So… first things first… Our aim from the baby levels is not for your child to master the perfect front crawl before they are 18 months. Our aim is to introduce your baby to the fun, splashy world of swimming in a gentle, child-led way. Through play and building strong trust bonds in the water, children learn key safety skills and take the first steps to learning how to swim. We want them to play, splash and light up when they see the water. If they do this… we have done our job.
In the baby levels we are laying the groundworks for them being strong enough and big enough to take on independent swimming when they are in the toddler or big swimmer levels. Digging a little deeper there are several things that we aim to promote when swimming with babies.
Firstly, the water is the perfect place to spend some one-on-one bonding time with your little one. It is lovely to have that time away from the distraction of screens, housework and other pressures every week where it is just the two of you. Water creates vulnerability and so babies are even more dependent than they are on land. By tuning into your baby’s communication, you can help to build strong trust bonds between you and your little one. This trust is so important in an aquatic environment as a child needs to feel safe and secure before they will start to enjoy playing in the water and experimenting taking risks. Take time to enjoy this (it really does go by too fast!).
As a parent or carer, you may find our lessons repetitive but children love that repetition (think how many times they have watched that episode of Peppa Pig or how they smile when you launch into Hickory Dickory Dock!). A slower pace of learning is optimal for child’s learning as a baby takes 6 times as long to process sensory input. This means that through repeating a skill or exercise, we are helping to strengthen the neural pathway in their brains and the movement becomes more refined and efficient. In short, the more times they do it, the better they become at it. We also use repetition as a way of setting children at ease - they know what to expect and what is coming next, they have a sense of comfort and ease. This again makes them more likely to experiment and take risks which all helps the path to independent swimming.
Modelling is another really important aspect of our baby programme. This is basically showing children what you want them to do and letting them copy. By babies seeing someone they know, love and trust doing something such as blowing bubbles or going underwater, they then know that this is a safe and positive thing for them to do and so they copy. We understand that not every parent or carer is confident in water and so our teachers are always happy to stand in and help with this.
Progress to Independence
As your child grows and progresses through the baby levels, we start to introduce progressions towards independence in water (so, getting them ready to be able to swim on their own). This is done in small steps and only when they are ready and ‘progress’ can be anything from mastering a skill after practising it lots, to increasing the time and distance they swim for. It can also be seen through decreasing the amount of support your little one needs; Consider the difference between the forward-facing swim position from level 1 compared to side swim or sandwich swim in later levels. We also start to introduce swim aids (catamarans, woggles and floats) which switches the focus to your little one holding on to something, rather than being held on to. Although our lessons can look like a lot of singing and playing around, we are introducing you and your child to the core aquatic skills that form the basis of swimming.
The underwater aspect of our lessons is always something parents are interested in. This is an important part of our lessons but it is certainly not the focus as there is much more to swimming than being underwater. We strongly believe that submersions should be something your child chooses to do and it is not something that is done TO them. Basically, this means we don’t dunk your babies just like we wouldn’t dunk you! Babies choose to swim underwater when they are ready to (and this can change from week to week!). Through this gentle approach, we find children are much more likely to enjoy swimming underwater, they build trust with their carer and their teacher and they enjoy the water and swimming much more as a result.
Underlying everything is the belief that children should be allowed to learn at a pace that is right for them. Swimming isn’t disconnected from other parts of life, so children will do things when they are ready to. Crawling, walking, submerging, bubble blowing, rolling over and splashing will all happen for different babies and different times. Allowing them time to do this, will result in happier, splashier turtles!If you are interested in starting your baby swimming, or would like more information, please go to our website for details www.turtletots.com.