Whether you join our toddler programme after finishing the baby levels, or join us as a toddler ‘newbie’, these lessons are all about building up your child’s confidence and independence in the pool through fun, games and songs, cleverly disguising the basics of swimming technique and safety practices.
The benefits you see from baby swimming are still very prominent at this stage. Lessons are great for building children’s confidence in social situations, it helps their coordination, eating and sleeping habits, and teaches them a skill that will stay with them for life.
Life with a toddler is invariably busy and so by having lessons with us, it also makes sure that your child has regular time in the water, which isn’t easy to do on your own once you factor in other children, work and a million other things on your weekly to do list.
So… what to expect?
Repetition, repetition, repetition!
The majority of the skills your child will learn during their toddler lessons are introduced in the baby lessons and so we take the time at toddler level to practice those skills and perfect them. If you join us in the toddler levels, don’t worry, you can easily catch up as toddlers love to learn new things. There is no fast track way to teach your child to swim and so through repeating and practising an 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. Whilst this can sometimes feel a bit tedious for a parent, it has been proven that this is how children learn best (just think of their ability to watch that episode of Paw Patrol for the umpteenth time!). Toddlers also tend to be wary of change, so in our toddler lessons we build up a familiar structure that little people come to recognise and feel comfortable in. This allows them to gain that all-important confidence and before you know it, they are ready to take their first attempt at solo swimming (be that with woggles, floats or going solo).
It is not unusual for a toddler to be wary or have developed fear of the water; we have lots of parents starting lessons at this stage precisely because of this. Building up a child’s confidence in the water is one of the key aims of the toddler programme as once they have confidence, they are happy and ready to learn the skills they need to be able to swim. We adopt a purely child-led approach to our lessons which means they are never pressured into joining in or doing something that they don’t want to do. Because of this, they can take their time, watch their classmates and then try things out when they are ready. This no-pressure approach also allows them to build trust in their carer and in the teacher, so they are more likely to want to take risks and try out new things. We throw a lot of toys, games, songs and activities into our lessons so there is always something going on to get them engaged too.
Throughout the toddler levels, we build on what’s known as core aquatic skills. These are the building blocks to independent swimming, so things like being able to float, tread water and learning how and when to breathe when they swim, all form part of this. Although our lessons may look like a lot of games and play, we incorporate these skills into all of our games and lessons. This all helps them prepare for independent swimming when they are ready.
Give them choice
Toddlers being toddlers, they like to let us know who is the boss (and let’s face it, that is them most of the time!). We sometimes see toddlers go from loving the water, to refusing to do certain activities. To help with this, we try to offer them choices, so for example, let them choose between a blue woggle or a red one, or between a fish and a ball. These small changes give them a feeling of control over the activities and can distract them from their refusal and before you know it they are taking part again. A refusal to take part in something in lesson is no different from children asserting their will outside of the pool and whilst it can be frustrating as a parent, with a bit of patience, consistency and encouragement, we usually see them back to their splashy selves in no time.
Plateaus and Progress Leaps
One thing that becomes more obvious as your little ones grow, is that children don’t learn in a linear pattern. A characteristic of this stage is something we call plateauing; so, your little one could attend lessons week on week and you may see little progress. This can be disheartening as a parent (especially if you look at other children in the lesson who may be doing something your little one is struggling with) but in this plateauing time, they are taking in information and processing it. This often leads to a progress leap where they suddenly gain a new skill or bunch of skills and are eager to show them off to everyone. This makes the weeks of practice worthwhile.
When you consider that 1 in 3 children in the UK between the age of 10-16 cannot currently swim (STA May 2017), getting your toddler in the pool and confident before they even start school is giving them a huge head start. The toddler years offer challenges to both us as teachers and you as parents, but they also offer great rewards. Seeing a confident toddler getting to grips with independent swimming and really loving the water makes it all worthwhile. It is also lovely to witness the friendships that are formed between our turtles and also with us teachers. Practice, Patience and Praise will open the door to some great new splashy adventures!