicating with the class. Remember the motto KISS, keep it simple stupid! You must use simple instructions when working with kids. On every feedback form I given my staff I have to remind them of this. As teachers we all seem to talk too much. When teaching the group I always give 1 instruction and then wait for what I want. For example “Everyone stand up”. I say nothing else until everyone is standing. If everyone isn’t standing I repeat the same instruction “everyone stand up” until I get what I want. I then give a small praise, which could even be a non verbal cue, like the thumbs up. Remember; NEVER instruct the group if they aren’t looking at you. You must get their attention first. This may require sitting the group on the side of the pool to avoid them bobbing underwater.

We must always combine verbal instructions with visual cues. Remember the different types of learning including auditory, visual or kinaesthetic styles. If you combine all of these into your teaching approach then you will be in a position of strength to communicate effectively with everyone in your group. Therefore if you want children to do a perfect streamline, simply tell them “arms behind your ears, chin on your chest” while you demonstrate in the standing position. Ask them to “show you” and physically correct mistakes immediately and give simple positing praise. Ask someone to show the group a good one. Giving instructions like this is far too complex “put your back on the wall, because what we are going to do now is follow the leader, when the person in front of you goes I want you to get ready to go, we are doing our best streamline, put your arms up and make sure you are hiding your ears, I’m looking for the best one, James would you like to show the group”. While all these points are valid it is far too complex for little children to remember and they will become easily distracted. Follow the one instruction and wait rule to get what you want. Use simple key words and repeat them over and over to remind the children what you want. Talking in long sentences is not effective. But using key words, with visual cues, facial expressions, eye contact and simple praise work wonders!

 

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

 

We would love to hear your swimming success stories as the result of hard work and persistence. Please share in the comments section below.

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18 Month Old Babies in the Water

In this short video clip we can see an 18 month old playing happily in the water with his instructor and adoring mother.

He swims happily from wall to instructor and is comfortable and confident in the water.
 

What Can We Expect From an 18 Month Old Swimmer?

To look at what we can expect an 18 month old baby to achieve in the water let us first look at the growth and development milestones of this age group. It’s important to remember that all children are individuals and will learn and achieve milestones at their own pace. The following is a guide only.

12 – 18 Month Milestones

• Baby becomes much more mobile on land
• Master walking
• Begin running
• Attempt walking up stairs
• Begins throwing balls
• Follows simple instructions such as sit or stand
• Can group objects by shape colour or size

18 – 24 Month Milestones

• Baby is now truly mobile
• Runs with ease
• Can walk up and down stairs
• Throws balls
• Kicks balls
• Attempts to jump
• Needs less sleep throughout the day
• Plays realistic games
• Interested in interacting with other children

It is with these growth and development milestones in mind that we can hope to achieve the following things in swimming lessons.

• Increase breath control with conditioning and under water
• Continue free floats – breath control, distance covered, and independence
• Continue back floating
• Continue kicking – manipulated and independent
• Encourage arm movement via splashing, reaching for objects and manipulation
• Encourage independent propulsion
• Swim unaided to parent
• Encourage independence in the water
• Introduce and master holding onto the high wall
• Introduce monkeys along the wall
• Master turning unaided – to adult, ledge, high wall: seated and jumping
• Introduce and master swim arounds
• Introduce pick up rings off the bottom

It is amazing to see just how capable these young swimmers are with constant repetition and regular lessons. Independent swimming under supervision is a genuine objective for this age group and is easily attainable with practice.

 

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

 

We would love to hear your swimming success stories as the result of hard work and persistence. Please share in the comments section below.

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Why Is Parental Involvement Important in Swimming?

Why Is Parental Involvement Important?

Many young children can swim and play independently in the water.

Some swim schools teach swimmers in the water without parents from a very young age. Worldwideswimschool believes that parent interaction in the water until the age of 4 is very important.

Lara can swim by herself.

She has great confidence in the water and can kick and paddle on her own. Her mother is still a part of her swimming lesson so she can refine these skills by manipulating Lara’s arms and legs in the water.

The child will practice skills by having a turn by herself first.

The parent will then manipulate either arms or legs (we see legs in this video) to hone the skill. By receiving constant manipulation from her parent within the lesson until the age of 4, Lara’s stroke will be a fantastic participant when she joins a learn to swim lesson by herself. Her kick will be strong and constant and her arms will have a great entry and exit positions as well as a good feel for the water.

 

It is a competent instructors job to involve parents within the lesson. This will assist the swimmers in perfecting their stroke and technique once they graduate to a class by themselves.
 

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

 

We would love to hear your swimming success stories as the result of hard work and persistence. Please share in the comments section below.

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

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