A parents role is vital in the learn to swim lesson. In fact Laurie insists on parental involvement in the learn to swim lesson until children turn four. While this philosophy may not be shared by everyone in the swimming industry it certainly does have its merits. Parental involvement allows for maximum practice time as children receive one on one attention from their caregiver and the teacher can facilitate the entire group. There is no time wasted while the teacher takes children one on one while others wait for their turn. Faster acquisition of swimming skills can be achieved because children are receiving maximum practice time and parents can give children immediate physical manipulation and corrections of swimming skills after each practice, for example – showing the child how to move the legs in the fast little kicking action will assist in developing muscle memory in the child. A safe and secure learning environment is also achieved and children learn that they should always swim with mum or dad. Finally parental involvement in the lesson is wonderful for one on one bonding time between parent and child with no other distractions. This is particularly important in today’s busy world with working parents and those juggling the needs of other siblings.
It is important that once children transition to lessons without their parents that lines of communication stay open between the parent and teacher. Laurie encourages parents to accompany their child to the side of the pool for entry into the lesson with the teacher and collect them at the end. While you won’t have a lot of time to talk on pool deck to your child’s teacher, it is important that the teacher knows who the child belongs to. This way if there is anything the teacher needs to discuss with you, they know who to approach and are given an opportunity to organise a time for discussion. Deck supervisors are quite common at most swim schools. If you have any questions or you would like to speak to your child’s teacher, they are the best point of contact, alternatively the administration staff should be able to help with any queries parents have. It’s important to remember that the teacher’s main focus during lesson time will be on the supervision of all children in their class and delivering the lesson plan. For this reason lengthy discussions on pool deck are not appropriate as the teacher will not be able to give suitable attention to either the conversation or the class at hand.
Practice outside of lessons is vital, not only for rapid improvement but also for developing an understanding and respect for different environments. It is important that children learn their capabilities and boundaries in the water. Exposure to different types of pools and bodies of water is also very useful to establish this concept. Parents should also talk to their children about water safety messages which are important for different environments. For instance swimming between the flags while at the beach, or not diving into creeks or rock pools where unknown objects are submerged underwater and can cause serious injury. Laurie has a fantastic new program for early learners on the Kids Alive website which looks at water safety at the beach, home, farm and pool. All of this information which includes songs, animations, and e-books is free of charge and can be accessed at http://www.kidsalive.com.au/early-childhood-program/ .
Intensive swimming programs are fantastic to kick start or progress your child’s swimming skills. Intensive programs generally run over consecutive days and are often offered at a discounted price to regular weekly lessons. Skill improvement while attending weekly lessons can be very slow, particularly during the early learning stages. For this reason Laurie always recommends participating in two lessons per week. While the cost of this may not be feasible for some families, it could be something you can do in the short term until your child reaches a certain capability level. Over the years many parents have also requested private lessons for their child to speed up the learning process. Laurie believes that parents will received better value for money and see greater progress with two group lessons per week or with intensive swimming programs. Most swim schools also offer gift vouchers. If grandparents are asking what they should buy the grandchildren, suggest swimming lessons. It’s a gift that will last a lifetime.
Learning to swim the 4 competitive strokes of swimming takes years to accomplish. Even if your child doesn’t go on to competition, learning to swim efficiently is important for a future healthy lifestyle. There are so many activities that revolve around the water, particularly in Australia and learning to swim will open up opportunities to participate in an array of water sports. Parents must understand that they need to make a commitment and attend every lesson. Obviously there will be times when your child is sick, however don’t skip lessons for any other reason. Laurie does not believe in make-up lessons. He feels they are disruptive to classes, very often children won’t have their regular teacher, and they encourage people to be relaxed on attendance. At Laurie Lawrence Swim School he offers a free holiday program to compensate for missed lessons which also promotes an environment that is conducive to learning.
Laurie also encourages parents to watch their child’s swimming lesson. Watching what your child is doing in the lesson will give you an idea of what your child needs to work on outside of the swimming lesson. It will also give you an understanding of your child’s capabilities in the water and identity areas which you could help them to develop. Even if you aren’t in the water with your child you can be actively engaged in your child’s lesson. Children are constantly looking for mum and dad to see if they saw them attempt a new skill or perfect an old one. Giving your child specific positive praise is crucial for their emotional development. Children love to know that they are doing a great job. Rather than saying “you were a champion today”, discuss a specific skill learned during the lesson such as “you were a champion when you kicked the full lap on your back”. This way your child will know that you were watching and your comments on their swimming capabilities will be more beneficial.