learn to swim ROB & KATHY MCKAY learn to swim Step-by-step water confidence and safety skills for babies and young children DK PUBLISHING, INC. LONDON, NEW YORK, MUNICH, MELBOURNE, DELHI Senior editor Salima Hirani Senior US editor Jennifer Williams Senior art editor Hannah Moore Project editor Claire Wedderburn-Maxwell Project art editor Tracy Timson DTP designer Julian Dams Production controller Shwe Zin Win Managing editor Liz Coghill Managing art editors Glenda Fisher, Emma Forge Photographic art director Tracy Timson Art director Carole Ash Publishing manager Anna Davidson Publishing director Corinne Roberts First American Edition 2005 05 06 07 08 09 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Published in the United States in 2005 by DK Publishing, Inc., 375 Hudson Street New York, New York 10014 Copyright © 2005 Dorling Kindersley Limited, London Text copyright © 2005 Rob and Kathy McKay All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright owners. Neither the authors nor the publisher can be held responsible for any damage or injury resulting from baby swimming. Catologing-in-publication data is available from the Library of Congress ISBN 0-7566-0955-O Reproduced by Colourscan, Singapore Printed and bound by Star Standard, Singapore See our complete product line at www.dk.com CONTENTS 6 8 10 The Breath-holding Cue 96 62 Face-to-Face Dip 98 Jump, Dip, and Swim INTRODUCING BABY SWIMMING 63 Jump from the Wall 100 Turning Around Underwater INTRODUCTION 60 Guided Swim to the Wall 64 First Held Underwater Swim 66 First Unaided Underwater The Benefits of Baby 68 Balance Swimming 69 Time to Go 70 BEGINNERS: STAGE TWO 71 Stage Two Lesson Plan 106 Unaided Turn Underwater 72 Kicking Drills 108 The Safety Sequence 73 Blowing Bubbles 74 Reaching for and Grabbing 110 INTERMEDIATES: STAGE THREE 12 Positive Teaching Methods 18 How Children Develop 20 Signs to Stop 22 Choosing a Suitable Pool 24 Safety 26 What You Need—The Basics 28 Toys and Learning Aids 30 Questions and Answers Swim 102 INTERMEDIATES: STAGE TWO 103 Stage Two Lesson Plan 104 Intermediate Swim to the Wall 105 Jump, Swim, and Turn Back to the Wall 111 Stage Three Lesson Plan 112 Coming Up for Air— 114 Coming Up for Air— FOUR-YEAR-OLD BEGINNERS 116 Front and Back Floating the Wall 76 Learning to Wait 77 Monkey Walk Assisted Equipment WATER CONFIDENCE 78 79 Adapted Lesson Plan 118 Swimming on the Back 36 Teaching Beginners 80 Facial Submersions 120 180º Roll During a Swim 38 Bathtime Fun 82 First Short Swim 122 Diving for Rings 40 First Trip to the Pool 84 Standing Step Jump 44 Water Adjustment 85 Alligator Walk 124 Resources 46 Water Pouring Station 126 Index 48 Games and Songs 128 Acknowledgements 52 The Activity Circuit 54 BEGINNERS: STAGE ONE 55 Stage One Lesson Plan 56 34 86 ADAPTATIONS FOR THREE- TO SWIMMING UNAIDED 88 Teaching Intermediates Kicking 90 INTERMEDIATES: STAGE ONE 57 Above-water Pass 91 Stage One Lesson Plan 58 Cheek Dip 92 Rob’s Tai Chi Pass 59 Cheek Roll 94 Fin Fun INTRODUCTION Learning to swim can be one of the most rewarding experiences of childhood. It is a celebration, a rite of passage, and a gift of freedom. Reintroducing your baby to the water at a young age makes perfect sense—after all, your little swimmer was surrounded by water in the womb for nine months. People around the world use water for relaxation, play, therapy, ritual, health, nourishment, invigoration, and exercise. Water is an integral part of our human heritage, physical make-up, and planet. In water we are weightless, free, caressed, and cleansed. Babies can enter this unique natural element and its altered gravity in a non-stressful, harmonious manner. Your baby can learn to swim months before he can walk, and it will be easier for him to propel himself to you in the water, rather than learn to pull himself up, fight gravity, and walk toward you. None of us remember learning to walk, and in much the same way a baby who learns to swim at an early age, as part of a gradual, child-centered approach, won’t remember a time when he couldn’t swim and claim water citizenship. Who better to teach your baby to swim than the people he trusts the most? We believe parents are a baby’s best teachers, on land and in the water, and have therefore adapted our established swim-school program specifically for this book, so that we can pass on the wealth of knowledge we have gained from our nurturing and stimulating child-friendly classes. Learn to Swim is designed to help parents establish an optimal learning environment for children aged six months to four years. Utilizing our combined 50 years of experience in teaching thousands of babies and children to swim, we will guide you to successfully create a watery classroom full of positive reinforcement, color, music, stimulation, laughter, and motivation. Our commonsense approach places your child at the center of the learning. He will learn and develop swimming skills through games, songs, humor, praise, and developmentally appropriate skill activities. You will follow a child-paced, step-by-step learning progression especially designed for very young swimmers. And although this book is for parents who are teaching their own children to swim, we hope swimming teachers will also find it useful and integrate our gentle approach to baby swimming into their programs. Learning is a process, not a product—it should occur at the child’s pace, when he is open, receptive, relaxed, and ready. We teach swimming—not thrashing—and that takes patience, practice, and a great deal of time, and when you give your child that time and patience, you lay a foundation of mutual respect and trust that you can build on in other areas of your lives. Teaching your child to swim in this supportive and caring way is not just about helping him to learn water confidence and safety skills. It is also about developing a teaching style in relation to the way your child learns, encouraging and supporting him rather than being demanding and demeaning, and replacing the pressure to learn with the desire to learn. Celebrate each small step along the way, and remember that there is no need to rush or force your child to perform as there will be periods of skill assimilation and learning plateaus. Read your baby’s body language and assess his level of readiness to determine the course of each lesson. We want your child to enjoy this experience from his very first trip to the pool, in the hope that he will continue to enjoy swimming for a lifetime. As you play with your baby in the pool, you are not only teaching movement through the water, but fostering exploration, curiosity, trust, joy, wonder, risk-taking, confidence, grace, and endurance. In the first chapter of the book, we introduce all the essential basics: the philosophy of our teaching; the many benefits of baby swimming, what you need to take to the pool, positive child-friendly teaching methods, and comprehensive water-safety strategies. The second chapter, Water Confidence, is divided into stages that are based on age. In this chapter, we take you through the initial phases of water adjustment, how to teach your child to hold his breath for submersion, then onward toward the exciting moment when your baby takes his first swim between two people. Once your baby can comfortably perform all the age-appropriate skills in this section, you will move on to the intermediate swimming skills, such as turning around underwater, floating, and diving for rings, as shown in the third chapter, Swimming Unaided. We hope this family experience is a remarkable one for both you and your child. Delight in the giggles and splashes, the time you have to bond in the pool, and the excitement and pride your child shows as he develops new skills. So grab your swimsuits and let’s go to the pool... introducing ba b y swimming Water, babies, laughter, and learning to swim… it’s an unbeatable combination. When approached in a nurturing, child-friendly way, baby swimming offers your child numerous benefits, including boundless joy and increased self-esteem and confidence. It enhances your baby’s physical and personal development, resulting in a happy, healthy, and well-adjusted child. Our journey begins with an important first step—an informed parent. The goal of this chapter is to help you become a confident, active, and trusted learning partner for your child. 10 IN ND G BABY SWIMMING RU NTNRI O ND G UHCEI A THE BENEFITS OF BABY SWIMMING There is a wide range of benefits available to babies and children who are taught to swim in a gentle, gradual, child-paced way. Researchers have documented some of the measurable positive effects of baby swimming, and parents around the world have witnessed first-hand the many enhancements to mental, physical, emotional, developmental, and social well-being that result from teaching their children to swim. EMOTIONAL BENEFITS Swimming allows babies to move independently much sooner than they are able to on dry land. STUDIES ON BABY SWIMMING Imagine the boost of confidence and self-esteem that movement through the water brings your child as achievement on the way to mastering a skill, you A study conducted by Professor Liselott Diem from 1974 to 1976 at the German Sports College in Cologne, Germany, found that children who learned to swim at an early age demonstrated advanced development in: build her self-esteem. Babies’ faces glow after they motor skills successfully accomplish a task—they look for approval reaction time (reflexes) and validation, and parental acknowledgement of their power of concentration (focus) she explores her new, watery environment. Every time you catch your child after a jump or a short swim, she learns trust. When you praise her for each small efforts fosters their personal self-acceptance and pride. Swimming can be very empowering for babies, since it intelligence offers them a new sense of freedom. social behavior social interaction Parent-child bonding Where else but in the water can you commune faceto-face, skin-to-skin with your baby for extended periods of time in a warm and inviting natural element? Teaching your baby to swim increases your bond with her as you play together and move in unison, and as you exercise patience, encouragement, and kindness toward her. You will learn about her growing personality, sense of humor, and how she approaches new situations. As you teach her, you will become aware of her learning style and her changing needs and abilities. This knowledge will not only aid successful baby swimming but will also help you establish positive parenting methods that you can use outside the pool. self-confidence independence coping with new and unfamiliar situations. Overall, children were found to be more well-adjusted than their peers who had not participated in early swimming programs, and the increase in both self-esteem and independence due to baby swimming were cited as contributory factors.The study also concluded that children who swam from an early age benefitted from positive interaction and bonding with their parent. THE BENEFITS OF BABY SWIMMING 11 SOCIAL BENEFITS to their growing repertoire of land-based skills. Because If you can gather a group of like-minded parents and both sides of the body are involved, and therefore both teach your children together, they will reap the social lobes of the brain, swimming increases coordination, benefits—they learn from their peers by observing and motor development, and balance. Parents also see better mimicking them, and also enjoy their company. Children sleep patterns after swimming. begin to look forward to interacting with each other, learning to take turns, to share, and to try new skills. PERSONAL SAFETY With time, practice, and developmental capability, PHYSICAL BENEFITS children can acquire the necessary swimming safety All the fitness benefits that swimming brings adults skills to aid them in the event of a water emergency. —an increase in strength, muscle tone, endurance, and A calm child who feels at home in the water and who lung capacity—are also enjoyed by children. For young has regularly practiced safety skills with her parent will babies, movement through the water liberates them not panic, but will rather proactively implement the from a comparatively static life, and allows them to techniques she has learned. Note, however, that no child exercise muscles that would otherwise not yet be used. should ever be considered “drownproof,” and you should For older babies, swimming is the natural complement always be vigilant when your child is in the water. 12 I N T RO D U C I N G B A B Y S W I M M I N G POSITIVE TEACHING METHODS Being a proactive, positive parent directly helps to nurture a well-adjusted, happy child. When teaching your baby at such a young age, you have the opportunity to build trust, share joy, communicate by touch and words, and bond with your child as he experiences new and varied stimuli. The impact you have on your child at this young age cannot be overestimated, and baby swimming is a unique opportunity to develop and put good teaching practices into action. THE CHILD-CENTERED APPROACH PROGRESS AT YOUR CHILD’S PACE We live in an era that has benefitted from research into Just as children learn to walk, talk, and read at different the capabilities of babies. No longer seen simply as little ages, they also learn to swim at different rates. As a lumps, babies regularly astound scientists with their parent, it is critical that you do not place any innate abilities. We now know how even a very young accelerated expectations ahead of your child’s actual baby can discern faces, language, and emotion, and how readiness to learn a skill. All children learn to kick when activities and experiences affect his mental development. they swim—but some do it on the first day, while Although babies develop many skills from an early age, parents should not attempt to create a “super others do it only after a great deal of time, motivation, and practice. Kicking on the first day doesn’t make one baby.” Children should not be pressured or pushed child better, smarter, or stronger than another child to perform, but guided to develop their skills who learns later—it simply means they are different at a rate they are comfortable with. and unique individuals. POSITIVE TEACHING METHODS THE IMPORTANCE OF BODY LANGUAGE Even before your baby can speak, he is a very capable interpreter of your body language, and will pick up on the slightest nuances.Your facial expressions, muscle tension, tone of voice, and reactions will all convey clues to your child about his environment and how he should act. It is therefore vital that you are relaxed and confident with him in the water, as he will pick up on your cues, whether positive or negative. A relaxed, gentle touch and upbeat, playful, or calm tone conveys a sense of ease to your child. Don’t worry about how quickly your child learns a new technique—just focus on helping him acquire a skill a little bit at a time. Make the most of the process and the time you are spending together doing an activity you both enjoy, and remember the most important thing is to make your lessons fun and playful. Comfort in the pool Both children and parents bring with them a host of previous water experiences—some positive and some negative. Some babies have been in the bath or shower with water pouring over their face from just a few days old, others have seen their older brother or sister swim underwater, and still others are fearful of the water because of a water scare or a previous bad experience with an aggressive swimming program. Some children are shy and want to assess a new situation from a distance; others show an inherent aversion to having water on their faces, but some will bolt immediately into a new environment without a care. Remember also, if you are the gregarious parent of a reserved and cautious child, you will need to respect the fact that you have your own individual differences, and learn from your child what makes him secure, comfortable, and happy in the pool. Use positive signals such as smiles, hugs, highfives, applause, laughter, or a kiss to reassure your child and reinforce a positive atmosphere. Don’t send mixed signals—for example, don’t force your child to carry out a maneuver and then give him a hug or a kiss. Use encouragement rather than coercion. You should carefully watch and interpret your child’s body language—especially if he is too young to speak.This will help you assess his comfort level and whether he is happy with the skills or games that you are practicing. A relaxed, happy, smiling child is enjoying the experience. Note that his muscles will feel soft, not tight or tense. If your child is clinging to you, it means that he is not ready and needs more time to adjust to the new situation. Don’t rush him or pull him away from you—give him the security he is seeking. Crying is your baby’s way of telling you that something is wrong and signals a need to stop what you are doing. Redirect your child’s attention with a toy or by playing a different game, and assess what caused the crying. 13 14 I N T RO D U C I N G B A B Y S W I M M I N G FEAR VERSUS LOVE the pool, mimicking what she saw earlier. Use these “off” Some parents and swimming programs see water as the days to focus on the skills that your child enjoys, relax enemy—a lethal danger to be feared, and a threat to be the pace of your lesson, and sing and play together. dealt with. These “drownproofing” or “survival” swimming programs often rely on aggressive methods, such as YOUR ROLE IN THE POOL forced back floating. Skills are goal-oriented and must be Being in the water with your child is vital as it creates an acquired rapidly by the baby in order for her to save immediate sense of security. A parent provides familiarity herself if she enters the water unexpectedly. A parent is and can progress through the lesson at the child’s pace. generally not present in the water during the lessons in Is your child relaxed and ready to try something new, case the child relies on her parent to help her. or is she tense, stressed, or frightened and in need These aggressive methods are in complete opposition of more time to adjust? The parent’s role is one of to the child-centered approach, which is based on love conscious and aware observer as well as instructor. of the child, love of water, and love of learning. We How you present new material and skills to your child believe that this positive focus, and the fun it fosters, will be as important as the skills themselves. As this is leads to much more successful learning than a fearful a child-centered approach, always go at her pace, and environment can produce. Water is seen as a wonderful remember that your tone of voice, mood, and muscle medium for growth and development, and the parent is tension send strong messages (see box, p13). always in the water, bonding with his or her child, facilitating learning, and assisting with the gradual acquisition of skills. This means that the parent knows exactly what their child can and cannot do in the water, COMPARING TEACHING METHODS how long she can hold her breath, and how competent a swimmer she is. The parent also recognizes their own responsibility to safeguard their baby and to implement a comprehensive water safety strategy (see pp24–25). Aggressive swimming programs use pressure and coercion to achieve rigid goals.The childcentered approach is very different, and progresses at the child’s pace. COPING WITH CRANKINESS GOAL-DOMINATED CHILD-CENTERED Everybody is allowed a bad day occasionally, and PROGRAM PROGRAM skill comes first child comes first time-frame is rigid, and there is pressure to perform time-frame is flexible and depends on child’s readiness force and coercion are used to teach survival skills gentle guiding and encouragement help a child accomplish goals feel better. If you are swimming with other children, teacher is dominant progress at child’s pace your child will benefit from observing everyone else no-nonsense format fun, playful learning sometimes children will have a bad five minutes or an entirely bad week. Often this crankiness may be unrelated to swimming—teething is a common problem, as is a missed or interrupted nap, hunger, or a change in schedule (for example if one parent is away). It is important for you to be sensitive to the physical energy levels and mood of your child and to not push her. Hopefully, just being in the water will help your child swimming. Observation time for a child may mean she will try a skill later in the bath or on her next trip to POSITIVE TEACHING METHODS 15 16 I N T RO D U C I N G B A B Y S W I M M I N G FOCUS ON THE MOMENT Being patient Because your child’s swimming lessons may be his first Make sure that you are relaxed and having fun during educational outing, they should be positive experiences your swimming lessons, enjoying the giggles and splashes that lead to many other educational successes as he that naturally accompany learning. Be patient with your grows up. It’s up to you to get into your child’s frame child if he hates jumping off the wall or putting his face of mind: focus on the game, the adventure, the color, in the water—he is bound to surprise you in the end. the fun, and the laughter. Remember that your child Don’t let your tone of voice or your words betray you will be much more focused on the moment—on the and indicate to your child your disappointment or simple delights and novel experiences—and shouldn’t frustration. Instead, try another tactic or switch to be rushed. Try to recall how thrilling your first trip another skill. Often, simply time and exposure are to a swimming pool was and what your child must be required before a new skill seems less intimidating, excited by: the feel of water on his skin, the bright and begins to look like fun and worth trying. toys, the sight of water all around him, and the other people in the pool. Using humor Somehow, silliness has become the universal unspoken MAKING SWIMMING LESSONS FUN language that all children understand. Whether you’re Crying is not a prerequisite for learning to swim, so playing peekaboo with a baby or creating an elaborate never let an ill-informed relative or teacher tell you that pirate fantasy with a four-year-old, these children know this is the case. Add skills slowly when your child is ready, we’re doing something fun and want to be a part of it. never pushing him beyond his abilities, and remember Use play and toys to your advantage—they are great that forcing skills on children is contrary to every sound learning aids as well as good distractions after a child learning theory. Your own swimming program should does something they are not sure of, like a first resemble all the best land-based programs for the relevant submersion. The more involved your child is in the age group and contain those elements that best suit early game, the less likely he is to realize that he is trying education—games, toys, fun, and laughter. something new that might be daunting. KEYS TO AN OPTIMAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT To ensure that your child has the best possible environment in which to learn to swim, follow these guidelines: The parent should always be in the water.This provides instant security and familiarity and promotes trust and bonding Have frequent lessons. Repetition and practice encourage smooth, consistent learning that closely resembles a baby’s natural learning pattern Warm, clear water is essential for baby swimming. Babies do not have a fully developed thermal regulatory system so the water needs to be warm. Good water quality also ensures health and safety. (See Choosing a Suitable Pool, pp22–23) Develop a positive learning environment. Create an atmosphere that appeals to the senses by using water play activities, games, songs, and colorful toys (see Toys and Learning Aids, pp28–29). POSITIVE TEACHING METHODS 17 Encouraging toddlers water’s not going to hurt you.” Always appeal to a Once your baby begins evolving into a toddler, signs child’s sense of fun and humor—for example, dripping of emerging independence may challenge your water on the face can be called a “fishy kiss.” Remember parenting skills and require more patience both in the to always praise every achievement, however small. pool and at home. During this developmental stage the If you want to stop your child from doing operative word is “no,” and “no” may truly mean “no” or something, then don’t just say “no,” but use it may mean “yes” or even “maybe.” It is important at another tactic. For example, if he is this stage not to make the pool a battleground, as jumping before you finish the pushing a child who is pushing you usually backfires. count, ask him to count aloud Instead, increase the amount of play and slapstick in with you, then jump. your routine, and use games, distractions, and rapidly changing, entertaining lessons to keep this age group motivated and interested. Communicating with your child Think about how you phrase things, and always talk about what you are going to do in a positive rather than a negative way. For example, ask your child to “Jump and splash me and get me all wet,” rather than saying, “Jump to me—the Imaginary play Encourage older children to try new skills through imaginary play. For example, diving for a pirate’s hidden treasure trove sounds far more exciting than simply diving for rings. 18 I N T RO D U C I N G B A B Y S W I M M I N G HOW CHILDREN DEVELOP Every child develops at her own pace, but there are common developmental stages that all children pass through. The exercises in this book are set out according to these stages, so your child will never be learning water skills that she is not yet ready to acquire. Whether your child is a six-month-old baby who loves one. In general, parents of younger babies tend to be the water and swims like a dolphin, or a three-year-old nervous, when taking their child swimming, but don’t whose mood changes daily about whether she likes the worry—you will find that your baby is very durable, water or not, you need to be aware of what your child and that both of you are very capable. is physically capable of and the best way to teach her. Within this age group lies the golden opportunity to quite easily become at home on, in, and under BABIES FROM 6 TO 12 MONTHS the water. The young baby is still close to the fluid The majority of babies in this age group love the environment she left in the womb—she has no fears, water—they enjoy their bath and happily make and is not yet claiming independence. Once babies are the transition from tub to pool. They are content comfortably swimming at this young age, they will never with water poured in small amounts over their heads know a time when they didn’t know how to swim. They and faces, which makes the water adjustment phase will not be afraid of the water and can learn safety skills easier and briefer than for older babies. sooner than children who start at an older age. What to expect in the pool TODDLERS FROM ONE TO THREE YEARS Babies up to nine months love to splash and wriggle in Sturdy legs, an evolving kick, increased coordination, the water, and show the rapid whole body undulation and a sense of humor typifies this age group of of the dolphin- or froglike reflex kick. Between six and swimmers. This broad age span includes beginning 12 months the reflex kick fades away and is replaced by walkers to running toddlers, non-verbal babblers to gliding for a while, until a learned kick is acquired later. competent speakers, and easygoing one-year-olds to Babies may stare a great deal, but as their age increases you begin to see a more alert and focused independence-testing three-year-olds. Because of their interest in manipulating toys and child. Learning the Breath-holding Cue (see pp60–61) objects, as well as the fact that they can understand also shows parents the difference between a reflex games and observe actions and consequences, children reaction and a skill that the child actually learns. of this age are prime participants for learning through Younger babies also tend to be more sensitive to interactive games and songs. water temperature. They can become chilly faster, tire more quickly, and sleep much longer after swimming. What to expect in the pool Because the age range is so large, so is temperament. The benefits of swimming Starting swimming at 13 to 18 months means you’ll still For nearly all babies in this age group, swimming will be in a primary period of receptivity to water, making be the first educational experience out of the home it easier to learn how to swim—there will be less fear, environment, and it is important to make it a positive more cooperation, and a love of water. From 19 months HOW CHILDREN DEVELOP 19 to three years, growing independence, stubbornness, can show off her vigorous splashes, while another might and fear may necessitate clever game playing, humor, and be a great bubble blower, and yet a third may happily additional time for your child to learn new skills. put her face in the water. As most children in this age range are becoming Children begin to focus more, follow simple mobile, the early reflex kick is now replaced by a directions, and link several skills together. Imaginative learned and voluntary kick. play also distinguishes this age group and helps a frightened, hesitant child, as well as a boisterous one. The benefits of swimming Try using a circus, pirate, or spaceship theme in your Children of this age begin to be more aware of each lesson—whatever motivates and encourages your child. other and will copy other children, so for beginner and Children in this age group also like to work for intermediate swimmers this is a good time to start rewards. A simple high-five may do. Or let her collect swimming with other children. Through playing games a pile of toys earned one at a time as a reward. Little and using toys together in the pool, children develop steps, reinforced and repeated again and again, begin to social skills such as sharing and communication. instill a pattern of a desired behavior. CHILDREN FROM THREE TO FOUR YEARS The benefits of swimming These children are real characters and make swimming Part of gaining trust involves respecting a child who lessons lively with their burgeoning personalities, highly tells you that she doesn’t want to put her face in the verbal commentary, and vivid imaginations. They are fun water. Where you as a parent can help her transcend to interact with, and have their own particular likes and that fear is by using play, games, and humor to help dislikes as well as varying experiences with water. her accomplish a submersion in small, nonthreatening stages. You may encounter What to expect in the pool stalling techniques, but be With physical sturdiness and growing coordination this patient. Once they have age group is very capable of swimming well. They can gone past the largest produce a strong voluntary kick, and sit, climb, or stand hurdles, this age group with little or no assistance. However, if they are just demonstrates great starting to learn to swim at these ages, a good competency. percentage of children will have fears. Some of these fears may be pronounced and almost paralyzing, others slight and easily calmed. Watching a peer who already swims can bolster confidence, and children like to show their peers and siblings what they can do. Peer learning is extremely appealing at these ages, and if you can gather a group of friends and their parents then you will see the benefits as the children copy and encourage each other. If one child kicks well she 20 I N T RO D U C I N G B A B Y S W I M M I N G SIGNS TO STOP Responding to your baby’s needs, health, security, and comfort have been part of your job description since the day he was born. Now you need to take your keen nurturing and observational skills to the pool where your parental instincts will help you gauge the flow of instruction and, most importantly, when to slow down or stop. A TEAR-FREE ZONE Make your swimming lessons a “tear-free zone.” Often people who have witnessed aggressive swimming lessons are astonished at the laughter, water confidence, and lack of tears at our school. There are several ways to keep the mood lighthearted and the learning stress-free, including stopping, going more slowly, or more accurately matching your child’s pace. You cannot do everything at once in baby swimming, and trying to do so will only stress your child and overwhelm him. Always speak calmly and softly, and move gently—a rough tug, hard push, or gruff, impatient tone will only lead to tears. Remember the following points: do not introduce any new skills until a child is ready If you see signs of resistance or discomfort because you’ve jumped ahead of your child’s readiness, stop. Go back to the previous skill or portion of the skill and do not move on until your child is ready. Don’t do everything all at once. Instead, do a little bit each lesson and gradually the skills will develop. If you are stressed or frustrated, stop. Step back and take a deep breath before starting afresh. If your baby is uncomfortably cold, shivering, has blue lips, or is tired or upset, stop immediately and exit the pool. Lessons should be happy, playful times together. There is no one rushing or timing you, so go at your child’s pace and relax. If things aren’t going smoothly, just play, enjoy the water for the rest of the lesson, and start again at the next session. S I G N S TO S TO P SIGNS NOT TO GO IN There are some days when it is important to stop before you even begin. If your child is physically ill, for example has a bad cold, heavy congestion, a stomach virus with vomiting or diarrhea, a fever, an ear infection, conjunctivitis, or anything contagious or infectious, stay at home and rest until he is better. Not only are you potentially exposing others to illness if you swim, but in some of these cases your child’s muscle strength, lung capacity, and mood will be compromised by exercise such as swimming. In other cases, your doctor will call a temporary halt to lessons until a subsequent visit clears your baby to resume activities. Otherwise, use your good judgement and do not take your child swimming until he returns to his normal activity levels and health. WHEN NOT TO SUBMERGE YOUR CHILD When first learning the cue for submersions (see pp60–61), some babies may sputter, cough, or be a bit surprised. Usually, their attention can be redirected with a toy or different activity. However, if after a couple of times your child is uncomfortable or begins resisting the cue and submersion by arching his back, stop. Go back to playing at the Water Pouring Station (see pp46–47) and practicing the Cheek Dip (see p58). Once the Cheek Dip has been slowly and successfully re-introduced, you can try the Cheek Roll (see p59). After a couple of weeks, as comfort returns, you can re-attempt the forward motion of the Breath-holding Cue (pp60–61). How often to submerge your child Excessive water swallowing, choking, and gagging are not part of this program, so limit the number of times that you submerge your child each lesson and gradually introduce submersions so that breath holding is learned over a period of lessons. If you feel your baby has swallowed a bit too much water, stop. Slow down and return to the Water Pouring Station (see pp46–47) before gradually re-attempting submersions. Remember, never force your child to go underwater. THE “TERRIBLE TOOS” Often when parents are having problems teaching their baby to swim it can be traced back to an adult’s “Terrible Toos”: expecting too much, too soon, too far, and too often. Too much Babies can easily become overwhelmed, for example by having too much water poured over the top of their heads, or when too much new material is presented to a hesitant child. Too soon You should always be alert and aware of signs of readiness in your baby before you attempt new skills. His comfort, competence, and relaxed confidence will indicate he is ready to try the next step. Attempting skills that are not age-appropriate will stress babies and result in a lack of trust, an unwillingness to attempt previous skills, frustration, and tears. Progress sequentially through the book, waiting to build up the skills as your child grows and develops both physically and mentally. Too far When swimming your child underwater, don’t stand too far from your partner so your child does not have to swim a long way to reach him. Keep your child’s trust by lifting him out of the water while he has air in his lungs and is comfortably holding his breath. Lung capacity is gained slowly, not in leaps, and swallowing excess water will hurt your child. Too often Repetition is the key to reinforcing a new skill, but know when to stop. Putting a new beginner underwater too often when he is just learning the Breath-holding Cue (see pp60–61) may mean he tires and begins swallowing water. Asking an apprehensive three-year-old to put his face in too often starts eroding trust. Practice skills, but move on to a new task before overdoing any one skill. 21 22 I N T RO D U C I N G B A B Y S W I M M I N G CHOOSING A SUITABLE POOL Think of the care that you put into looking after your baby, and make sure that this extends to choosing a suitable public pool in which to teach your child to swim. Take your time and carefully check out the pools near where you live. The pool and changing facilities must be clean, and the water clean, clear, and warm. POINTS TO CONSIDER Size of pool There are a number of important points you should Pools come in all shapes and sizes, but with a little bear in mind (see also Questions and Answers, pp32–33) creativity you can carve out your own niche and before you select a pool in which to teach your child: adapt your lesson to any pool. If it is just you and your the pool water should be warm and clean the deck, locker room, and shower areas should be well-maintained and safe stroller access should be available with adequate space on decking areas decking should have good drainage so that it is not slippery the pool should be a comfortable depth for your lessons (see opposite) the pool water should be crystal clear disinfectant levels, for example of chlorine, must be sufficient to eliminate the risk of infection but should not irritate your child indoor pools should be adequately ventilated so there are no overpowering chemical smells outdoor pools should have some shade the lifeguards should be trained in CPR and First Aid and should be helpful, friendly, and informative an emergency telephone should be close by As well as the above, make sure that the pool opening times are convenient, and that there is safe parking and access to the pool. baby, then you will need a minimum area of 8 x 8 feet (2.4 x 2.4 m); for a small group you need at least 15 x 15 feet (4.6 x 4.6 m). C H O O S I N G A S U I TA B L E P O O L Checking the depth thermometer is an inexpensive and invaluable You will feel most comfortable holding your baby in investment. In a public pool, other swimmers will waist- to chest-deep water, the height of which will generally require lower temperatures so you will need vary between people, but is usually around 31/2–4 feet (1–1.2 m) deep. It is best to use an area of the pool with an even to compromise. If the water is less than 85°F (29.5°C), you may need to shorten the length of your lesson. If your child begins to shiver, has blue lips, is unhappy, depth or a very gradual slope. When working with a or is less cooperative than usual, get out of the pool, slope, just be aware of where—and how rapidly— dry off, and warm up. Remember that babies have the drop-off occurs, and try not to teach near any immature thermal regulatory systems and chill easily. dramatic drop-off so that you don’t suddenly enter deep water and lose your footing. 23 Outdoor hot tubs and Jacuzzis are also not recommended for use by babies since temperatures in these small pools often soar to 103°F (39.5°C), which Ladder or step access is dangerous as it far exceeds a baby’s normal body Pool steps can be useful for a number of activities. temperature of 98.6°F (37°C). For example, they are the ideal place for helping older children learn to put their faces in the water (see Air temperature pp80–81). Also the Alligator Walk (see p85) is practiced Take note of the air temperature. Remember that the on pool steps. Older babies love the independence of amazing thing about an indoor pool is that you might standing on the steps, kneeling on their hands and be swimming in a warm, heated pool while there is snow knees, or putting their face into a shallow area of water. on the ground outdoors. Even though the water is If there is only ladder entry at your chosen pool, heated, you’ll want the surrounding indoor air to keep then you can still accomplish everything noted above you from feeling chilled. The air temperature indoors through other activities. should be at least 75°F (24°C), which will be a comfortable temperature for you in a dry bathing suit Water cleanliness before you enter the pool. Locker or changing rooms The pool water should be clear enough so that you can should be kept at a comfortable temperature, too. easily see the bottom of the pool. Your public facility If you are swimming outdoors then it is best to swim must adhere to the water quality standards set by your when the air is at least 75°F (24°C), with sunny skies local government health officials. Acceptable Ph levels are and little or no wind, so there is no wind chill. between 7.2 and 7.8, with 7.4–7.6 as ideal. The levels of disinfectant must be high enough to ensure that the THE POOL AS A CLASSROOM pool water is impeccably clean, but not so strong that When your baby sees your pool classroom, she should they cause visual or respiratory problems. If, when you get the impression that it is a fun place to learn. Like place your face in the water, the water hurts your eyes any conscientious and organized teacher, you should then we recommend not swimming in it with your child. plan a layout of your space and equip your classroom before you begin. First walk the pool you plan to use Water temperature without your baby. Check for water clarity, appropriate Ideally, the water temperature in the pool should be temperature, ease of entry, depths, and slope. Imagine very warm for babies, and 90–93°F (32–34°C) is where you’ll play the games you’ve planned (see Games optimal. If you have your own pool, then a pool and Songs, pp48–51). 24 I N T RO D U C I N G B A B Y S W I M M I N G SAFETY Small children lack the cognitive ability to discern danger, and since water holds endless fascination for children of all ages you must take every precaution to prevent your child from entering the pool without you. It is your responsibility to implement safe procedures and prevent impulsive explorers from entering the water unsupervised. CONSTANT SUPERVISION Before you start your lessons, prepare an action plan so It is vital that you never leave a child unattended that you know what to do in case of an emergency. This either in or around water. This applies whether you will help you to react quickly, calmly, and effectively if are at a public pool, a friend’s house, at home, or on something untoward happens to your child. vacation. Remember: Whether in a public or private pool, always check never leave a child unattended in the bath first that the pool is safe, that no area is overly slippery always know where your children are, especially when and could cause a child to fall into the pool, and that you are near a body of water the water is clean and clear. never assume someone else is watching your child At a public pool: make sure that other caregivers understand the check that the locker rooms, shower areas, and deck importance of constant supervision are safe and well-maintained maintain constant eye supervision with your child ensure you know where the lifeguards and when around water emergency telephone are, as well as the rescue poles teach your child never to go in or near the water or ring buoys without a parent or caregiver check that the lifeguards are trained in CPR and if your child begins to walk or run toward the pool First Aid. without you, emphatically call to her to wait for you, then calmly but quickly walk over to her and take her hand in yours if your child is missing, always check the pool or other bodies of water first do not drink alcohol when supervising children keep contact with your baby when in the water. At a home pool: have a pole and ring buoy by the pool put toys and other appealing objects out of the pool and pool area when not in use keep a telephone by the pool, and make sure that emergency numbers are stored in the phone’s memory. LEARNING SWIMMING SAFETY SKILLS BE PREPARED No method of baby swimming can guarantee that your Familiarize yourself with all nationally recognized pool child will not drown, but by learning to swim, she will safety standards and teach your children all the pool increase her chance of getting to safety if she finds and water safety rules. Good safety habits, acquired herself in the water in an unsupervised situation. The early on, will last a lifetime. Remember that prevention is following safety skills should only be taught at the always the best cure, and that no child should ever be appropriate age and only when your child is ready. To considered “drownproof.” maintain the efficiency of the safety skills, you should SAFETY reinforce them at least twice a week as part of a 30-minute lesson. Start by teaching your child the first skill, and build up a foundation for the next skill. With proper prerequisites and training: At eight months a baby can begin to learn to hold her breath and propel herself through the water with confidence. This gives parents a few valuable seconds if their child enters the water. At 19 months a capable swimmer can begin to learn to return to the side of the pool. By 24 months, this skill may be executed with ease. At three years a competent swimmer can begin to learn to lift her head out of the water and take a breath. BARRIERS AROUND A HOME POOL The abilities of infants and toddlers change from day to day, so make sure that you have layers of protection to prevent your child from accidentally entering the pool area. Remember that a young child can drown in just a few inches of water, so if you are visiting a pool without child-proof barriers, always make sure that you can see where your child is. If your child is missing, always check the pool or other bodies of water first. At three-and-a-half an experienced swimmer can begin Close and lock all entrances from the house to learn to back float and roll from her front to her to the pool, spa, or other body of water. back and then her back to her front. Install an extra lock at the top of any doors leading to the pool.This should be well above the CPR AND FIRST AID We strongly recommend that parents and caregivers are certified in Infant/Child CPR, First Aid, and Water Safety. Courses in these skills are run by nationally recognized organizations (see Resources, p124). reach of children. Completely surround the pool with a meshtype fence.This must be impenetrable by children from all sides. It should have a high degree of transparency and a child-resistant latch. Always keep the gate closed and latched when the pool is not in use. If you use a different kind of fence, make sure that children will not be able to get a foothold and climb over it. Install a pool alarm. Some of these detect motion; others detect a mass in the water. Use a safety pool cover.This will totally isolate the pool. Remove the cover completely when the pool is in use. If you have an above-ground swimming pool, secure, lock, or remove any steps when the pool is not in use. Install a perimeter fence or wall around your garden or yard to stop unauthorized access from Having a sturdy, high fence around your yard and a good mesh-type pool fence that children cannot climb over are essential safety requirements if you have a home pool. the outside. 25 26 I N T RO D U C I N G B A B Y S W I M M I N G WHAT YOU NEED—THE BASICS We suggest that you pack a swimming bag (like a diaper bag) for your baby, and restock it after each lesson. As well as a swimsuit, towel, and swimming diapers, don’t forget to take sunblock, ear drops, a change of clothes, and a snack for your child. SWIMSUIT Your child’s swimsuit should fit comfortably and have OPTIONAL EXTRAS snug elastic around the legs for girls, and waist and legs SWIMMING DIAPERS As your lessons progress, you may want to add some extra items to your swimming bag (see Resources, pp124–25). Non-toilet-trained babies should always wear a swim A silicone swim cap.This slips easily on and off diaper, and in some countries this must be worn with a a baby’s head without tugging at her hair. swimsuit. You can use either a re-useable, washable nylon A neoprene wetsuit for cold weather. swim diaper, or a specially designed disposable swim Mesh and rubber pool shoes for use with diaper. For older children, you could use a swimsuit with flexible rubber fins. a built-in diaper or liner. Unlike regular disposable Goggles. Buy anti-fog, anti-leak goggles that fit for boys. Rinse and dry the suit after swimming. diapers, which aren’t suitable for swimming, disposable snugly on your child’s face. swim diapers will not break apart in the pool, nor will they absorb pool water and weigh your baby down. The two layers of protection—the swim diaper and the In some public pools your child will have to wear a swim diaper and swimsuit— although some diapers and swimsuits are made to be worn on their own. swimsuit—should contain any accident and give you time to get your child out of the pool to change him. It is a good idea to take a spare diaper to the pool. SUNBLOCK If swimming outdoors, you will need to apply a highSPF waterproof child’s sunblock. To maximize protection, apply to exposed areas half an hour before entering the pool. This allows time for the sunblock to be thoroughly absorbed into the skin and it will be less likely to run into your child’s eyes. Since sunblock stings and irritates the eyes, be very careful how you apply it. WHAT PARENTS NEED You will require a serviceable, baby-proof swimsuit that won’t fall off when your child tugs it, waterproof sunblock, a towel, and a change of clean, dry clothes. W H AT YO U N E E D — T H E B A S I C S You may want to purchase a sun-protective suit (see Resources, pp124–25) for your child to use for outdoor swimming in sunny climates, or for fairskinned children. It should be made of fabric that has ultraviolet protection. These suits not only stop the sun’s rays, but also help to block the wind 27 Apply sunblock 30 minutes before you enter the pool so that it soaks into the skin. Remember to reapply it regularly Pack everything you need in a mesh swimming bag. Make sure you have a large, dry towel, sunblock, ear drops, and a snack for your child Goggles help protect against the effects of pool chemicals, and can greatly benefit hesitant children. Children over the age of three are most likely to keep googles on Fins are used to improve kicking and help young swimmers get the feel of the water.They also help to correctly position the feet near the surface of the water Swimmer’s ear drops will evaporate any water left in the ear after swimming. Put two to three drops in each ear after swimming (see also p33). 28 I N T RO D U C I N G B A B Y S W I M M I N G TOYS AND LEARNING AIDS Visit any good early education center and you will see that toys, songs, and games are used to create a stimulating environment. A watery classroom should be no different—so use these suggestions for toys and aids to help your child learn to swim. Don’t worry if you don’t have everything, since you can improvise with other toys and household equipment. Toys are a vital component of this swimming program TOYS FOR BEGINNERS (see Resources, pp124–25). They can be used to Floating toys and balls can be used to encourage your encourage a child to do an activity, as a reward, or as a child to swim toward you and, along with buckets and distraction after trying a new technique. Depending on a floating baby pool, are used in a number of games. the pool you are using and your mode of Noodles are good for balancing on, while dive rings are transportation, you can either accessorize your classes fun to duck underwater for. with everything shown below, or take just a few things with you in a bag when you go to the pool, such as AIDS FOR INTERMEDIATES your child’s favorite floating toys and balls, a bucket, a Barbells, hoops, goggles, fins, and kickboards are best colander or small watering can, and some dive rings. used by intermediate and older swimmers who have already mastered the basic skills. basketball hoop mesh bag and towel buckets noodles dive rings and toys TOY S A N D L E A R N I N G A I D S 29 Use a variety of toys every lesson, either as an Wearing fins (top) not only lets your child swim enticement to swim toward, a reward, or a distraction farther, but helps to tone, and condition the leg muscles. for your child after he has attempted a new skill. Swimming through a hoop (above) provides a focus for your child and encourages proper body alignment. barbell kickboard goggles fins floating pool floating balls hoops 30 I N T RO D U C I N G B A B Y S W I M M I N G QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS PARENTAL CONCERNS I can’t swim, and I’m afraid of the water. Can I still teach my baby to swim? As long as you can comfortably stand in waist- to chestdeep water, you’ll have no problem.You don’t need to go underwater or be able to swim in order to teach your child. Just act confidently and happily so you don’t transfer any anxieties you may have to your child. Often, nonswimming parents who witness the joy of baby swimming become relaxed enough to give swimming another chance. I am nervous about teaching my baby on my own. What can I do? How about asking a group of like-minded friends, relatives, or neighbors and their babies to join you? Not only will you feel happier with the support of other adults in the water, but the group energy is contagious and puts everyone in a happy, playful, encouraging mood. Babies are taught in group classes at our swim school as we find children learn best when swimming with other children. Who can substitute for me in the water if I can’t get in the pool with my baby? Your child will succeed best when she has a trusted, familiar caregiver with her in the pool—for example, a grandparent, uncle, or babysitter. Just make sure that your substitute fully understands the gentle nature of this child-centered approach and follows the teaching instructions carefully. I’m pregnant. Can I still teach my baby to swim? At any one time, nearly a quarter of the mothers in our swim school are pregnant. As long as you get clearance from your physician, there is no reason why you shouldn’t give your child swimming lessons. I want to take my baby to swim classes as well as teaching her myself, but how do I choose a good one? There are a number of highly recommended classes with a strong local or national reputation, but you should still make sure the class meets your criteria for your child. We recommend group classes as children benefit from watching and playing with their peers. Make sure that there is a positive atmosphere with songs, games, and happy babies, and that there is a good rapport between the teacher, children, and parents.The teacher should be patient, enthusiastic, and focused on their class, knowing when and how to introduce skills gradually and sequentially in the curriculum and at the child’s level of readiness. AGE-RELATED QUERIES Do I really have to wait for my baby to be six months old before I start teaching her to swim? In our experience, starting formal instruction when your child is at least six months old is sensible. She has a medical history by six months, her head and neck strength have improved, and her level of alertness has increased. Plus, you have gained a comfort level in caring for your child.There’s also a lot you can do prior to six months to prepare her for her first swimming lessons (see Bathtime Fun, pp38–39). QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS My daughter is nearly four. Am I too late to start teaching her to swim? It is never too late to learn how to swim! We like to start babies before 19 months as younger babies usually love the water and aren’t testing their limits (or their parents’) as toddlers often are. For older children, fear may be more of a factor due to the child’s increased understanding of her physical world, her actions, and the concept of danger. However, it is a thrill to teach beginner three- and fouryear-olds.They may require more patience, more play, and more trust building, but their imaginations are developing, they are more verbal, their sense of humor can be tapped, and their pride once they learn something as momentous as swimming is incredible to watch. It may take your older baby longer to adjust to the water and learn the initial skills, but once she gains her confidence, her more mature physical abilities, coordination, and ability to comprehend and follow directions will allow her to move more rapidly through the program than a younger baby would. My three-year-old is so stubborn. How will I ever teach her to swim? Start by simply playing. Use toys, songs, and games to demonstrate what fun the two of you will have in the water (see Games and Songs, pp48–51). Don’t make the pool a battlefield—make it fun with lots of toys, balls, cups, and colanders she can play with and manipulate. Concentrate at first on things she finds interesting, then once you establish a learning rapport, you can slowly incorporate new skills into your play. THE BEST WAY TO LEARN How often should we take our baby swimming? “A little bit on a lot of days” is best.The more frequently you swim with your baby, the more natural the learning will be. Watch how your baby practices crawling at home, and note how she learns a little bit every day and tries again and again, improving as time progresses. Because a baby can’t swim in the pool by herself, you need to build her consistent, frequent lessons into your schedule. We have found that in baby swimming, particularly at the start, optimal learning consists of practicing four times per week, for 30 minutes each session, over a course of weeks and 31 months, gradually adding and refining skills. For frightened children or those who have had a bad water experience, four lessons per week is essential for overcoming apprehension and slowly building trust and comfort. What happens if I can’t take my child swimming as often as you suggest I should? Many busy family schedules do not permit four days of practice per week, but if you can visit the pool at least twice a week the learning will progress smoothly over a more extended and gradual time-frame. As you will be spending less time in the pool practicing skills, you should try to have additional bathtime sessions during the week to reinforce the pool lessons through songs and water play. When is the best time to practice? Babies learn best when they are comfortable, rested, alert, and fed. Choose a time midway between sleep or nap times, for example during the morning or early evening. Nap times vary and they often change for individuals during the course of learning to swim.This is normal and can be due to age, developmental growth, change of schedule, or even the seasons, so adjust your swimming lessons accordingly.Try not to have to wake a sleeping baby for a swimming lesson, as your child is likely to be cranky and uncooperative.You can feed your baby before your lesson, but make sure you don’t start swimming with her for at least half-an-hour after you have fed her. 32 I N T RO D U C I N G B A B Y S W I M M I N G Can I use toys, songs, and games in my lessons, or will they distract my child? We use toys to our benefit—as motivation, a reward, and a distraction to redirect attention. By using toys your child will learn about manipulating his environment—while playing at the Water Pouring Station (see pp46–47), he will discover which objects float, which sink, and how liquid conforms to the container it fills. Songs provide a needed diversionary break or rest following busier, more active exercise. Songs and games also enhance child development on many levels, including helping the development of motor skills and tactile stimulation. (See also Toys and Learning Aids, pp28–29, and Games and Songs, pp48–51.) Can I vary how often I teach my child? Once a beginner has established his foundation skills, ideally by having four lessons a week, switching to the twice-aweek format for intermediate and advanced skills is often easier to sustain for busy families. By this point, your child will be familiar with the structure of the lesson and all its elements. However, remember that if you go to the pool less often, you will need to adjust your teaching methods and introduce new skills more slowly.You may also find that only going twice a week is not providing enough water time, exposure, or practice for your child, and if this is the case, then increase the number of times you go. In addition, if your child is very clingy or apprehensive, going swimming more often will result in a better, more relaxed, natural atmosphere for him. Can I use inflatable water wings, buoyancy trainer swimsuits, or flotation devices? Various swim aids are acceptable if used solely as a supplement to your lessons, but several problems exist with their use. First, if you put your child in a flotation device (water wings, tube, buoyancy swimsuit, or similar), you must remain within hand’s reach of him.These items are not lifesaving devices, and a child may get in trouble if not carefully watched. Second, all of these devices are ultimately designed to keep your child’s head out of the water. Since we are trying to teach a flat, horizontal position with your child’s face in the water, this awkward position with the head out of the water can establish technique problems or bad habits that must then be overcome. On the plus side, when used as supplements to your lessons, these devices can provide an alternative way for your child to play in the pool, and may encourage kicking and water adjustment. SAFETY CONCERNS How can I choose a good pool to take my baby to? Make sure that the pool and changing facilities are wellmaintained, clean, and safe, and that the water is clear and warm (90–93°F/32–34°C is best).The water should be disinfected so that it is clear, not cloudy, but there shouldn’t be an overwhelming smell of chemicals. Check if or where the pool slopes into the deep end, and make sure you know where the lifeguards are located. (See also Choosing a Suitable Pool, pp22–23.) How soon can I teach my baby water safety rules? Because young babies comprehend language before they can actually speak, you can start shaping safety practices and setting pool rules very early on. In this book, you will QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS see that children are taught not to jump until the count of “three.” Waiting for the count of “three” is critical as it reinforces the fact that pool entry requires adult permission and does not just happen when the child wants it to. Once your baby starts to walk, begin establishing a simple routine. Never let your child walk toward the pool without you, but take his hand in yours and walk together.This early repetition will often result in your child actually seeking out your hand prior to approaching the pool. (See also Safety, pp24–25, and Learning to Wait, p76.) There is so much concrete in and around pools, how can I protect my baby from bumps and scrapes? Hard surfaces can spell potential accidents. When on the deck, practice walking, rather than running, with your child toward the pool.Verbally point out the fact that, “We walk, not run, when going to the pool.” Avoid obviously slick or wet surfaces if you are carrying your child. Once in the pool, practice unaided swims in open areas away from walls. When practicing swims for which you approach the wall, move more slowly and deliberately.Your adult walking pace toward the wall will allow your child to swim at the actual speed he kicks in the water and will avoid accelerating him toward concrete surfaces. HEALTH-RELATED CONCERNS Should my baby be inoculated before swimming classes or prior to entering a public pool? Just as you would do for any other physical activity, your child should be cleared by your pediatrician before enrolling in swimming classes, or before you begin teaching him at home. By the age of six months, most babies have received preliminary shots. Before you go swimming, also make sure that you and your child are free of contagious diseases, and neither of you has open cuts or sores. My baby has a cough and runny nose—can we still go swimming together? It is not normally advisable to go swimming if your baby has a cold, as he will have a harder time holding his breath and exercising, and he may not feel like going in the water at all. Just rest at home until he feels better. On your return to the water, take it easy; his skills may be a little rusty. 33 Can premature and physically or mentally challenged babies learn to swim? The forgiving buoyancy of water and the gentleness of this program, coupled with the focus on parental bonding, is outstanding therapy. We have taught premature infants, babies who are developmentally delayed or have autism or Down Syndrome, and babies with physical limitations or muscular weaknesses—all have thrived in the water. Just check with your pediatrician before you start lessons. If my child has asthma or allergies can I take him swimming, or will it make his condition worse? As always, you must clear all pre-existing medical conditions with your pediatrician before starting swimming lessons. Some research has found that swimming may be less likely to produce symptoms in children with asthma than other forms of exercise.This is thought to be because the humid air in the pool area doesn’t irritate the respiratory system as much as dry air does. Generally, very few allergies are triggered by swimming, although there are a few children who are sensitive to chlorine. Is my child likely to develop an ear infection as a result of swimming? If you take preventative measures—using ear drops after each swim—your child is unlikely to get a swimmer’s ear infection. As a baby can’t unclog a water-blocked ear, it will be your measures that will make sure trapped water doesn’t turn into a bacterial ear infection. Buy ready-made ear drops at your drugstore, and put two or three drops in each ear after swimming. How can I tell if my baby has an ear infection? If your child tugs at his ear or tries to put his finger in his ear and is irritable, he may have swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) and you should take him to see your pediatrician. If treatment is required then do not take your child swimming until the problem has cleared up.The other common ear infections are middle ear infections (otitis media), which seem to be unrelated to swimming and result from colds, congestion, allergies etc.Your physician will advise you whether your child can swim. If frequent ear infections have necessitated “tubes” being placed in his ears, consult your physician about the measures you should take. Baby being held, coming up from a submersion, happy happy.Slade wat e r conf i d ence Come on in… the water’s waiting! Whether your baby is just six months or nearly four years old, this chapter shows you enticing learn-through-play strategies to teach him essential foundation skills. From early fun and play in the bathtub, to safely entering the pool, holding your child in the water, and using toys, games, and songs, this chapter prepares you for your first lessons. The initial step is water adjustment, in which your baby learns to be comfortable in the pool. Then, based on his readiness, you’ll teach him to hold his breath when submerging on cue. With time, practice, and proficiency, you’ll let go of him for a solo swim. Finally, you will witness the event that is the goal of this chapter—your baby swimming freely between his parents for five seconds—a wonderful achievement. 36 WAT E R C O N F I D E N C E TEACHING BEGINNERS Parents of all beginners, whether six months or four years old, should start here. Some of you may have never taken your child to a pool, some may have played with your baby in the water or even submerged your child. Whatever level you are at, start at the beginning of the program and gradually, with practice, your child will gain confidence in the water. BATHTIME FUN USING THE LESSON PLANS Even before your first trip to the pool, get your child Lesson plans are given at the start of each stage of the accustomed to water during her bath (see pp38–39). If skills for beginners. These are suggestions for fast-paced she loves the water, we want to keep it that way; if she 30-minute lessons, allowing you to practice the skills doesn’t care for it, we want to improve the situation. you teach your child in fun, inviting ways. By following Remember the key approaches of the program—gradual, the plans, your child will practice a wide range of skills long-term, child-centered, playful, developmentally and without you losing her attention. The structure of the age-appropriate—and put these into practice in the tub. plans, and the focus on the routine of the Activity Circuit, also bring familiarity and consistency to your WATER ADJUSTMENT swimming sessions, so your child will come to look Getting your child used to the water, and helping her forward to each successive part of the lesson. to learn to love it, is a key part of this program. The When you start teaching your child to swim, simply first stage of water adjustment happens in the bath. play with her in the water. Then, once you feel she is Once your child is happy playing in the bath, you can ready, introduce the exercises in Stage One (see pp54–69) transfer your bathtime games and songs to the pool. one at a time, as listed in the lesson plan. Remember that In the pool, introduce water on your own face or on a doll or puppet, then try a little on your child’s face. Play at the Water Pouring Station (see pp46–47), which is a fun way to get her accustomed to the water. Always make sure your child is happy in the pool. If she becomes distressed and cannot be distracted by a toy or game, stop. Back off and simply play games or pour water on less threatening parts of the body than the face and head. Play is a great way for your child to become comfortable with having water poured or splashed onto her. Games and songs (pp48–51) are therefore ideal tools for water adjustment as well as for learning new skills. Attention spans are short at these ages, so to keep your child happy in the pool make sure your lessons flow well. By following the format of the Activity Circuit (see pp52–53) your child will practice different skills as she moves at her own pace from one activity to another. your child will only be able to practice a few of the skills, so spend plenty of time playing games or at the Water TEACHING BEGINNERS 37 Pouring Station during your lessons. Over time, she will BEGINNERS AGE 12 TO 35 MONTHS master all the skills in Stage One, and you will be able to If your child is aged between one year and 35 months complete the entire lesson plan for that stage, and can then start with Beginners: Stage One. Once she can move on to the next. Amend the lesson plans slightly at perform all the skills given in that section, move on each session to suit your child’s mood on the day. to Beginners: Stage Two to help her build on the foundation skills learned in Stage One. Once your BEGINNERS: WHERE TO START child has acquired all the foundation skills in Stages All beginners should start the program at Beginners: One and Two and is at least 14 months old, move on Stage One (pp54–69), regardless of their age, because to the Intermediates chapter. the general foundation skills that all young swimmers need are introduced here. Start off slowly, spending time BEGINNERS AGE THREE TO FOUR YEARS getting your child adjusted to the water using games, If your child is aged between three and four years, songs, and play, keeping your lessons as fun as possible. you should first refer to the section showing Adaptations Work through the exercises sequentially at your child’s for Three- to Four-year-old Beginners (pp78–85). This pace, practicing the skills by following the Stage One section has its own lesson plan that uses many of the lesson plan (p55). techniques shown in Beginners: Stage One, but— importantly—it substitutes Stage One submersion skills BEGINNERS AGE SIX TO 11 MONTHS (pp59–62) with self-submersions (pp80–81), which are If your child is between six and 11 months old, start with more age-appropriate. Also, the swims in Stage One Beginners: Stage One (pp54–69). Once she has mastered (pp64–67) are replaced by the techniques on pp82–83. all the skills given in this section, and turns one year Once your child has successfully mastered all the old, you can move on to teach her the new skills given self-submersions and swims specifically adapted for in Beginners: Stage Two (pp70–77). When she has learned three- to four-year-olds and has learned other Stage the skills in Stage Two and is at least 14 months old, One foundation skills (kicking, jumping, and balance), move on to the Intermediates chapter (pp86–123). she can move on to Beginners: Stage Two. 38 WAT E R C O N F I D E N C E BATHTIME FUN If your baby enjoys his bathtime, we want to maintain and transfer his love of water to the pool where play is broader, splashes are bigger, and water is everywhere on the horizon. For a baby less enchanted by the bath and having water on his face, going to the pool will get him used to water in a different environment. By using your baby’s daily bath routine to bring in play that complements swimming, you elevate a simple daily ritual into an essential learning tool. As your baby’s view expands beyond the confines of his bath and you both develop new ways to interact with water, baths become easier and more pleasurable. Months of preparation in the bath before beginning baby swimming will help you and your child move smoothly from the bathtub to the pool. First baths—sponge bathing A baby’s first baths are generally not done in the bathtub, but by sponge bathing. Early bathtimes should be loving moments spent interacting with your baby. A soft tone of voice, gentle singing, and warm water squeezed from a washcloth or sponge, or poured from your hands lets your baby know how special your time with him and the water is. To get your child used to the water, before using soap, trickle water all over him. Lay your child back very slightly from vertical, and with a cupped hand, cradle his head at the neck. With your other hand, use a wet sponge or washcloth to gently squeeze water over the top of his scalp so it flows over his face. If he is startled, reassure him with your voice and stroke his arms, cheek, and hair to comfort him. Apply a little water several times each bathtime. Tub baths—parent and child Initially, when your baby moves from sponge baths to the bathtub you should join him. Before you get in, always test the temperature with your elbow to check B AT H T I M E F U N 39 that it is comfortably warm. Cradle your child securely SHOWERS against you and hold him with one hand. With your other hand, use a washcloth or sponge to drizzle water over his head and face. Slowly move him around in the water, supporting his chin and neck with your hands if he is on his stomach, or supporting his neck and head if he is on his back. Once your baby is older and has head and neck strength, sitting positions will be more interesting for him. It is a good idea to add a selection of colorful floating toys to the bathtub that he can play with. At this point, you can also start using songs to encourage water adjustment. First, sing simple songs with verses that encourage hand and feet movements, such as “The People on the Bus” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” Clap, splash, and kick with your baby to the various verses. Then, before using soap or shampoo, sing bath-related rhymes such as “This is the Way We Wash our Clothes” (from “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”, but substituting body parts for clothes), and dripping small amounts of water over the different parts The convenience of showers and the feel of constantly running water on the skin makes them popular with adults, but what about with babies? Showers offer water in a playful way that both you and your child can enjoy. However, they don’t allow for time to play with toys the way a bath does, so make sure you build some fun time in. Use a removable shower head to tickle the toes, tummy, and fingers, or to drench a puppet or toy. SAFETY PRECAUTIONS Turn on the shower before entering and carefully check the water temperature before exposing your baby to it. Adjust the flow from the shower head to a much more gentle pressure for your baby than you would use as an adult. Watch that you don’t over-expose your child’s ears, nose, and mouth to rushing water. of your baby. Finish by dripping water over the top of his head, then divert your child’s attention with a toy. From the age of about three, more elaborate fantasy Tub baths—older children play is possible in the water. Toys should reflect this Older, stronger babies can sit up on their own in change, so try adding a mermaid doll and a school of the bathtub, but never leave a child unattended in the toy fish; a port with boats and cargo; or a troupe bath, even if he is in only a few inches of water. Sit of puppets to the bath. As you play with your child, next to the tub so you can watch and interact with develop different scenarios, and make sure you pour your child. This is a good time to introduce a variety water over the toys and your child as you play. Use of toys with different uses, such as cups for pouring, the puppets to show your child a new trick of blowing a waterproof doll you can pour water over, a strainer bubbles, or dip the mermaid’s face into the water and or colander you can pour water through, and a spray encourage your child to copy her. Children will perform bottle you can mist water from. Your baby will be actions for toys and puppets that they would never interested in the movement of water from container easily attempt for their parents. to container, and should be encouraged to pour water Once your child is at least six months old, enjoys from the containers onto a doll and himself. This type his time in the bath, and is happy with water trickling of play in the bathtub is a good precursor to the over his head and face, you can take him for his first Water Pouring Station (see pp46–47). trip to the pool. 40 WAT E R C O N F I D E N C E FIRST TRIP TO THE POOL Before your first trip to the pool, get your child used to the water while in the bath (see Bathtime Fun, pp38–39). Then, when your child is at least six months old and enjoys playing in the bath, it’s time to transfer your games to the pool. This is the start of a very exciting journey for both of the pool—not one when she is likely to be tired or you, so try to make your child’s first experience at the hungry—and don’t rush while you establish a new pool a happy one that she’ll want to repeat and will routine. For your first few lessons, just think of the begin looking forward to. Choose an optimal time of day to go to pool as a “big bathtub,” and let her simply play in the pool and get used to the seemingly vast expanses of water around her. On your first trip to the pool, allow your child plenty of time to get accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells of this new and strange environment. Remember that she is experiencing a novel and very different location, situation, and routine. Observation helps to acclimatize a child, so talk her through the different areas of the pool. Show her the water, toys, and locker room. Tell her what a good time you and she are going to have, and how you’re going to play together in the pool just like you do in the bath. Don’t pour or trickle any water on your child’s face during this initial trip. This is purely a chance for your baby to gain familiarity with the pool and to enjoy the water. This is a great day for observing your baby and bonding with her, and it is therefore vital that you take it slowly and calmly so that she leaves on a positive note and does not have any worries about her next trip to the pool. During your first few sessions in the pool do not try teaching your child any of the techniques shown further on in this chapter. Practice instead a safe entry into the pool so that you are both happy getting into and out of the water (see pp41–42) and try out a few of the safe holds (see p43). Allow your baby time to get used to the water and the new environment of the pool, practice familiar bathtime activities, some songs and games (see pp48–51), and let her play and relax. F I R S T T R I P TO T H E P O O L 41 SAFE POOL ENTRY Getting into and out of the pool may seem to be a straightforward maneuver, but with a baby in your arms and wet, slippery surfaces to negotiate, you need a plan that guarantees safety for both you and your child. Each pool is designed in a different way, but assessing the safest access from the deck into the water and back out again will make for pleasurable first and final moments of your child’s swimming lessons. There are a number of different ways you can enter the pool with a baby or young toddler, depending on the access available, your child’s age, and whether you are on your own or accompanied by another adult. If you are alone, do not be afraid to ask for help. Simple pool entry with two adults If you are at the pool with a partner, then pool entry is simplified.While you stay on the deck with your baby, steadying her in a sitting position at the pool’s edge, your partner can safely get into the pool. Once he is standing on the pool floor facing your child, you can ease your baby into his arms with either a sitting jump or a lift, before safely entering the pool yourself. Reverse this procedure to carry out a safe exit from the pool. Simple pool entry with one adult If you are on your own with a young baby of manageable weight, a safe entry can easily be accomplished down a set of concrete pool steps.With one arm, hold your baby so that he is straddling your hip at the waist.With your free hand, firmly grasp the handrail and slowly walk down the pool steps. If there is no handrail, use your free hand to help you keep your balance if necessary. 42 WAT E R C O N F I D E N C E Alternate pool entry Stand with your child next to you by the edge of the pool, with her on your dominant side (your right side if you are right-handed). Carefully lower yourself to a sitting position, with your knees bent and your feet in the water. Help your child to sit next to you in the same position.Tell her to stay seated while you get in the pool, and to wait until you tell her she can jump in. To enter the pool, place your hands on the pool edge on either side of your hips, with your palms facing down and your fingers facing the water. Push down on your hands, lock your elbows, lift your buttocks, and gently glide into the water so you land standing on the pool floor. Turn so you are standing in front of your child. Place your hands under her armpits so she can jump into your arms. If you are teaching your child in a pool with no concrete steps, or if you are alone without the benefit of a helping hand, practice the alternate pool entry (see ENTERING THE POOL SAFELY above). Use this only at the shallow end of the pool and with older children who can steadily sit and Never jump or slide into a pool with a child in independently move from a sitting to a standing your arms. position and back again. If unassisted, try to avoid climbing down a ladder Throughout this entry, talk to your child so that she knows what you are doing at each point—that you will enter the water first, and that it will then be her turn to get into the swimming pool. This should stop her from trying to get into the water before you are ready to catch her. Do not attempt the alternate pool entry if your when holding a child. Always use a handrail when one is available. Move slowly and securely as you enter and exit the pool; there is no rush. If you are alone or worried, ask pool personnel to help you to enter the water safely. physical abilities are compromised in any way, for For the alternate pool entry, choose a depth example by pregnancy, back problems, or wrist, arm, marked between 3 and 4 feet (90 and 120 cm). or shoulder weakness. F I R S T T R I P TO T H E P O O L 43 SAFE HOLDS The following holds offer you comfortable and safe options for moving with your child. With all these holds, make sure your hands are secure but relaxed (and not clenched), as this will indicate your confidence. Also talk to your child throughout to reassure her. The Waltz Hold This hold provides the most security for your child, and should be used if he is unsure or clinging to you. It is the ideal hold for the first few trips to the pool. Move a child from the Waltz Hold to the Face-to-face Hold only when you feel him relax in your arms. Hold your baby up in your arms, slightly to one side of your torso, so that he is straddling you around the waist to chest area and is only slightly immersed in the water. The Face-to-face Hold You will find that the Face-to-face Hold provides a great opportunity to communicate with your baby as you will have direct eye contact.With your child facing you, place your hands under her armpits, with your thumbs facing up.Walk slowly backward in the water so that her body floats up and stretches out behind her.Watch her mouth to ensure that she is not licking or swallowing any water. If her mouth is too close to the water, tilt your wrists upward slightly so that her face moves away from the surface of the water. The Pass Hold This is the most common way to hold a relaxed child, and you will use this functional hold to perform most techniques, including kicking drills, passes, and swims. Hold your baby on your dominant side (your right side if you are right-handed), so that she is in a near-horizontal position with her face a few inches above the water. Your dominant hand should be placed under her far armpit, with your thumb facing up.Your non-dominant hand should be under the armpit nearest to you with your thumb, again, facing up. 44 WAT E R C O N F I D E N C E WATER ADJUSTMENT For the first few lessons, simply play in the pool with your child while he becomes accustomed to the water. This is a very important part of the progam—if your child is comfortable with water streaming down his face, and happy in the pool, he will be able to easily move on to being submerged under the water in later lessons. doll or puppet, and then over himself. With a more confident baby, place the sponge over your own head and let the water drip over your face, reacting gleefully. Then sponge the water over your baby, or let him do it. If your child is not comfortable with water being poured over his face, begin with pouring games (see pp46–47) until he is more relaxed in the water, then progress to pouring water on his face. Using songs Singing a familiar bathtime song helps make the transition from tub to pool a smooth one. Try using “This is the Way We Wash our Clothes” (see p39). Beginning at the toes, move up the body with the next verses, pouring the water over the body part relevant to Slowly conditioning your child to feel water on his the verse you are singing. At the verse for the face, take eyes, ears, nose, and mouth helps him to gradually 1/4–1/3 adapt to—and later enjoy—the sensation of water “1, 2, 3,” then pour the water on to the top of the on his face when he goes underwater. The best way scalp. Immediately re-direct your child’s attention with a to do this is through play. toy or a different activity. Using games HELPING FRIGHTENED CHILDREN A good way to encourage a child—especially a For a clinging, fearful baby, the pool can seem like a frightened older child—to accept the idea of water daunting place, but you can change his perception by flowing over his face is to turn it into a game. Use building up his trust and confidence in you. Think an absorbent foam ball or sponge to playfully stream about how your child might perceive this unfamiliar water over your child’s head, or over another object situation and what he may be worried about. Then think or person. To start with, use only small amounts of of ways to gently help your baby to overcome his fears. water, then increase the amount over the weeks. Never pull a clinging child off you, but slowly ease him For a young baby, pour a trickle of water from a of a cup of water, sing, but before pouring, count toward a new level of comfort through play. Some sponge over a doll or puppet, then over your child. children are so anxious they won’t get into the pool for Encourage an older baby to sponge water over the several lessons, but by going slowly you can help. WAT E R A D J U S T M E N T Start on the steps Seated, kneeling, or on his stomach, a child in the lowwater level of the steps is reminded of the comforting bathtub. Don’t feel like you’re missing out on “the big pool”—your baby’s face can be submerged from the edge of the steps, he can kick on them, jump from them, and slowly ease himself into the bigger spaces. Basketball fun The best way to calm a frightened child is to redirect his attention by playing a game—a basketball and floating hoop near the steps are good for this purpose. With both of you standing by the edge of the pool, let your child shoot a hoop and cheer him on. Then move down on to the top step and take alternate turns—you USING DISTRACTION TECHNIQUES When you want to help your child to overcome any apprehensions or worries, try using these distraction techniques: throw a ball and ask your child to chase after it as you take him through the water toward it. Use whichever hold he is most comfortable with if there are two of you teaching your child, while you hold him either play a game of catch with a floating ball or encourage him to chase after your partner, who should reward him with a toy when he reaches him (see also p56) shoot one then he shoots one. Move gradually down blow bubbles from a jar of toy bubble soap the steps when he is ready, continuing to take turns give him plenty of toys to play with, such as those shooting hoops and encouraging him all the time. used in the Water Pouring Station (see pp46–47). 45 46 WAT E R C O N F I D E N C E WATER POURING STATION Encouraging your child to play with water is a great way to get her used to it, whether she is uncertain about having water on her face, or a is beginner swimmer who needs encouragement to go under the water. The Water Pouring Station is great fun, and can be set up with any pouring items you have available—children’s watering cans, toy waterwheels, cups, kitchen colanders, small buckets, plastic dolls, and spray misters are all ideal. Move with your child from one item to the next, both of you pouring water with the objects, into the objects, and over each other. Help your child to pour water over a doll or puppet— this encourages her to pour water over herself, too Water Play Choose objects that carry different amounts of water, and from which water can be emptied in different ways, so that your child has plenty of variety to keep her interested. Colanders create a satisfyingly large shower or waterfall of water WAT E R P O U R I N G S TAT I O N WATER ADJUSTMENT THROUGH PLAY The Water Pouring Station should be used every lesson, whatever your child’s abilities, as it has many benefits: pouring from one vessel to another can help to refine motor skills and coordination 47 Cups can be used to pour a sheet of water over the scalp and front of the face Children love watching the water moving as it powers the waterwheel it allows children of different abilities to explore at their own rate in this self-paced activity it creates a welcome break from skills that might be more intimidating or challenging it allows you to assess when your child is ready to learn facial submersion. Once a child is comfortable with water streaming over her face, a parent can begin introducing facial submersions and the Breath-holding Cue (see pp60–61). Watering cans provide a light shower of water, and can be used to pour water over your child, yourself, or a doll Bright, colorful toys and balls are always appealing to children, and are reminiscent of bathtime fun Plastic cups are easy and fun for your child to use. Encourage him to pour water from one cup to another. 48 WAT E R C O N F I D E N C E GAMES AND SONGS Treat your first few trips to the pool simply as extra play sessions, allowing your child to become accustomed to the new environment and encouraging a love of water by making the time fun using games and songs. Once you feel your child is ready to start learning the water-confidence techniques (see pp54–85), games and songs will become part of her lessons, keeping her stimulated and happy as she progresses, and creating a positive and fun atmosphere that encourages learning. Just as children love playing at home and at school, so GAMES TO PLAY WITH YOUR CHILD they will love singing and playing games in the water. By fully integrating games and songs into your lessons, Games and songs also support learning on a variety of you will be able to introduce new skills to your baby fronts as they involve skills such as coordination, logic, in entertaining ways. You can also use them to provide and memory. As such, they are invaluable learning aids fun breaks for your child after she has tried new or when you are teaching your child to swim. challenging skills. Repeat the same games and songs Children’s songs from around the world lend in the bathtub and the pool so that your child is themselves well to adaptation in the pool. Two of our familiar with them. This will also reinforce the games favorites are “The People on the Bus” and “If You’re and accompanying movements and encourage water Happy and You Know It,” but use any song that is confidence in both the pool and the bath. Play the suitable for the actions involved in water play. games suggested below with your child, but adapt them to suit her and the pool that you are in. Motor Boat, Motor Boat Hold your child under her armpits so that she is in the Pass Hold (see p43). Spin yourself and your child around quickly in a circle so that a slight wave is made by your actions. You can just do the spin, telling your child that you are going to go fast like a motor boat does, or even better, you can sing a little song as you play it, first going slowly, then fast, then running out of gas and stopping. The song goes: Motor boat, motor boat go so slow Motor boat, motor boat go so fast Motor boat, motor boat, run out of gas! Children love to be spun round in the water, making Motor Boat, Motor Boat a very popular game, even with frightened children. GAMES AND SONGS 49 Where Did They Go? If your child is unsure of being in the water or has been startled when practicing one of the waterconfidence techniques, show her this “magic trick” to divert her attention. You will need to fill a bucket with a variety of colorful floating balls and toys. It is easiest to do this trick if you have both hands free, so ideally have a partner in the water to hold your baby. Show your child the filled bucket, saying, “we’re going to play a magic trick,” then quickly tip the bucket upside down into the water trapping all the balls inside the submerged bucket. Ask your child, “where did they go?” Then count to three, and tip the bucket right side up under the water. All the balls will pop to the surface, and as they do you should shout, “There they are!” Ask your child to pick up the toys and help her to put them back in the bucket so you can play again. TIPS FOR PLAYING GAMES SUCCESSFULLY Enjoy the look of delight on your child’s face as the balls pop up out of the water when playing Where Did They Go? Then encourage her to fill up the bucket again. The Pick-a-ball Game Play the same games—or sing the same songs—at This key game is played every lesson during the Activity home (whether in the garden or the bathtub). If your Circuit (see pp52–53) and encourages your child to dip, child is familiar with them already, she is likely to be kick, or swim underwater, depending on her ability—in confident playing them in the pool. fact, these skills are introduced as part of this game. Choose songs that match movement with lyrics, Fill a small inflated baby pool with floating balls and as these help to stimulate several brain functions at toys and secure it at the edge of the pool. You will also once, helping with the development of gross and fine need a bucket on the side of the pool. Ask your child motor skills, coordination, and rhythm. to select a toy. Holding your child, stand opposite your Interact with your baby while you are playing the partner, 2–3 feet (60–90 cm) apart. Ask your child to games. It will keep her alert and interested and she throw the toy to your partner, then pass her to your will follow the concept of what is going on through partner and the chosen toy. (As your child’s comfort in your running commentary. the water increases, submerge or swim her toward your If there is a group of you, circle up for singing. partner using the skills shown on pp58–61 and pp64–67.) It’s fun to watch faces across from you doing the As she reaches your partner, he should give her the toy motions and may encourage an attempt at a (a good distraction if she is startled at being submerged) previously untried skill. and direct her to kick to the pool wall and place the toy inside the bucket. Repeat with the rest of the toys. 50 WAT E R C O N F I D E N C E GROUP GAMES While playing group games you will see how much your child benefits from watching his peers, demonstrating The Pick-a-ball Game is a favorite with children of all ages, and is played several times every lesson as a key part of the Activity Circuit (see pp52–53). what he can do, or copying them. Group games are a great way for children to learn both water and social that they encircle a parent-child pair, then raised up skills while having so much fun they won’t want to stop. again when the main verse is sung. One of the noodle holders may gently pour water from a watering can London Bridge Is Falling Down You will need two people to hold two foam noodles in an arch over the water. In a line, parents walk in a large circle, carrying or swimming their child under the noodle bridge while singing “London Bridge Is Falling Down.” If your child is a beginner, carry him above the water in the Pass Hold (see p43). If your child is comfortable in the water, you can swim him under the bridge either above or under the water, depending on his abilities. On the verse, “Take the key and lock her up,” the noodles should be dropped to water level so A very stimulating game, “London Bridge Is Falling Down” is always exciting for young children, who love the combination of the words and actions. over the children as they pass under the noodle bridge. GAMES AND SONGS 51 Run and Jump armpit. While the child runs down the mat have the If you are able to use a large floating mat, which are group chant, “run, run, run.” When he reaches the end often available in public pools, then Run and Jump is a of the mat, the spotter should lift him off the mat, good activity for boosting your child’s confidence and giving him the Breath-holding Cue (see pp60–61) and helping him to learn how to balance on a moving place him in the water for a dip or swim to the parent. surface. However, as your child will perform a standing More experienced swimmers will jump in unassisted. jump with a held breath it is only suitable for children who are at the intermediate level (pp86–123). Working in a group, the parents should line up along Big Ball Splash For this game, three or more parents should stand in a one of the long sides of the mat with their children circle, holding their children under their armpits so that and hold on to the mat with a free hand to stabilize it. they are in a vertical position in front of them and On the opposite side, someone with two free hands facing away from them. Toss a large floating ball into the should “spot” the child on the mat. circle and tell the children to push the ball to their The first parent should lift their child onto the mat, friends. The aim is to get the children to extend their then walk to the end of the mat to wait for their child. arms, reach forward, and push the ball to another child. The “spotter” should hold the child until the parent is When everyone has had a few turns with their hands, in the catch position, then the spotter should walk or ask the children to put their feet up and kick or splash run the child down the mat with one hand under each the ball to each other instead. Everyone has a great time during Big Ball Splash—so much so that they will forget that they are being splashed. 52 WAT E R C O N F I D E N C E THE ACTIVITY CIRCUIT Make the Activity Circuit a key part of each lesson—it provides a fun and interactive structure for your child to practice the swimming skills he is learning. The circuit is very flexible and can be adapted to the pool, situation, age, and skill level of your child, allowing him to practice different skills at the stations that make up the circuit. We recommend that you use the Activity Circuit during every lesson. In it, your child moves around the circuit from one activity to the next, playing different games and practicing a wide variety of skills. Its interactive format and use of toys and learning aids provides a lively and fun environment and promotes cognitive, perceptual, and sensory-motor development. The different stations of the Activity Circuit provide a set routine for you and your child to follow while practicing skills. To benefit most from the circuit, you should devote between 10 and 15 minutes to it in total at each lesson, spending just a few minutes at each station. This means that, depending on your child, you should go around the circuit between three and five times. Monkey Walk (see p77) Chasing a parent while monkey walking teaches children to move along the pool wall to a safe exit point. Water Pouring Station (see pp46–47) Here children can get used to water by pouring it over dolls, toys, their parents, and themselves. THE ACTIVITY CIRCUIT 53 During the Activity Circuit your child practices key skills You can adapt the circuit to suit your child’s age and such as above- and underwater swims and the Breath- skill level, as well as the pool and the equipment you holding Cue (all as part of the Pick-a-ball Game), have. An eight-month-old beginner would play all the bringing in new skills as he becomes developmentally games above the water, while an experienced swimmer of ready (see the lesson plans on the following pages). The three might swim the majority of the course, do standing Water Pouring Station (see pp46–47) and Pick-a-ball jumps, and dive to find sunken rings. Game (see p49) are key elements of the Activity Circuit. Each lesson plan outlines the best activities to include in the Activity Circuit for your child’s age and ability, although you may need to adapt this plan to suit the pool you are in. Pick-a-ball Game (see p49) This game incorporates passes and swims in a fun way, with children moving between their parents to retrieve a favorite toy, then dunking it in a bucket. Basketball (see p45) is a popular game with children of all ages—from frightened beginners to experienced swimmers—they all love shooting hoops in the pool. Alligator Walk (see p85) Older children can practice the Alligator Walk, moving along the steps in a way that encourages the correct body alignment for swimming. ( M i n i m u m ag e s i x m o n t h s ) b e g i n n e r s : S TAG E O N E S TA G E O N E L E S S O N P L A N 55 STAGE ONE LESSON PLAN LESSON PLAN REQUIREMENTS FOR STAGE ONE Minimum Age: Your child should be at least six months old. Skill Level: Your child is a beginner.You should have played at home in the bath so she is accustomed to the feel of the water (see Bathtime Fun, pp38–39), and visited and played in the pool to help her adjust to the new environment (see First Trip to the Pool, pp40–43). WARM UP 3–5 minutes Practise different holds and kicking. SONG BREAK 3–5 minutes Sing “The Wheels on the Bus” or a bathtime song. ACTIVITY CIRCUIT 10–12 minutes total p39 pp52–53 Structure the circuit as shown below. Go around 3–5 times, spending a few minutes at each “station” before moving on to the next. a) Water Pouring Station All new swimmers should start with this section, whether pp43; 56 pp46–47 b) Jump from the Wall (once per round) p63 c) Pick-a-ball Game (at appropriate level–see below) p49 a water-loving six-month-old baby, a boisterous toddler, This game involves passing your child from one parent or a nervous three-year-old. (Note that there are certain to the other. A series of submersion skills are introduced using adaptations for three- to four-year-old beginners—see this pass. Over time, as your child adjusts to one submersion pp78–85.) Once your child is accustomed to playing in skill, move on to the next in the order given below. Note the bath, and you have introduced her in an unhurried, that some submersions should be practised a maximum of non-stressful way to the pool, you can begin using the 1–3 times per lesson. As you will be going around the lesson plan here to structure your 30-minute lessons. circuit 3–5 times, use the Above-water Pass instead in These will consist of water-adjustment games as well as some circuits so your child isn’t submerged too often. the foundation swimming skills given in this section. i) Above-water Pass p57 Introduce new skills in the order in which they appear ii) Cheek Dip 3–5 times max p58 in this section. Over the days, weeks and months, move iii) Cheek Roll 1–3 times max on to the next skill or skill level only when your child iv) The Breath-holding Cue 1–3 times max pp60–61 masters comfortably the skill she has previously learned. v) First Held Underwater Swim 1–3 times max pp64–65 At the end of this stage, your child should be able to vi) First Unaided Underwater Swim 3–5 times max pp66–67 complete the lesson plan at the highest skill level listed. Although the lesson plan is your guideline, always base p59 SONG or GAME BREAK 2–4 minutes Sing or play one or two songs or games. pp48–51 your lessons on your child’s learning ability, mood and comfort levels. Remember that this programme takes a JUMPS FROM THE WALL 5 minutes total gentle, child-centred approach. Follow your child’s lead— Jump from the Wall (first or second level depending if she doesn’t want to do one of the techniques one on ability) 3–4 times max p63 BALANCE 3–5 minutes p68 TIME TO GO 1 minute p69 day, don’t push her, simply try another that she is familiar with, play a game or spend extra time at the Water Pouring Station (see pp46–47). 56 B E G I N N E R S : S TA G E O N E KICKING TEACHING TIPS Babies are born with a natural dolphin- or froglike kicking reflex that usually disappears between six and 12 months and is replaced by a rudimentary learned kick with a small up-and-down movement (a “flutter”). Between the end of the reflex kick and the start of the learned kick there may be no kick at all, and your child will just glide. At this point, if you want to encourage When you witness someone else kicking in the pool, point it out to your child, saying “kick, kick.” Praise and reinforce any attempt at kicking, but do not move your baby’s legs to simulate a kick. Lightly tickling a baby on the arch of the foot may prompt a kick. your child to kick, these games are a good way to motivate him. FIRST OPTION SECOND OPTION Stand in waist- to chest-deep water with your child If your child isn’t eager to chase a toy, he is likely to in the Pass Hold (see p43). Throw a floating rubber toy love this baby version of tag. Hold your child as for the or ball 3–4 feet (90–120 cm) ahead of you. Holding first option, while your partner stands just ahead of you your child above the water, encourage him to go and and encourages your child to “kick your feet and get get the toy and move him slowly toward it, praising any me.” Your partner should keep walking slightly ahead of attempts he makes to kick. Once he catches the toy, you and your child until your child is allowed to catch praise him again. him and get a hug as a reward. A B O V E - WAT E R PA S S ABOVE-WATER PASS 57 OBJECTIVES AND TIPS The simple action of passing your child to your partner above water builds trust and familiarity. This basic pass will be used and To slowly introduce different pass positions in a non-threatening, above-water situation. To get your child used to being passed from one adult to another. adapted throughout this chapter, and eventually leads to your child accomplishing an unaided swim between his parents (see pp66–67). Establishing a common repeatable pattern helps your child assimilate new skills as he will recognize and be reassured by Practice this new skill during the Pick-a-ball Game (see p49) as you pass your child to your partner. the familiar action of the above-water pass. 1 Play the Pick-a-ball Game (see p49) as part of the Activity Circuit (see pp52–53) and ask your child to select a favorite toy or ball. Stand in waist- to chest-deep water opposite the receiving partner, 2–3 feet (60–90 cm) apart. Hold your baby in the Pass Hold (see p43), and toss the toy across to the receiver. Encourage your child to get the toy, then move him forward toward the receiver. Your baby may kick or he may simply glide with his head above the water. 2 The receiving partner should have his hands outstretched as your child approaches him, ready to catch and reward your child with the toy. After picking your child up and praising him, he should turn toward the bucket on the pool wall, encouraging your child to kick toward it and to put the toy in the bucket. 58 B E G I N N E R S : S TA G E O N E CHEEK DIP TEACHING TIPS Gently brushing your child’s cheek against the surface of the water is a great way to expose him to the sensation of water sheeting across his face. After getting him used to the feeling of water on his head in the bathtub (see Bathtime Fun, pp38–39), you will now bring your child’s face into close proximity with the Once your child is happy with the Above-water Pass (see p57) as part of the Pick-a-ball Game, replace it with the Cheek Dip. If you feel your child resisting in any way, stop, and try again after a few more lessons. pool water in preparation for his first submersion (see opposite). 1 Stand in waist- to chest-deep water and hold your child in the Pass Hold (see p43). Lift him up 8–10 inches (20–25 cm) so he is in an upright position with just his legs in the water. Start to bring him slowly across the front of your body. 2 As you bring him across your body, rotate your brush along the water’s surface. Then lift him and repeat wrists so he is turned onto one side, and bring the action the other way, gently brushing his opposite him down to the water. Gently lay the back of his head, ear and cheek along the surface. Once he is comfortable ear, and the edge of his cheek on the water. Continue with water on his cheek, brush the corner of his mouth your arm movement across your body and let his face along the water (to prepare for breath-holding skills). C H E E K RO L L CHEEK ROLL Once your child is relaxed and comfortable practicing the Cheek Dip (see opposite), he will be ready for his first true submersion, where his face is briefly placed under the water. If your baby becomes at all tense or frightened while doing this action, go back to the Water Pouring Station (see pp46–47) for 59 TEACHING TIPS Once your child is comfortable with the Cheek Dip (see p58) as part of the Pick-a-ball Game, replace it with the Cheek Roll. If your child is three or older, practice Facial Submersions (see pp80–81) instead of this skill. more water adjustment. 1 Stand in waist- to chest-deep water opposite a receiving partner, 3–4 feet (90–120 cm) apart. Hold your baby in the Pass Hold (see p43), then lift him up 8–10 inches (20–25 cm) so that he is in an upright position with just his legs in the water. Turn your wrists and move him gently across your front, bringing him down toward the water so his cheek is in the water. (To help keep the motion for steps one and two smooth, say it aloud: “lift, brush, roll, up.”) 2 As he moves across your front, roll your wrists so that his face turns to the surface of the water and his mouth and eyes briefly enter the water, then lift him up and out of the water into the receiver’s hands. The receiver should re-direct your baby’s attention with a toy or new activity, praise him, and check quickly for any discomfort or coughing. 60 B E G I N N E R S : S TA G E O N E THE BREATHHOLDING CUE TEACHING TIPS Once your baby enjoys having water poured over her head and face and is happy carrying out the Cheek Roll (see p59), it’s time to teach her a new way to go under the water. The Breath-holding Cue is an important technique to learn, but should only be Once your child is happy with the Cheek Roll (see p59) as part of the Pick-a-ball Game, replace it with The Breath-holding Cue. At first, practice just half-second dips. If your child is three or older, practice Facial Submersions (see pp80–81) instead of this skill. attempted when your instincts assure you that your child is ready. 1 Stand facing your partner in waist-deep water, cues should have signalled to her that she will be going 3–4 feet (90–120 cm) apart. The receiving parent underwater, but check that she is ready—her eyes should hold a toy in her hands above the water. Hold should be closed but her mouth may be open. Carry your child in the Pass Hold (see p43), then take two on gently lowering her so she goes underwater. Note steps forward while counting aloud “1, 2, 3.” On “3,” lift that as your child becomes more competent, over the her 8–10 inches (20–25 cm) up from the water, then weeks, months, and years, you can gradually decrease lower her toward the water. The lifting and counting the height of the lift to 4 inches (10 cm). T H E B R E AT H - H O L D I N G C U E 2 61 Move your child forward toward your partner, with her face just below the surface of the water, taking another step if necessary. 3 After half a second, bring your child up above the surface of the water into the hands of the receiver. The receiver should check your child for any coughing, but more importantly, praise her and divert her attention. Don’t worry if she looks surprised, but if she cries, move on to a different activity. Repeat a maximum of three times during each lesson in different rounds of the Activity Circuit (see pp52–53). 62 B E G I N N E R S : S TA G E O N E FACE-TO-FACE DIP TEACHING TIPS In this alternative method of submersion, you dip your child underwater while she is facing toward you, so she will see your happy, approving face as she comes out of the dip, and is reassured if this technique startles her. Use the count and lift of the Breath-holding Cue (see pp60–61) to get your child ready to go underwater, submerging her for between half a second and Standing in chest-deep water will help you to comfortably hold your child’s weight, even though your arms are extended. Walk backward at an even and smooth pace throughout. Check that your baby’s body is stretching out behind her with her feet up near the surface. three seconds depending on her ability and level of comfort. 1 Stand in chest-deep water with your child in the Face-to-face Hold (see p43). Extend your arms out, with your elbows slightly bent, to make a space between you and your child. Walk slowly backward, and count “1, 2, 3.” On “3,” lift your child 4–10 inches (10–30 cm) above the water. Her eyes should close in response to the lift cue. 2 Continue slowly walking backward as you bring again after half to one second, then distract her with your child down from the lift and submerge her a toy. As you practice over time, you can gradually face just under the surface of the water. Bring her up increase the time submerged to three seconds. J U M P F RO M T H E WA L L JUMP FROM THE WALL 63 OBJECTIVES AND TIPS Learning a safe way to jump from the pool wall into the water ensures that your child clears the hard concrete surfaces of the wall and lands safely in the water or in your arms. At first, she To teach a touch cue with a verbal cue to initiate the chest-forward lean and jump. To establish a counting protocol so your child does not leave the wall before your count of “3.” will be fully guided by you to jump. Then, as time progresses, she will begin initiating her own lean toward you after you have given her a touch cue (moving your hands under her armpits), and will jump on her own after you have verbally cued her. Provide balance for an unsteady baby by keeping your hands on her at all times. FIRST LEVEL 1 Stand in waist- to chest-deep water, and place your child in a sitting position on the pool wall with your hands under her armpits. While you steady her, count aloud “1, 2, 3.” On “3,” gently move your hands forward in a rubbing motion under your child’s armpits to cue her to jump. Keep your hands under her armpits as she jumps to you, but do not pull her hands or wrists to force a jump. 2 As she bends at the waist, allow her to come forward in a jump so that her bottom leaves the wall last. Catch her before her head goes under the water. SECOND LEVEL Once your child is comfortable at the first level, cue her as before, but when she leans forward, keep your hands slightly away from her body and catch her in your open hands as her face splashes the surface of the water. 64 B E G I N N E R S : S TA G E O N E FIRST HELD UNDERWATER SWIM Once your child is comfortable with brief frontal submersions, is competent at practicing the Breath-holding Cue (see pp60–61), and comes out of her dip happy and consistently holding her breath, you are ready to try the First Held Underwater Swim. This stage will build up your child’s endurance, transforming a brief half-second dip into first a one-, then a two-, and finally a threesecond held submersion with successful breath holding. FIRST LEVEL 1 Stand in waist- to chest-deep water holding your baby in the Pass Hold (see p43). You should be facing your partner, about 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) apart. Give your child the Breath-holding Cue (see pp60–61), then move your baby down toward the water. TEACHING TIPS Once your child is comfortable with the Breath-holding Cue (see pp60–61) as part of the Pick-a-ball Game, replace it with the First Held Underwater Swim. If your child is three or older, practice this swim but adapt it so that your child self-submerges after being given a verbal cue (see p82), then move on to the First Short Swim (see pp82–83). F I R S T H E L D U N D E RWAT E R S W I M 2 As your child’s face is submerged, both you and SECOND LEVEL the receiver should slowly count “1, 2,” as you walk Once your child comfortably accomplishes the first 65 slowly forward, keeping your baby’s face just below the level, you can gradually increase the time she is held water’s surface. On “2,” lift her out of the water to and guided underwater by an additional second. Follow the receiver, who should quickly check that she hasn’t as for the first level, but slowly count “1, 2, 3” aloud swallowed any water, before praising her and redirecting before you lift her out to the receiver. Practice this her attention with a toy. Repeat three times per lesson, three times per lesson, again spread out at intervals spread out at intervals during the lesson, in different in different rounds of the Activity Circuit. rounds of the Activity Circuit (see pp52–53), for at least four lessons before moving on to the second level. 66 B E G I N N E R S : S TA G E O N E FIRST UNAIDED UNDERWATER SWIM Weeks of play, practice, and patience are about to culminate in an amazing event—a brief, unaided swim. For the first time, a child TEACHING TIPS Once your child is comfortable with the First Held Underwater Swim (see pp64–65) as part of the Picka-ball Game, replace it with the First Unaided Underwater Swim. experiencing the joy and freedom of movement. This new, flowing If your child is three or older, practice the First Short Swim (see pp82–83) instead of this skill. motion stimulates growth on many levels—lung capacity will Ensure you are calm but upbeat. will feel weightless in the water as he swims between his parents, gradually increase, as will motor skills and spatial awareness. 1 Stand facing your partner in waist- to chest-deep water, 4 feet (1.2 m) apart. Hold your child in the Pass Hold (see p43), then give him the Breath-holding Cue (see pp60–61). Check that he is holding his breath, then slowly move forward, submerging him so his face is underwater. Release him below the surface, gently pushing him slightly forward. 2 With the receiver, slowly count aloud “1, 2,” from the moment of submersion. Always make sure that the amount of time your child is submerged never exceeds his current readiness. Your child should be in a horizontal position, and may be kicking or gliding. F I R S T U N A I D E D U N D E RWAT E R S W I M 3 On the count of “2,” the receiver should gently place his hands under your child’s armpits and lift him out above the water. The receiver should make sure your child is comfortable, then praise him and redirect his attention with a toy or new activity. This first swim will be just two seconds long, and you should limit the number of swims per lesson to between three and five. Increase the length of this swim by one second every three to 10 lessons depending on your child’s readiness and comfort, until your child can swim unaided for five seconds. 67 68 B E G I N N E R S : S TA G E O N E BALANCE SAFETY TIPS Finding balance in the water is an unique experience, which complements learning to balance on land. For a baby in the water, the dense liquid environment with its altered gravity envelops him, supports him, and buoys him as he learns to find and maintain his center of gravity. “Riding” a noodle is a good way to teach your child to balance as he will repeatedly need to adjust to a bobbing surface beneath him, when moving forward, Babies are quick movers, so be ready to steady rapid movements that may cause a loss of balance. When your baby is sitting on or in a floating object, always keep your hands on him or stay within hand’s reach of him. Remember that floating pool toys are not lifesaving devices, so never leave your child alone in the pool. changing direction, or going around in circles. 1 Place your child on the middle of a noodle, so that he is straddling it and riding it like a horse. You can 2 Sing a horse-related song, such as “She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain.” For the first verse walk either hold him from the side or sit behind him and your child around in a circle to the left; for the second hold him around his waist. verse switch and circle to the right. Follow by slowly spinning your child around 360° twice to the left, then twice to the right. End with three big jumps in place. T I M E TO G O TIME TO GO 69 TEACHING TIPS Even if your child is tired, she may not want to leave the pool, especially if she’s had a fun lesson. An exit ritual signals that it’s time to go, which can make the transition smoother. For our exit ritual we sing “Ring Around the Rosie.” For several weeks, merely sprinkle water over your child’s head during the last verse. Weeks later, when your child has fully mastered the Breath-holding Cue (see pp60–61) and can perform an unaided swim (see pp66–67), Lift your baby smoothly up, lower her smoothly down, and lift her smoothly back up again as if in one long connected movement. If your child is happy being submerged, and you would like to submerge with her, hold her so that she is facing you, lift her, then audibly take a breath and briefly submerge together. she can vertically go under the water at the end of the song. 1 In waist- to chest-deep water, hold your child under her 2 As you sing “...down,” lower her smoothly under the water, 3 After the brief dip, smoothly lift her up above the surface armpits, facing away from you. covering her head for about half to of the water, then turn her around Sing the nursery rhyme “Ring one second. (For several weeks, when to face you and praise her for Around the Rosie” and walk your child is just a beginner, simply doing so well in the lesson. She around in a circle to the left. When drizzle water over her head rather will soon come to realize that this you sing “We all fall...” stand still, than submerging her.) exit ritual signifies the end of the then lift your child up vertically lesson, and that it is now time to 10–12 inches (25–30 cm). leave the pool. ( M I N I M U M AG E O N E Y E A R) b e g i n n e r s : S TAG E T WO S TA G E T W O L E S S O N P L A N 71 STAGE TWO LESSON PLAN LESSON PLAN REQUIREMENTS FOR STAGE TWO Minimum Age: Your child should be at least one year old. Skill Level: Your child has successfully completed all the techniques in stage one (pp54–69). He has acquired water-adjustment skills, has learned the Breath-holding Cue, can jump from the wall into your arms, and can move through the water in a brief, unaided swim. WARM UP 3–5 minutes Practice kicking and chasing a toy or kicking drills. pp56; 72 SONG BREAK 3–5 minutes Sing “The People on the Bus” or a bathtime song. Incorporate bubble blowing into the song. pp39; 73 ACTIVITY CIRCUIT 10–12 minutes total pp52–53 Structure the circuit as shown below. Go around the circuit 3–5 times per lesson, spending a short time at each station before moving on to the next. a) Water Pouring Station pp46–47 As your child develops from a baby into a toddler, b) Monkey Walk p77 he becomes more active and playful in the pool. c) Jump from the Wall (once per round) p63 During this part of the program he strengthens all the d) Pick-a-ball Game p49 foundation skills he has acquired in stage one, but now By this stage your child should have gradually and you can add new activities such as Kicking Drills (see sequentially learned the submersion skills for stage one. p72) and Monkey Walk (see p77), which will suit his Continue to submerge your child during the game using the increased abilities. technique for the First Unaided Underwater Swim (see As before, work through the exercises in this section in the order in which they appear, and introduce the skills based on your child’s readiness and comfort. Children who are relaxed, receptive, and happy in the water may progress very quickly through the skills, while hesitant or cautious children will need to spend pp66–67), but do not repeat this more than 3–5 times per lesson. Use the Above-water Pass (see p57) instead to give your child a rest from being submerged. e) Basketball p45 SONG OR GAME BREAK 2–4 minutes Sing or play one or two songs or games. pp48–51 more time during each lesson simply playing and at the Water Pouring Station (see pp46–47). Don’t rush and WALL APPROACHES AND JUMPS 5 minutes total you will find that over the weeks and months your child Pool Wall Approaches learns new skills at his own pace. Reaching for and Grabbing the Wall (first or second For toddlers expressing their independence, do not level depending on ability) 3–4 times max p74 make the pool or the lesson a battleground. Allowing Jumps from the Wall choice at the Water Pouring Station and during the Jumps from the Wall (first or second level depending Pick-a-ball Game (see p49) gives your child some on ability) 3–4 times max p63 BALANCE 3–5 minutes p68 TIME TO GO 1 minute p69 control over his environment. The playful structure of the lesson plan also keeps your child engaged in the pool. As always, adapt the plan to suit the pool you are in. 72 B E G I N N E R S : S TA G E T W O KICKING DRILLS As your child develops and starts to walk and even run, he will bring increased coordination to bear on his kick—and the splashes will get bigger, too. Although some new beginners may not kick and will simply glide for a while, children in this age group generally exhibit a more pronounced learned kick. Eventually, with practice, a steady up-and-down kick (a “flutter”) can be achieved, so try these kicking drills with him. OPTION FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN In chest-deep water, stand with your child held facing away from you and directly in front of you in a simulated sitting position in the water. Your partner should kick vigorously in front of both of you. Say the words “kick, kick” and point to your partner’s splashing feet. Then encourage your child to repeat what they have seen: “Make big splashes and get us all wet!” OPTION FOR OLDER CHILDREN Sit side-by-side on the pool wall, with your feet in the water. If your child is nervous, he can start off sitting on your lap. Demonstrate a kick for your child, repeating the words “kick, kick, kick” as you perform the movement, then ask your child to kick with you. TEACHING TIPS Encourage your child to watch and then imitate other children and adults as they kick in the water—he will be motivated by the resulting splashes. Teach your child to associate the verbal command “kick, kick” with a specific physical activity to be performed by him. BLOWING BUBBLES BLOWING BUBBLES 73 TEACHING TIPS Bubble blowing before the age of five helps children get used to touching the surface of the water with their lips. It is not required for submersion and swimming, but it does help with learning breath control and breath holding. This is a good age to introduce bubble blowing since older babies and toddlers are increasingly aware of your mouth movements and will attempt Make sure your child’s face is close enough to the water so she can bend forward and reach it, but never push her lips toward the water to make her try. A little coughing or sputtering may occur at first.This will stop once your child can produce a steady outward flow of air. to mimic the sounds you make. FIRST OPTION Hold your child in the Face-to-face or Pass Hold (see above the water, then put your mouth in the water and p43). She should be close enough to the water so she blow bubbles. Let her watch you so she can copy you, can tip her face forward and touch it. First, blow air then encourage her to blow bubbles with you. SECOND OPTION If your child is worried about blowing bubbles directly into the pool water, either blow bubbles in your cupped hand filled with water or use a shallow plastic bowl. Again, let your child watch you blowing bubbles, then encourage her to copy you. 74 B E G I N N E R S : S TA G E T W O REACHING FOR AND GRABBING THE WALL OBJECTIVES To learn to reach out ahead and grab the pool wall with the head above the water. Learning to reach for and grab the stability of the pool wall sets an early desirable framework for safety skills learned later in the program. The skills of reaching and grabbing acquired in these two exercises will ultimately develop into the more sophisticated skills of turning around and grabbing the wall for safety, as well To accomplish a sturdy grip on the wall while being held. To successfully hold the wall unaided for five seconds. To reach for and grab the wall after a cued, held submersion. as shimmying along the wall or climbing the wall to exit the pool. FIRST LEVEL Place a toy on the pool wall or in the gutter. With your child in the Pass Hold (see p43), stand back 5–6 feet (1.5–1.8 m) from the wall. Slowly approach the wall, encouraging your child to kick.When you are 10–12 inches (25–30 cm) from the wall, stop. Ask your child to reach out and grab the wall. 1 Continue holding your child under the armpits and reward him with the toy when he grabs the wall. Gradually, after several practices, when your child is holding the wall firmly, begin slipping first one hand then the other away until your child is holding the wall by himself for five seconds. 2 R E AC H I N G F O R A N D G R A B B I N G T H E WA L L SECOND LEVEL Once your child can complete the first level successfully, and can confidently carry out the Breath-holding Cue (see pp60–61) and First Unaided Underwater Swim (see pp66–67), you can submerge her as you approach the wall. Place a toy on the wall. With your child in the Pass Hold (see p43), stand 5–6 feet (1.5–1.8 m) from the wall. Give her the Breathholding Cue and check that she is ready to go underwater. Submerge her briefly and propel her toward the wall, then return her to the surface 1 foot (30 cm) before the wall. 1 Keeping your hands under your child’s armpits, ask her to grab the wall. Approach the wall slowly so that she will not bump her head on the concrete. Praise her and give her the toy when she grabs the wall. 2 75 76 B E G I N N E R S : S TA G E T W O LEARNING TO WAIT Teaching your child to wait for a cue from an adult before entering a body of water is a vital safety skill. Along with the safe pool entries (see pp41–42) and sitting jumps from the wall (see p63), learning to wait is an important skill for your child OBJECTIVES AND TIPS To establish important safety rules from an early age and teach your child to enter the pool only with your permission. Use this technique every time you practice jumping from the wall. to learn, both in and out of the pool. FIRST OPTION Standing in waist-deep water, place your child on the wall so he is ready for a jump. If he begins to lean or jump prematurely, put your right hand flat on his chest and your left hand under his right armpit. Tell him to “wait until I have counted to 3.” Count to cue the jump, keeping your hands in the same position while you count “1, 2.” As you reach “3,” move your right hand to under his left armpit, cueing him to jump. Catch him as per the instructions for jumping from the wall (see p63). SECOND OPTION Once a child is walking and running on her own, enforcing safety rules will keep her away from immediate danger. Before entering the pool area with your child, hold her hand and tell her to walk with you. If she begins to run toward the pool by herself, firmly call to her to “wait.” Walk up to her quickly, hold her hand, and tell her, “Do not go in unless I am with you.” Do not discipline your child, but firmly tell her she must not go in on her own. M O N K E Y WA L K MONKEY WALK 77 TEACHING TIPS Rob imagined a small monkey edging along a branch when he named this hand-by-hand shimmy. This drill is a vital part of early safety skills since it teaches a child to move safely in the pool alone, even if he can’t swim. Once a child can grab the wall, he Place a toy 4 feet (1.2 m) away from your child in the gutter. Reward him with the toy once he has reached it by himself. Practice as part of the Activity Circuit (see pp52–53). can shimmy over to the nearest ladder or steps and exit the pool. FIRST LEVEL Position your child so that he is firmly gripping the pool gutter or wall, and place a toy in the gutter or on the wall 4 feet (1.2 m) away from you. Stand behind him with your hands on top of his. Slide his right hand along the gutter, then slide his left hand toward his right hand so they meet. As you move his hands say aloud, “slide… together.” Repeat this action as you move along the wall until your child reaches the toy. SECOND LEVEL Once your child has learned how to monkey walk with in front of her, with both of you gripping the gutter. your hands guiding hers, she can try it on her own. Encourage her to chase you as you monkey walk ahead Stand alongside your child, about 1–2 feet (30–60 cm) of her. Once she catches you, give her a big hug. T H R E E - to f o u r - Y E A R - o l d b e g i n n e r s a da p tat i o n s f o r ADAPTED LESSON PLAN 79 ADAPTED LESSON PLAN LESSON PLAN REQUIREMENTS FOR STAGE THREE Minimum Age: Your child should be at least three years old. Skill Level: Your child is a beginner.You should already have played at home in the bath so he is accustomed to the feel of water (see Bathtime Fun, pp38–39), and visited and played in the pool to help him adjust to the new environment (see First Trip to the Pool, pp40–43). WARM UP 3 minutes Practice kicking and chasing a toy or kicking drills. pp56; 72 SONG BREAK 3–5 minutes Sing “The Wheels on the Bus” or a bathtime song. ACTIVITY CIRCUIT 10–12 minutes total p39 pp52–53 Structure the circuit as shown below. Go around 3–5 times. a) Water Pouring Station pp46–47 b) Monkey Walk p77 c) Pick-a-ball Game (at appropriate level–see below) p49 This game involves passing your child between parents while This section is specifically adapted for beginners over the introducing submersion skills. As your child adjusts to one skill, age of three. Unlike younger counterparts, they should be move on to the next in the order given. Use the Above-water full participants in the “when” and “how” of submersions, Pass for some circuits so your child isn’t submerged too often. practising self-submersions rather than being submerged Only practice the swims once your child happily self-submerges. by their parent. To address the needs of the eager, as well i) Above-water Pass p57 as the frightened, beginner, we have included a number of ii) Cheek Dip 3–5 times max p58 games that allow your child to practise self-submersion, iii) Facial self-submersion (adapted for open water)see left so he learns to put his face in the water willingly. iv) First Held Underwater Swim with self-submersion Follow the lesson plan here to guide you through the techniques in Stage One and this section, which substitutes (see p82) 2–4 times max pp64–65 v) First Short Swim 3–4 times max pp82–83 self-initiated submersions for parent-initiated ones. Note d) Basketball that you should only practise the First Held Underwater e) Facial Submersions 2–4 times max p45 Swim (see pp64–65) or First Short Swim (see pp82–83) f) Alligator Walk once your child can self-submerge confidently at the pool g) Standing Step Jump or Jump from the Wall pp84; 63 steps (see pp80–81), then when held in the open water. To SONG or GAME BREAK 2–4 minutes pp48–51 pp80–81 p85 adapt pp80–81 for open water (for a facial self-submersion during the pass in Pick-a-ball Game) the sending parent WALL APPROACHES AND JUMPS 5 minutes total holds the child opposite the receiving parent, 30–46cm a) Reaching for and Grabbing the Wall (first level, or (12–18 inches) away. Use techniques from level 1, 3 or 4, second level with self-submersion, depending on ability) encouraging your child to briefly dip his own face in the 3 times max water, then transfer him to the receiving parent who praises him and re-directs his attention to finish the game. Once your child has mastered the skills in this stage, move on to Stage Two, again substituting self-initiated submersions for parent-initiated ones. p74 b) Jump from the Wall (first or second level depending on ability) 3–4 times max p63 BALANCE 3–5 minutes p68 TIME TO GO 1 minute p69 80 A DA P TAT I O N S F O R T H R E E - TO F O U R - Y E A R - O L D B E G I N N E R S FACIAL SUBMERSIONS You need to approach the technique of facial submersion for three- to four-year-olds in a different way than for younger children. At these ages, children become full participants in the “when” and “how” of submerging their faces in the water. By using playful games, your child will initiate this defining moment and submerge her face herself. Her face will beam with pride and TEACHING TIPS Never force your child’s head under the water. Self-initiated submersion may come excitedly the first day or it may take weeks of practice—your child may also put her face in the water one day and not want to the next. Don’t worry about these hiccups—go at your child’s pace. a sense of accomplishment in conquering the unknown. FIRST LEVEL SECOND LEVEL With your child sitting on a shallow pool step if she is Stand in chest-deep water with your hands gripping nervous, hold her in the Face-to-face Hold (see p43) the pool wall. Ask your child to hold on to the wall with your arms outstretched and your elbows slightly next to you. Tell her that you are going to play a game bent. Play a game of “quick draw”—see who can dip of peekaboo Pop your head under the water, then come their face in and out of the water fastest. Start by up and quickly say, “Peekaboo. Your turn!” You may need dipping your eyes, nose, and mouth in and out of the to go up and down two or three times before she water, then ask her to copy you and see if she can do copies you, and at first she may just dip her chin in it as quickly as you. the water and not her whole face. FACIAL SUBMERSIONS 81 THIRD LEVEL Sit facing your child on a shallow pool step. Take your finger and pretend to “paint” the colors of the rainbow one at a time on your child’s forehead. Ask her to tell you which color comes next. Now ask her to “wash off” the imaginary paint, and encourage her to lean forward and dip all or part of her face into the water. Repeat a few times. FOURTH LEVEL Hide some colorful “treasure” on a shallow pool step, such as plastic weighted toys, coins, costume jewelry, or diving rings. With both you and your child wearing goggles, put your face in the water first to look at the sunken objects. Then encourage your child to come and dip her face in and look at the treasure with you. 82 A DA P TAT I O N S F O R T H R E E - TO F O U R - Y E A R - O L D B E G I N N E R S FIRST SHORT SWIM Your child’s first unaided swim is the culmination of months of practice—this is one of life’s big moments! Before you try this technique, ensure your child confidently self-submerges as shown on pp80–81. Next, practice both levels of the First Held Underwater Swim (see pp64–65), but with your child choosing OBJECTIVES To provide a secure, trustworthy base from which—and toward which—your child can swim. To maintain and increase your child’s confidence in the water. His self-esteem will grow as he realizes he doesn’t need you to give him a cue for submersion. to submerge his own face in the water by allowing you to count him in instead of being given a lift cue. This means that, before he learns the First Short Swim, he will be able to hold his breath and To help your child to hold his breath, self-submerge, and swim unaided for two seconds. go underwater without needing you to initiate the submersion. 1 Standing in chest-deep water and facing your partner, about 2–3 feet (60–90 cm) apart, hold your child in the Pass Hold (see p43). Ask your child to stretch out his hands toward your partner, with his palms facing downward. Tell him, “When you put your face in, I’m going to send you over to [the receiver]. Keep your face in until you touch her hands, then come up and say ‘hello!’” Reach your child toward the receiver’s outstretched hands (her palms should be facing upward) and let him touch them to show him how close her hands are. F I R S T S H O RT S W I M 2 83 Ask your child if he is ready to go underwater, then as he holds his breath and submerges, push him slightly forward and release your hands from under his armpits. As he is submerged, count “1, 2.” The receiver lets your child reach out and touch her hands, then catches your child’s hands in hers. Your child should either lift his own head up and say “hello” to the receiver after this 2-second swim, or be lifted up. Praise your child. 84 A DA P TAT I O N S F O R T H R E E - TO F O U R - Y E A R - O L D B E G I N N E R S STANDING STEP JUMP There is often a wonderful exuberance when children jump into the water, and they love to repeat this activity again and again. Where you get your child to perform this jump is important. If you position her in waist- to chest-deep water, her face is already close to the surface and she needs only to lean forward to reach you. While some children will quickly turn this small jump into a leap, others will need time before they even lean toward you. TEACHING TIPS Stay very close to your child at first, as she may perceive the space between you to be enormous. The closer you stand in front of your child, the better the lean, and the better the body position for your child’s jump. Never force your child to jump— wait until she is ready. 2 Now, help her to get up to the top step. Guide her to stand on the bottom step, or the middle step if the bottom step is too deep. Position her so she is facing away from you and toward the steps. Ask her to put her arms out and, 1 Help your child stand on a pool step so that she is in waist- to chest- on your count of “1, 2, 3,” lean deep water. Stand directly in front of her on the pool floor. Ask her to toward the top step and reach for stand on the edge of the step and curl her toes over the edge. Brushing it with her hands. Once she has your hands under her armpits, count “1, 2, 3,” then encourage her to bend her hands firmly on the top step, her knees, lean over, push herself off the step, and jump forward toward she can climb up the steps. Stand you. Keep your hands close to her as she jumps toward you, and catch her behind her so that you can help while her face is still above the water. her if she needs it. A L L I G ATO R WA L K ALLIGATOR WALK 85 OBJECTIVES AND TIPS This fun exercise was inspired by alligators stretching out flat while sunning themselves in shallow water. In this game, you ask your child to lie on the shallow steps of the pool and act like an alligator. The position allows him to experience the correct horizontal body alignment for swimming, and to extend his legs. Plus, he will become used to having his face near the water, which To help promote a good, flat, elongated body position and an up-and-down kick. If you want to get your child used to having his face in the water, ask him to blow bubbles as well. Practice as part of the Activity Circuit (see pp52–53). helps him to become even more accustomed to submersions. FIRST LEVEL SECOND LEVEL Help your child lie flat on his stomach at one Once your child is comfortable with the first level, you end of the shallow pool step. Stand at the other end can ask him to blow bubbles or make alligator-like of the step and ask him to crawl toward you on his grunts and growls as he kicks and moves along the stomach, using his arms to pull himself forward. pool step. All of these activities will help him to get Now ask him to also kick his feet. The step should used to the feel of water on his face, and will make this stop his knees from bending fully, which will help to exercise seem more like a fun game. Eventually, he will promote a more efficient kick. be happy to put his entire face in the water. SW I M M I NG U NA I D E D Congratulations! Your child can now successfully submerge on cue, comfortably swim for five seconds while holding her breath, steadily kick, confidently propel herself forward, and happily emerge from her swim without having swallowed any water. As a learning team, you and your child are now ready to add new, more complex skills to your repertoire, such as turning around underwater, floating, and diving for rings. As always, our goal in this chapter is a relaxed, happy child who is enjoying the process of learning to swim. Progressing at your child’s pace and making each lesson playful and fun will result in a child who is truly at home in the water. 88 SWIMMING UNAIDED TEACHING INTERMEDIATES This chapter is designed for parents and children who have achieved the basic water confidence skills, and are ready for more complex techniques. It should only be started once your child can competently perform the skills in the Water Confidence chapter. There is no big jump from beginners to intermediates. Lesson plan Instead, it is part of a gradual process that builds on all Use the suggested lesson plans given at the start of the skills that your child has learned in the previous each intermediates stage as the basis of your 30-minute chapter, so that he is not only able to swim, but truly lessons, but amend them to suit your child’s readiness, loves the water. This chapter is divided into three stages, experience, abilities, and skill level. The basic structure of each with a minimum age requirement. Make sure you the lesson should remain relatively similar, but as your don’t teach a child any skills that are meant for older child learns more skills, they can be absorbed into the children. Instead, stick to the skills for your child’s age regular structure of your lessons. Try and have at least group so you introduce them at the optimal time, when two, and ideally four, lessons per week, as this age, ability, and readiness all intersect. continuity will help your child learn quickly and retain Remember that you should progress only when your child is comfortable, practice consistently in enjoyable skills—long breaks may require periods of re-learning. Your child may pick up certain skills very quickly, lessons, and avoid frustration by only practicing while others may take weeks or months of practice. complex activities for short intervals and at times when Go at your child’s pace and don’t push him to learn. your child’s energy levels are highest. Water Pouring Station and Activity Circuit As for beginners, the Water Pouring Station (see pp46–47) and Activity Circuit (see pp52–53) are still key parts of the learning process. But whereas with beginners most of the Activity Circuit was carried out in their parent’s arms or on top of the water, now your child may carry out some of the exercises with his face in the water, and with less assistance. Games and songs These still play a very important role in teaching your child at the intermediate levels, and group games become more valuable as your child learns to copy and imitate his peers. This helps him to overcome his fears as he will watch other children performing the actions he is nervous about. He will also learn to share toys or your attention with others. T E A C H I N G I N T E R M E D I AT E S 89 To keep your child interested in the lesson and to Now that your child has reached a period of increased practice all the skills he has learned, limit the time spent coordination in his physical and mental development, on any one activity to seven minutes or less. Make sure and can comfortably swim for seven seconds with a you enjoy the lesson and do not rush, but remember strong, steady kick, as well as hold his breath and that a young child’s attention span may be best suited enjoy it, he can add an important safety sequence to to changing intervals of play. his swimming abilities. Although The Safety Sequence (see pp108–09) does not make your child “drownproof,” INTERMEDIATES: STAGE ONE (pp90–101) it will enable him to swim to safety if he ever falls You can start Intermediates: Stage One if your child into a pool. is at least 14 months old and has mastered all the age-appropriate skills in the Water Confidence chapter. INTERMEDIATES: STAGE THREE (pp110–23) Let feedback from your child guide you as you When your child has mastered all the age-appropriate introduce new skills, modify old ones, and help him skills in the Water Confidence chapter, has completed increase his proficiency in the water. Intermediates: Stages One and Two, and is at least three years old, progress to Intermediates: Stage Three. INTERMEDIATES: STAGE TWO (pp102–09) Experienced swimmers of this age are strong and Once your child is at least 19 months old, has capable and maneuver farther and faster in the pool than completed all the age-appropriate skills in the Water younger children. They can swim a distance of 20 feet Confidence chapter, and can competently carry out (6 m), and are truly at home in the water. During this all the skills in Intermediates: Stage One, move on to stage an important step is conquered when your child Intermediates: Stage Two. learns to surface for a breath (see pp112–15) independently. ( M i n i m u m ag e 1 4 m o n t h s ) i n t e r m e d i at e s : S TAG E O N E S TA G E O N E L E S S O N P L A N 91 STAGE ONE LESSON PLAN LESSON PLAN REQUIREMENTS FOR STAGE ONE WARM UP 3–5 minutes Minimum Age: Your child should be at least 14 months old. Practice kicking and chasing a toy or Skill Level: kicking drills. Your child has successfully completed Beginners: Stages One and Two, as well as the Adaptations for Three- to Four-year-old Beginners if she started learning to swim over the age of 36 months. She can comfortably propel herself with a steady kick, face submerged, holding her breath for five seconds without taking in water. pp56; 72 SONG BREAK 3–5 minutes Sing “The People on the Bus” or a bathtime song. p39 WARM-UP DIPS 1–2 minutes Short, cued dips using the techniques for a First Held Underwater Swim. pp64–65 ACTIVITY CIRCUIT 10–12 minutes total pp52–53 Structure the circuit as shown below. Go around the circuit 3–5 times per lesson, spending a short time at For the first of the intermediate stages, the lesson each station before moving on to the next. plan is now adapted slightly to allow for the addition a) Water Pouring Station pp46–47 of more complex skills. These include Rob’s Tai Chi Pass b) Monkey Walk or Basketball pp77; 45 (see pp92–93), which encourages an efficient swimming c) Jump from the Wall (second level) p63 posture and kick, as well as Turning Around Underwater d) Pick-a-ball Game p49 (see pp100–101), which begins to introduce the individual For the pass between parents, introduce the skills skills needed to later accomplish The Safety Sequence below gradually, and in the order given. (see pp108–109). i) Rob’s Tai Chi Pass 3–5 times max pp92–93 ii) Fin Fun 3–5 times max pp94–95 Because the lesson plan for intermediates is simply an extension of those for beginners, your sessions will feel very familiar to your child. This helps create a smooth transition from the foundation skills to these APPROACHING THE WALL 3–5 minutes total Guided Swim to the Wall (first or second level depending on ability) 3 times max pp96–97 more complex skills. You will also find that your child’s endurance and proficiency will be increasing. As before, use the lesson plan as a guideline only, and plan your lessons according to your child’s readiness, comfort, and current abilities. Note that younger children will still need to be given the Breath-holding Cue (see pp60–61) before JUMP OFF THE WALL 3–5 minutes total Jump, Dip, and Swim (first or second level depending on ability) 3 times max BALANCE or RUN AND JUMP 3–5 minutes being submerged underwater by their parent. However, TIME TO GO 1 minute children over the age of three can simply be given a Turning Around Underwater (first or second verbal cue rather than the lift cue involved in the level depending on ability) 1–2 times max Breath-holding Cue. pp98–99 pp68; 51 p69 pp100–101 92 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E O N E ROB’S TAI CHI PASS TEACHING TIPS To provide a boost to swimmers who are ready to increase the distance and duration of their swim, Rob devised a special Tai Chi–like pass for parents to use. This pass not only provides forward momentum toward a receiving parent, it also balances, aligns, and positions the body in an efficient, prone, horizontal The forward movement is generated at the shin or foot area, not at the head.You should merely guide the head with your fingertips and not push forward. Lightly flick the foot at the end of the sequence to stimulate the kick. position and stimulates your child to kick. 2 Once your fingers touch his neck, slip your nondominant hand out from under your child’s other armpit and brush it down along the side of his body. At this point your dominant hand should still be in contact with your child’s head, guiding it forward, while your non-dominant hand should be in contact with his torso (as your child becomes more proficient you can let go with this hand). Balance him if he needs it. 1 Stand in waist- to chest-deep water opposite your partner, 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) apart. Hold your child in the Pass Hold (see p43) and cue him to go underwater. As his face enters the water, push forward under both his armpits. The receiver should count the number of seconds your child is submerged for, ensuring that it does not exceed his current ability. Reposition your dominant hand (your right hand if you are righthanded) at the base of his head by slipping your hand out from under his armpit, lifting your elbow, and rotating your wrist so you place your fingertips at the base of his neck. Use your fingers to guide (but not push) the head forward as he kicks. RO B ’ S TA I C H I PA S S 3 Continue running your non-dominant hand along the side of your child’s body until you reach 4 Both your hands should now be clear of your child, and he should be propelling himself forward either his shin, ankle, or foot, depending on where the toward the receiver, who should catch him, lift him up swing of his kick is. Lightly flick the foot upward and out of the water, and praise him. forward so you slightly push your child forward, stimulating a kick. At the moment of thrust, release your hands from your child’s head and foot. 93 94 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E O N E FIN FUN This is an ideal stage to introduce fins to your child’s lessons. They are good learning aids since they lift the foot to the top of the water, producing an efficient kick, plus they build, tone, and condition the leg muscles. However, ensure you practice without fins at times so you and your child are familiar with her natural abilities. Swimming at the surface through a hoop provides focus and motivation and encourages a streamlined body position. OBJECTIVES AND TIPS To improve kicking, body alignment, and lung capability. Allow your child time to adjust to the fins during kicking exercises. If your child is unsure about the fins, practice wearing them in the bathtub. Fins should be made of flexible rubber or soft plastic. FIN FUN 1 You will need three adults to practice hoop swims. The sender places fins on the child while she is 2 95 The sender should cue your child to go underwater, then use Rob’s Tai Chi Pass (see sitting on the pool wall. Two adults stand opposite each pp92–93) to guide her forward through the hoop other in waist- to chest-deep water, 4–6 feet (1.2–1.8 m) to the receiver. The child may grab the dive ring from apart. The receiver should hold a dive ring or toy under the receiver. The sender should check that the number the water to direct the child’s eyes and head downward. of seconds the child spends underwater does not The third adult stands midway between the sender and exceed her current ability. The receiver should catch receiver, holding a hoop in the water. The sender should the child and lift her out of the water. Increase the hold the child in the Pass Hold (see p43), encouraging length of the swim gradually in one-second increments her to “swim through the hoop to get the ring.” over the weeks and months. 96 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E O N E GUIDED SWIM TO THE WALL OBJECTIVES To encourage independent swimming toward the wall. Your child has experienced the liberating sensation of an unaided swim between her parents. Swimming unaided to the wall occurs in very distinct stages, and to ensure your child has the correct body alignment and isn’t alarmed by swimming toward a looming concrete wall, you need to guide her, first by holding her under To maintain body alignment by providing hands-on guidance. To link swimming to the wall with grabbing the wall. To keep your child from being alarmed by the looming sight of the pool wall when she opens her eyes. the armpits, then with a reassuring touch at the back of the head. FIRST LEVEL SECOND LEVEL Place a toy on the wall as a target. With your child in the Pass Hold (see p43), stand 5–6 feet (1.5–1.8 m) 1 from the wall. Your count will be “1, 2, lift, down, 1, 2, 3, level, but stand 6 feet (1.8 m) from the wall. Your new grab the wall.” Cue your child to go underwater and count will be “1, 2, lift, down, high elbow, kick, kick, submerge her (1, 2, lift, down). With both hands under grab the wall.” Cue your child to go underwater and her armpits walk slowly toward the wall as you count submerge her. As her face submerges, slip your “1, 2, 3.” Once you reach the wall, if your child does not dominant hand (your right hand if you are right- automatically grab it and lift her head, lift her and tell handed) out from under her armpit, raise your elbow her to ”grab the wall.” Reward her with the toy. You can and rotate your wrist so that your fingertips move from gradually increase the length of time underwater to her armpit, over her back, and end up behind her head match that of her unaided swim. at the base of her neck, guiding her toward the wall. Once your child is comfortable at the first level, you can move on to the second level. Follow the first G U I D E D S W I M TO T H E WA L L 2 97 Continue guiding your child toward the wall for if she doesn’t, use your non-dominant hand to lift her a count of two (“kick, kick”) with your non- under her armpit and raise her to the surface asking dominant hand firmly under your child’s armpit. When her to “grab the wall.” When she has grabbed the wall she reaches the wall, she may reach out and grab it, but praise and reward her with the toy. 98 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E O N E JUMP, DIP, AND SWIM Your child has already learned how to carry out a safe, leaning jump from the wall (see p63), and now you can transform this skill into a jump, submersion, and swim. At first, allow her to only briefly submerge while you guide her toward you under the water. Then, with time and practice, she will be able to accomplish a jump, dip, and unaided swim underwater toward you. FIRST LEVEL Stand in waist- to chest-deep water and place your child in a sitting position on the pool wall, with your hands under her armpits. Count “1, 2, 3,” and gently rub your hands under her armpits to cue her to jump, then move your hands 2–3 inches (5–7.5 cm) under the water. When she jumps, catch her under her armpits as she submerges. Walk two steps backward, gently guiding her with you for a brief swim, then lift her back to the surface. Over the weeks, increase the number of seconds your child remains submerged to two, then three seconds. OBJECTIVES AND TIPS To maintain the correct forwardlean position when jumping. If your child hesitates when jumping, move closer to her and keep your hands on or very near her armpits while she jumps. Don’t move on to the next level before your child is comfortable with the current one. J U M P, D I P, A N D S W I M 99 SECOND LEVEL Once you have practiced the first level for a few weeks, move on to the second level. This is similar to the first level, but this time your child will swim unaided. Ask her to jump from a sitting position on the pool wall, but instead of catching her immediately as she jumps, hold your hands close to your body under the water and take two steps backward to encourage her to swim toward you. Then catch her and bring her to the surface. THIRD LEVEL Once your child is proficient at the second level, repeat the technique but hold a toy under the water for your child to retrieve. This simple gesture adds focus and an additional element of fun, and encourages a good, horizontal, streamlined position underwater, as she will aim her eyes and face downward toward the toy rather than simply toward her parent. 100 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E O N E TURNING AROUND UNDERWATER Now that your child has increased his breath-holding abilities and comfort underwater, he is ready to turn 180° underwater. This ability to turn will become one of the lynchpins of the important Safety Sequence (see pp108–09), which involves turning around to face the wall, grabbing the wall, and climbing out. FIRST LEVEL Follow the sequence for the well-practiced Time to Go exit ritual of “Ring Around the Rosie” (see p69). At the “We all fall down” verse, lift your child up for a breath, submerge him, but instead of immediately raising him to the surface, allow him to remain underwater holding his breath for a slow count of “1, 2.” Then raise him up out of the water and praise him. Practice once per lesson. OBJECTIVES AND TIPS To build on the foundation skills learned in the Time to Go ritual of “Ring around the Rosie” (see p69). To execute an assisted 180° turn in a vertical position. If you feel an older beginner is starting to turn, encourage this by guiding his turn. T U R N I N G A RO U N D U N D E RWAT E R 101 SECOND LEVEL Once you have practiced the first level for several weeks, to slowly turn him 180°—either clockwise or counter- and your child comfortably holds his breath for two clockwise depending on which way he naturally turns— seconds, you can try turning him. Follow the steps for so that he ends up facing your stomach. Raise him up the first level, but once he is underwater, use your hands and exclaim, “Peekaboo!” ( m i n i m u m ag e 1 9 m o n t h s ) i n t e r m e d i at e s : s tag e t w 0 S TA G E T W O L E S S O N P L A N 103 STAGE TWO LESSON PLAN LESSON PLAN REQUIREMENTS FOR STAGE TWO Minimum Age: Your child should be at least 19 months old. Skill Level: Your child has successfully completed Beginners: Stages One and Two and Intermediates: Stage One, as well as the Adaptations for Three- to Four-Year- Old Beginners if she started learning to swim over the age of 36 months. She can comfortably propel herself with a steady kick, face submerged, holding her breath for up to seven seconds without taking in water. By this stage your child will have a good level of endurance and both physical and mental coordination. Since she will be able to swim underwater for up to seven seconds with a strong, steady, and effective kick, you can now add the important Safety Sequence WARM UP 3–5 minutes Practice kicking and chasing a toy or kicking drills. SONG BREAK 3–5 minutes Sing “The People on the Bus” or a bathtime song. WARM-UP DIPS 1–2 minutes Short, cued dips using the technique for a First Held Underwater Swim. and consistently practicing safety skills can help your child to make her way back to the edge of— and then out of—the pool in the event of an accidental water entry. The Safety Sequence is a technique for experienced swimmers. Include it in the lesson plan only once the following techniques have been comfortably mastered by your child: Intermediate Swim to the Wall (see p104), Jump, Swim, and Turn Back to the Wall (see p105), and Unaided Turn Underwater (see pp106–07). To maintain p39 pp64–65 ACTIVITY CIRCUIT 10–12 minutes total pp52–53 Structure the circuit as shown below. Go round 3–5 times. a) Water Pouring Station pp46–47 b) Monkey Walk or Basketball pp77; 45 c) Jump, Dip and Swim pp98–99 d) Pick-a-ball Game p49 For the pass between parents use Rob’s Tai Chi Pass with your child wearing fins 5 times max pp92–93 To begin with, practice the skills under 1 (below, left). Once your child has mastered these exercises, replace with 2 (below, right). 1. INTERMEDIATE SWIM TO THE WALL 2.THE SAFETY SEQUENCE 2–3 minutes, 3 times max 2–4 minutes total a) Unaided Turn Underwater (fourth level) 3 times max p107 b) The Safety Sequence (first, second, third or fourth level depending on ability) 2 times max pp108–09 p104 (see pp108–09) to her repertoire. Although no child should ever be considered “drownproof,” learning pp56; 72 JUMP OFF THE WALL 2–3 minutes Jump, Swim and Turn Back to the Wall (first or second level depending on ability) 3 times max p105 VERTICAL SUBMERSIONS AND TURNS 3 minutes Unaided Turn Underwater (first, second or third level depending on ability) 3 times max pp106–07 your child’s focus and energy, once you are ready to practice the Safety Sequence eliminate the above three drills from the lesson plan and concentrate on the Safety Sequence instead. BALANCE or RUN AND JUMP 3–5 minutes pp68; 51 TIME TO GO 1 minute Unaided Turn Underwater 2 times max p69 p106–07 104 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E T W O INTERMEDIATE SWIM TO THE WALL OBJECTIVES To create an increasingly more independent swim toward the wall while maintaining contact. Your child’s ever-increasing comfort and confidence, his expanding lung capacity, and his lengthening strong swim all indicate that he is ready to further develop his swimming capabilities. For this swim, he will be much more independent since you will not maneuver or To encourage a horizontal body position and a steady kick. To build on the skills gained in the Guided Swim to the Wall (see pp96–97). push him but merely guide him toward the wall with your fingertips. 1 Place a toy on the pool wall. With your child in the Pass Hold (see p43), stand 6 feet (1.8 m) away 2 Gently slip your non-dominant hand out from under his other armpit, and rest your hand by from the wall. Cue your child to go underwater and your side. Walk forward, guiding him slowly toward the submerge him. As his face enters the water, slip your wall with your dominant hand. Allow him to swim to dominant hand (your right hand if you are right- the wall, grab it, raise his head out of the water, and handed) out from under his armpit, move it over pick up the toy as a reward. Make sure that the time his back, and place your fingertips at the base of his submerged does not exceed your child’s current breath- head at the neck. holding ability. J U M P, S W I M , A N D T U R N B A C K T O T H E W A L L JUMP, SWIM, AND TURN BACK TO THE WALL You can now channel your child’s sturdy, reliable, cued jump with a submersion into a jump with a short swim out to you, and then a jump with a short swim, above-water turn, and a swim back to the wall. This confident jump needs to be safe, so ensure 105 OBJECTIVES To encourage a jump from the wall that includes the increased breath holding of a swim. To teach your child to transfer from a vertical lean to a swim. To link the different skills of a jump off the wall with a swim, followed by a swim back to the wall. that your child waits for your count before leaving the wall. FIRST LEVEL SECOND LEVEL Sit your child on the pool wall. Stand in chest-deep Once your child is confident at the first level, you water 3–6 feet (90–180 cm) away from the wall and can combine the jump off the wall and swim with an face your child. Hold your hands out and instruct him immediate swim back to the wall. Follow as for the to jump out to you after your count. Count “1, 2, 3” to first level, but once your child swims to you, catch cue the jump. Allow your child to swim out to you, him, lift him briefly for a breath, turn him around 180°, then reward him with a toy. and let him swim back to the wall (see opposite). 106 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E T W O UNAIDED TURN UNDERWATER For this new skill, you and your child will link several sequences in a specific order. She can already submerge vertically holding her breath for several seconds, and you’ve helped her to turn 180° underwater—now you are going to teach her to do this turn independently, first to you, then to the wall. FIRST LEVEL Play “peekaboo.” Stand in waist- to chest-deep water facing your partner, 2 feet (60 cm) apart. Hold your child vertically facing toward you, so the receiver is hidden from your child’s view. The receiver should call out, “Where am I?” Your child should turn her chin over one shoulder to look for the receiver, thus initiating a body rotation. If she does not twist round, turn her 180° to face the receiver. Exclaim, “Peekaboo!” Repeat several times per lesson for at least two lessons. TEACHING TIPS Keep your hands close to your child while she is learning these skills.You may need to help to turn her or lift her for air. Note which side your child naturally turns toward—which shoulder is she looking over? Help her turn in this direction if necessary. U N A I D E D T U R N U N D E RWAT E R 107 SECOND LEVEL THIRD LEVEL Once your child is confident at the first level, you can Once your child turns every time at the second level, move on to the second. Stand holding your child as you can move on to the third. Hide a toy on the pool you did for the first level, but this time the receiver wall. Stand with your child facing you 10–12 inches places a dive ring between her thumb and index finger. (25–30 cm) from the wall. Turn her so she can see the Turn your child toward the receiver, who should show ring, then turn her back to face you, and ask her to her the ring, placing it underwater in line with her find the ring then grab the wall. Staying above water, she stomach. Then turn your child back around to face should look over her shoulder, rotating her body and you. Tell her to “Get the ring!” Give her a cue to go grab the wall. Practice two to three times per lesson. underwater, submerge her, and release her. She should turn, grab the ring, and then be lifted by the receiver. FOURTH LEVEL Once your child successfully accomplishes the third level, you can move on to the fourth. Stand as for the third level, then give her the cue to go underwater, submerge her, and gently release her. She should turn underwater to grab the wall and find the toy. Practice two to three times per lesson for several weeks. 108 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E T W O THE SAFETY SEQUENCE OBJECTIVES This vital safety sequence should be used in addition to the To link multiple skills together in sequence to ensure water safety. safety plan on pp24–25. It will teach your child to safely jump off the wall, turn around by herself in the water, swim back to the wall, grab the wall, and exit the pool. This means that if your child ever faces an accidental water entry, this sequence will enable her to swim confidently and wall to the wall and climb To rehearse water entry by simulating a fall into water in a non-threatening fashion. To encourage a repeatable, rehearsable sequence that is automatically implemented in the event of an accidental water entry. out of the pool. FIRST LEVEL 1 Sit your child on the pool wall. Tell her that her job is to jump in, turn around underwater, and come 2 Once she has jumped, raise the elbow of your extended arm and use your fingertips to scoop back to the wall (you can put a toy on the wall to and turn her around at the base of the head, guiding encourage her). Place your hip firmly against the wall her back to the wall. Your other hand should now on the side of your child toward which she usually splash near the wall, creating a visible and audible turns (see pp100–101). Place your hand that’s nearest to target. Once she has reached the wall, boost one of her under her armpit, and stretch out your other arm her knees up, and help her to climb out. so your hand is about 3–4 feet (90–120 cm) from the wall. With this hand, splash the water as a marker SECOND LEVEL of how far you want her to jump. Cue the jump by Once your child can perform this sequence with less counting “1, 2, 3,” then keep your nearest hand lightly guidance, practice without spotting her or guiding her under her armpit so you can spot her jump and make back to the wall, but continue to splash near the wall sure she leaves the wall correctly. to create a target. Help her out of the pool. THE SAFETY SEQUENCE 109 THIRD LEVEL Once your child is competent at the second level and has practiced for several weeks, ask your partner to sit next to your child on the edge of the pool with their toes in the water. Tell your child to “Jump in, turn around, look for [your partner’s] toes, grab the walls and climb out and sit next to her.” Follow the sequence for the second level, but do not splash the water near the wall as your child should aim for your partner’s toes. At the end, your child should climb out and sit next to your partner. FOURTH LEVEL Once your child has competently practiced the third level for a number of weeks, you can progress to the fourth level. Use the same technique as for the third level, but for this level your partner should sit in a chair on the deck. This time, after performing the sequence under your watchful eye while you are in the water, your child should climb out of the pool to hug your partner, thus taking him far away from the pool’s edge. ( m i n i m u m ag e t h r e e y e a r s ) i n t e r m e d i at e s : s tag e t h r e e S TA G E T H R E E L E S S O N P L A N 111 STAGE THREE LESSON PLAN REQUIREMENTS FOR STAGE THREE LESSON PLAN WARM UP 3–5 minutes Minimum Age: Your child should be at least three years old. Practice kicking and chasing a toy or kicking drills. Skill Level: SONG BREAK 3 minutes Your child has successfully completed Beginners: Stages One and Two and Intermediates: Stages One and Two, as well as the Adaptations for Three- to FourYear Old Beginners if she started learning to swim over the age of 36 months. She can propel herself forward with a strong, steady kick, face submerged, holding her breath for nine seconds, and has mastered the Safety Sequence. pp56; 72 Incorporate vertical submersions, bubble blowing, and swimming around the parent. pp39; 106–07; 73 WARM-UP DIPS 1–2 minutes Short dips using the technique for a held swim. pp64–65 ACTIVITY CIRCUIT 10–12 minutes total pp52–53 Structure the circuit as shown below. Go around 3–5 times. a) Water Pouring Station pp46–47 b) Monkey Walk or Basketball pp77; 45 c) Jump, Swim, and Turn Back to the Wall Children in this age group are great characters with (once per round) p105 d) Pick-a-ball Game p49 boundless energy and vivid imaginations. They love to For the pass between parents use Rob’s Tai Chi Pass with chat, sing, and play games, and also like to work for your child wearing fins 5 times max pp92–93 rewards—motivation and encouragement are key to LEARNING TO COME UP FOR AIR 3 minutes total their learning. They will progress well when learning in a a) Coming Up for Air—Assisted 3–5 times max pp112–13 group environment since they love mimicking their b) Coming Up for Air—Equipment 3–5 times max peers and demonstrating their skills to their friends. pp114–15 You will find that by now your child is a good swimmer, can link together skills in a sequence, and her FRONT FLOATING 1–2 minutes coordination has greatly improved due to her physical Front Floating 1–3 times max development. As she can now kick well and spend a BACK FLOATING AND SWIMMING 1–2 minutes significant amount of time underwater, she can progress Start with i), below, then progress to ii), then finally to iii). to more complicated skills such as floating. i) Back Floating 1–2 times max Skills such as Coming Up for Air (see pp112–13) and p116 p117 ii) Swimming on the Back 2–3 times max pp118–19 iii) 180º Roll During a Swim 3–5 times max pp120–21 skills, and gradually introduce back floating based on DIVING FOR RINGS 2 minutes pp122–23 your child’s ever-increasing levels of relaxation, trust, and THE SAFETY SEQUENCE 2 minutes pp108–09 Back Floating (see p117) take time and patience to successfully master. Never force breathing or floating readiness. It may take months to accomplish these skills, but once acquired, they offer your child increased mobility and safety in the water. BALANCE or RUN AND JUMP 3–5 minutes pp68; 51 TIME TO GO 1 minute p69 112 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E T H R E E COMING UP FOR AIR—ASSISTED TEACHING TIPS Once a child learns to come up for a breath, he will be able to swim for longer, resurfacing again and again as he explores the pool. Surfacing for a breath takes several months to fully achieve, but with time and practice, and your instructions in the correct Starting this skill at too young an age results in your child swimming vertically in the water, which is frustrating for him and exhausting. Supporting your child at the waist or hips creates a fulcrum that prompts him to move his arms and hands forward and raise his head. technique, he will gain a new freedom in the water. FIRST LEVEL Stand in chest-deep water, with your partner 15 feet him up for a breath. Facing your child, the receiver (4.5 m) ahead of you. Hold your child in the Pass Hold should take an audible gulp of air and then close his (see p43) and cue him to go underwater. As his face mouth while you say, “Take a breath.” Listen to check enters the water, release him and walk along beside him. that your child has taken a breath, then continue to At the end of his usual breath holding (by now up to swim him underwater to the receiver, who should pick 10 seconds), slip your hands under his armpits and lift him up and praise him. Practice for at least six lessons. COMING UP FOR AIR—ASSISTED 113 SECOND LEVEL Once your child takes a breath every time you lift him in the first level, let him try to lift his own head out of the water. Follow the first level, but at his usual breath-taking point, place your hands at his waist. Your child can lean his torso onto your hands to give him leverage, paddle his hands, arch his back, lift his chin up out of the water, and take a breath. He can then submerge his head again, and continue his swim. Initially, you may need to tilt your wrists upward to help him come up for a breath. Practice for at least six lessons. THIRD LEVEL FOURTH LEVEL Once your child is competent at the second level, move Once your child is confident at the third level, move your hands down from his waist to his hips. This alters your hands to your child’s thighs so that you are the amount of leverage he has, making him push harder providing even less leverage and he needs to push on the water with his hands to raise his head for air. even harder to come up for air. Practice for at least Practice for at least six lessons. the next six lessons. 114 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E T H R E E COMING UP FOR AIR—EQUIPMENT Mastering the skill of surfacing for air takes months of practice, but if you wish, you can use equipment and toys to improve technique and body position and motivate your child. Hoops and noodles provide a focus, while fins and barbells allow your child to experience a new skill before he perfects it. FIRST OPTION Stand facing your child in waist-deep water, with a barbell between you. Ask your child to hold the barbell with both hands and straight arms. Tell him to take a breath, then gently place his face in the water. Walk backward as your child swims the barbell toward you. Tap the crown of his head and take a deep breath to encourage him to mimic you and breathe in, then tell him, “put your eyes in and splash with your feet.” At the start, you may need to tow the barbell or add fins for greater propulsion, and to assist with the head lift. TEACHING TIPS If you are practicing alone, you can adapt the third option by using the wall to support one end of the noodle. If you are in a group, you can make things easier by holding equipment for each other. Prompt your child with the phrase: “Take a breath, eyes in, big kicks!” COMING UP FOR AIR—EQUIPMENT 115 SECOND OPTION Stand in waist- to chest-deep water opposite your partner, 10–12 feet (3–3.6 m) apart. Your partner should have a puppet. Tell your child, “When the puppet is up, you are up; when it is down, you are down.” With your child in the Pass Hold (see p43) cue him to go underwater and, as your partner places the puppet underwater, swim your child to your partner. Follow your child—after a few seconds your partner should raise the puppet out of the water and your child should lift his head. Repeat until your child reaches your partner. THIRD OPTION Make a bridge by holding two noodles on top of the water, so they are 5–6 feet (1.5–1.8 m) apart. (Or make a hoop tunnel with two hoops partially submerged held 5–6 feet/1.5–1.8 m apart.) Instruct your child to swim under the first bridge, come up to take a breath in the middle, then go under the second bridge. Initially, your partner may need to help him to come up by using the different leverage supports shown on pages 112–13. 116 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E T H R E E FRONT AND BACK FLOATING TEACHING TIPS Let your child hold a toy, recite the alphabet, or count to occupy and relax her while she is floating. Floating, which should be done with free will, not imposed, requires experience and trust. We have always introduced floating to our most experienced swimmers who are totally relaxed and in harmony with the water, rather than to younger, less competent Technique is not as important as the fact your child is relaxed. By watching someone else float—a parent, sibling, or peer—your child is more likely to try this skill. swimmers who may be alarmed by these new positions. FLOATING ON THE FRONT 1 While you hold your child, ask your partner to demonstrate a front float. Point out to your child how the knees are bent, the arms are held out with the elbows bent, the head is looking down, and the body is relaxed and not wiggling. 2 Stand in the Face-to-face Hold (see p43) and tell your child that it is now her turn to front float and that you will help her. Ask her to “take a big breath and put your eyes in.” You can initiate this by audibly and visibly taking a breath. Gently release your hands from under her armpits and dangle them under her as she floats and holds your outstretched arms. F RO N T A N D B A C K F L O AT I N G 117 FLOATING ON THE BACK 1 As with floating on the front, show your child how your partner floats on his back and point out what each part of his body is doing. Alternatively, lie your child on his back on a large foam mat and point out what all his body parts are doing when floating. 2 Tell your child it is her turn (or time to try it in the water if she has been floating on the mat), and hold her facing away from you, with the sun behind you so there is no glare. Place her cheek next to yours and lightly touch your palm to her other cheek. Rest her head on your shoulder while she leans back from a vertical position. Slowly lower your shoulder to the water so the back of her head touches the water (this way she won’t feel like she is falling). Place your free hand in the small of her back for support. Point out how key body parts should be positioned: “Look back at me, head back, chin to the sky, tummy up, palms up catching sun, arms and legs relaxed, no wiggling.” Practice 2–3 times per lesson. 118 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E T H R E E SWIMMING ON THE BACK OBJECTIVES To instill the correct body alignment for later back swimming. Being able to swim on his back means that your child will always be able to breathe—a very important safety skill. Children who are relaxed and ready for this new skill find this novel position, with their mouth and eyes out of the water, a fun new way to To refine the kick movement—it becomes more hip-generated in this position, with straighter legs and the feet just below the surface. To establish the foundation for backstroke and freestyle drills. move in the pool, so expect lots of giggling. FIRST LEVEL Play a game of “Tugboat and Ocean Liner,” where your child is the tugboat and you the liner. Stand behind your child and position him on his back, holding a barbell at his waist so he can hold it and touch it to his belly button. His head should touch your chest. Instruct your child to push you with his head, saying, “Be a strong tugboat and push me into port.” Walk backward slowly as he kicks and maintains contact with your chest, pushing against you. Tell him to look you in the eyes as he kicks, giving him frequent prompts: “Head back, tummy up, push me, little kicks.” Praise him for being a strong tugboat. SWIMMING ON THE BACK 119 SECOND LEVEL 1 Once your child is happy playing “Tugboat,” try playing the game of “Food Delivery.” Stand 3–4 feet (90–120 cm) opposite your partner. Ask your child to name her favorite snack, then position her so she is floating on her back, and place the imaginary snack on her stomach. Tell her, “deliver the snack [to the receiver], but keep your tummy up so it doesn’t get soggy.” 2 Gently launch your child on her back to the and enjoy it. For variety, you can also have your child receiver using a slight push forward—one hand push off the wall with her feet and gently glide on her should gently push under her back and the other back toward you with her tummy up. She can then hand should push her feet. Prompt her: “Tummy up! share the imaginary snack with you. Kick! Keep the snack dry!” When she gets to the receiver, they can share the snack, pretending to munch 120 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E T H R E E 180º ROLL DURING A SWIM OBJECTIVES AND TIPS To teach a 180° rolling technique from prone to supine and supine to prone. Changing orientation during a swim creates a new way to take a breath. For an experienced back swimmer, this is another important safety skill. To make this technique fun for your child to learn, pretend he is a hot dog, pouring imaginary mustard and ketchup all over him, then saying “hot dog!” when you want your To encourage taking a breath before rolling into the water. To associate a command (“hot dog!”) with the action of rolling. If your child is on your left-hand side, simply reverse the directions. child to roll and wash it all off. FIRST LEVEL 1 Tell your child, “We’re going to roll you over and put ketchup and mustard on you like a hot dog.” 2 Now that he is on his back, you and the receiver should “squirt” your child with the imaginary Standing in chest-deep water, 8 feet (2.4 m) opposite sauces, then tell him that you’re going to wash it all off. your partner, place your child in the Pass Hold Hold your child on his back on your right-hand side (see p43) on your right-hand side. Cue him to go with your left arm under his back and your left hand underwater and, as he swims, walk along with him, holding his far armpit. Your right hand should hold keeping your hands on him. When he almost reaches him under his nearest armpit. Begin a held swim and the receiver, say “hot dog!” and roll him toward you then say, “hot dog!” To turn him, pull your left hand with your right hand, pushing him gently away from toward you and push your right hand away from you, you with your left hand. He will roll 180°, bringing his rolling your child so his face is in the water, then rolling face to the surface. him back up again after a few seconds. 1 8 0 º RO L L D U R I N G A S W I M 121 SECOND LEVEL 1 Once your child is confident with the assisted rolls in the first level, you can let him try rolling 2 Repeat step one, but with your child swimming on his front. Cue your child to go underwater and himself. Stand in chest-deep water opposite your launch him for an unaided swim. Just before he reaches partner, 8 feet (2.4 m) apart, holding your child so the receiver say “hot dog!” which should cue him to roll that he is floating on his back. Gently launch your onto his back. child to the receiver using a slight push forward. Just Once your child is confident performing unaided before he reaches the reciever, say “hot dog!” This single rolls, he can start doing a roll-and-return cycle, should cue him to roll over into a prone position first rolling one way from his front to his back, then on his front and finish swimming to the receiver. taking a breath and rolling back the same way onto his front before reaching the receiver. 122 I N T E R M E D I AT E S : S TA G E T H R E E DIVING FOR RINGS OBJECTIVES AND TIPS One of the most thrilling rites of passage for a young swimmer is To teach your child to perform a dive and swim at a diagonal angle. gaining the ability to perform a surface dive and retrieve a ring or toy off the bottom of the pool. Not only does this skill promote the ability to navigate underwater—thus increasing On the deck, get your child to practice a forward bend at the waist and learn the phrase “Swim, bow, splash the sky, kick for the ring.” comfort and safety in the water—it also fosters self-esteem. FIRST LEVEL 1 Tell your child to “kick hard” to the bottom, grab the ring, and “kick hard” to come up. Drop a dive ring at a depth of 3–31/2 feet (90–105 cm), then stand 2 Your child should swim down toward the pool floor, grab the ring when it is within her reach, push off the pool floor and look upward toward the back at a diagonal angle to it. Holding your child in surface, angling her body for the ascent. She will the Pass Hold (see p43), cue her to go underwater. return upward either by floating up or by kicking. Submerge her by giving her a slight push diagonally She may try both tactics and then develop a preference and down, then release her. for using one of them. DIVING FOR RINGS 3 123 As your child returns to the surface, catch her SECOND LEVEL and praise her for a job well done. Practice this Once your child is confident at the first level, withdraw sequence several times per lesson. your assistance gradually by decreasing the strength of your push and encouraging your child to “put your head down and kick,” initiating a jackknife or pike position. She may eventually propel herself using both arms to bring her down. You can also sink multiple rings to lengthen the time spent maneuvering underwater and thus increase her lung capacity. 124 RESOURCES RESOURCES ORGANIZATIONS American Red Cross and Canadian Red Cross Run courses teaching water safety, health, and first aid. www.redcross.org and www.redcross.ca International Swimming Hall of Fame Aquatic museum, library, and bookstore. Promotes water safety initiatives. www.ishof.org Lifestyle Swim School Founded by Rob and Kathy McKay, organizes swim lessons, parent workshops, teacher training and workshops, and teacher referrals. Creators and suppliers of “Diaper Dolphins” video series for parents. www.babyswimming.com email: [email protected] National Spa and Pool Institute (NSPI) Furthers pool safety, health, and education. www.nspi.org Swimming Cananda Provides links to provincial swimming organizations. www.swimming.ca United States Swim School Association Promotes aquatic safety, health, and fun. www.usswimschools.org World Aquatic Babies Congress Founded by Virginia Hunt Newman, focuses on aquatic programs for babies, toddlers, and young children. www.waterbabies.org email: [email protected] YMCA US and YMCA Canada Provides information on swimming programs and safety.. www.ymca.net and www.ymca.ca RESOURCES SUPPLIERS OF EQUIPMENT, CLOTHES, AND TOYS For fins, goggles, noodles, swim Paragon Aquatics Sprint Aquatics and UV suits, water toys, and www.paragonaquatics.com www.sprintaquatics.com email: [email protected] other equipment, try the following websites: Baby Swim Store Pooltoy.com www.pooltoy.com The-Swim-Store.com email: [email protected] www.the-swim-store.com Recreonics Water Gear www.recreonics.com www.watergear.com www.babyswimstore.com Kiefer Swim Shop www.kiefer.com email: [email protected] 125 126 INDEX INDEX A C GHI Above-water Pass, 57 Activity Circuit, 52–3, 88 adapted lesson plan, 79 air, coming up for, 112–15 air temperature, 23 allergies, 33 Alligator Walk, 53, 85 alternate pool entry, 42 armbands, inflatable, 32 asthma, 33 Cheek Dip, 58 Cheek Roll, 59 child-centered teaching, 12–17 classes, 30 climbing out exit rituals, 69 Safety Sequence, 108–9 colds, 21, 33 Coming Up for Air, 112–15 crying, 20 B DEF babies bathtime, 38–9 development, 18 starting swimming, 30, 31, 37 back floating on, 117 swimming on, 118–19 Balance, 68 barbells, 28–9 Coming Up for Air, 114 Swimming on the Back, 118 barriers, child-proof, 25 basketball, 45, 53 bathtime, 36, 38–9 beginners, water confidence, 36–53 benefits of swimming, 10–11 Big Ball Splash, 51 Blowing Bubbles, 73 body language, 13 bonding, parent-child, 10, 33 breathing Breath-holding Cue, 60 bubble blowing, 73 Coming Up for Air, 112–15 introducing submersions, 21 Swimming on the Back, 118 Turning Around Under Water, 100–1 bubble blowing, 73 buoyancy swimsuits, 32 developmental stages, 18–19 diapers, 26 disinfectants, 23, 32 distraction techniques, 45 Diving for Rings, 122–3 “drownproofing” programs, 14 ear drops, 27, 33 ear infections, 33 exit rituals, 69 face Cheek Dip, 58 Cheek Roll, 59 Facial Submersions, 80–1 pouring water on, 36 water adjustment, 44 Face-to-face Dip, 62 Face-to-face Hold, 43 fears, 19, 44–5 fins, 27, 29, 94–5 first aid, 25 First Held Underwater Swim, 64–5 First Short Swim, 82–3 First Unaided Underwater Swim, 66–7 floating, 116–17 flotation devices, 32 Food Delivery game, 119 frightened children, 19, 44–5 Front Floating, 116 games, 32 for beginners, 48–51 group games, 50–1 for intermediates, 88 water adjustment, 44, 45 goggles, 27 group games, 50–1 Guided Swim to the Wall, 96–7 holds, 43 hoops, 28–9 Coming Up for Air, 115 hoop swims, 94–5 hot tubs, 23 hygiene, 23 illness, 21, 33 imaginative play, 19 inoculations, 33 Intermediate Swim to the Wall, 104 intermediates, 88–123 JKL Jacuzzis, 23 jumping in Jump, Dip, and Swim, 98–9 Jump from the Wall, 63 Jump, Swim, and Turn Back to the Wall, 105 Learning to Wait, 76 Safety Sequence, 108–9 Standing Step Jump, 84 Kicking, 56 Kicking Drills, 72 ladders, 23 learning aids, 28–9 lesson plans for beginners, 36–7, 55, 71, 79 for intermediates, 88–9, 91, 103, 111 London Bridge Is Falling Down, 50 INDEX 127 MNO S TU Monkey Walk, 52, 77 Motor Boat, Motor Boat, 48 non-swimming parents, 30 noodles, 28 Coming Up for Air, 115 learning balance, 68 otitis externa, 33 otitis media, 33 safety, 11, 24–5 holds, 43 pool barriers, 25 pool entry, 32–3, 41–2, 76 reaching for pool wall, 74–5 Safety Sequence, 108–9 in showers, 39 showers, 39 songs, 32 bathtime, 39 for beginners, 48 for intermediates, 88 water adjustment, 44 sponge bathing, 38 steps, 23 pool entry, 41 Standing Step Jump, 84 water adjustment, 45 submersion Breath-holding Cue, 60 Cheek Roll, 59 Coming Up for Air, 112–15 Diving for Rings, 122–3 Face-to-face Dip, 62 Facial Submersions, 80–1 First Held Underwater Swim, 64–5 First Unaided Underwater Swim, 66–7 Guided Swim to the Wall, 96–7 hoop swims, 94–5 introducing, 21 Jump, Dip, and Swim, 98–9 Turning Around Under Water, 100–1 Unaided Turn Under Water, 106–7 when not to, 21 sunblock, 26, 27 surfacing, 112–15 swimmer’s ear, 33 swimming aids, 32 swimsuits, 26 Tai Chi Pass, 92–3 teaching methods, 12–17 “tear-free zone”, 20 temperature, 23 Time to Go, 69 toddlers, 18–19, 37 toys, 28–9, 32, 39 Tugboat and Ocean Liner, 118 turns Safety Sequence, 108–9 Turning Around Under Water, 100–1 Unaided Turn Under Water, 106–7 unaided swimming, 87–9 Diving for Rings, 122–3 First Short Swim, 82–3 First Unaided Underwater Swim, 66–7 Guided Swim to the Wall, 96–7 hoop swims, 94–5 Intermediate Swim to the Wall, 104 Jump, Dip, and Swim, 98–9 Jump, Swim, and Turn Back to the Wall, 105 180º Roll during a Swim, 121 Unaided Turn Under Water, 106–7 underwater swimming see submersion PR passes Above-water Pass, 57 Pass Hold, 43 Rob’s Tai Chi Pass, 92–3 Pick-a-ball Game, 49, 53 pool wall Guided Swim to the Wall, 96–7 Intermediate Swim to the Wall, 104 Jump from the Wall, 63 Monkey Walk, 52, 77 reaching for and grabbing, 74–5 safety, 33 pools choosing, 22–3, 32 exit rituals, 69 first trip to, 40–3 pool entry, 41–2 see also jumping in pregnancy, 30 premature babies, 33 problems, 20–1 puppets, coming up for air, 115 Reaching for and Grabbing the Wall, 74–5 reflexes, 18, 56 rewards, 19 rings, diving for, 122–3 Rob’s Tai Chi Pass, 92–3 rolls, 180º, 120–1 Run and Jump, 51 W waiting, learning to, 76 wall see pool wall Waltz Hold, 43 water adjustment to, 36, 44–5 temperature, 23 water quality standards, 23, 32 Water Pouring Station, 46–7, 52, 88 Where Did They Go?, 49 128 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AUTHORS’ ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS PUBLISHER’S ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Our heartfelt thanks go to: our parents, John and Bobbie McKay and Bill and Irene Kement, for always loving us, supporting our efforts, and setting an outstanding example of good parenting; our brothers, Scott McKay and Michael Kement, for sharing with us happy, active, and playful childhoods and lasting bonds of friendship; our daughters, Heather and Brianne McKay, who taught us firsthand the joys of being a parent, continue to enrich our lives with their beautiful spirits, and who encouraged us to write this book. Our sincere thanks also go to the “mother” of infant swimming, Virginia Hunt Newman, a pioneering advocate of the gentle, positive approach to teaching babies to swim, for her friendship, inspiration, insight, ethics, and vision; Chuck Gaspari, our friend and attorney, whose counsel, motivation, and foresight helped us throughout the writing, publishing, and marketing process; the entire DK team whose dedicated efforts and skill brought this book into being; Steve Graves, founder of the National Swim School Association and executive director of the World Aquatic Baby Congress for his vast knowledge of swimming, his always wise and insightful comments, and for his support and enthusiasm over the years; longtime friends John Spannuth, founder of the United States Water Fitness Association, Buck Dawson, founding director of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, and Bob Duenkel, curator of the ISHOF, for their steadfast encouragement; Florida Atlantic University for the use of their pool during our photo shoot; Art and Irena Scroggie for the use of their home pool during our photo shoot; Vinnie Gordon of Gordon Homes for her help in scouting locations; Lauren Glaun of Sunstoppers for so promptly coming to our rescue with beautiful UV suits for the photo shoot. Finally, we would like to thank the thousands of parents and babies we have had the privilege to teach over the years who have enriched our lives and our life’s work; and the babies and the parents featured in this book for helping to convey to the world the boundless joy and freedom of movement experienced when learning to swim with a gentle, child-paced approach. Dorling Kindersley would like to thank all the families who gave their time to model for this book: Eddie and Lauren Ames with David and AJ; Melissa Babey with Brandon and Hunter; Melissa Biggs with Tiffany; Scott Bradley with Skyann; Mickey and Nati Charney; Manu and Lisa Chauhan with Kai; Robin DeStefano with Jenna; Colette Duenkel with Teagan; Esther Fix with Benjamin; Kristen Gaspari with Jonas and James; Cindy Giaquinto with Jenna; Fran Janicki with Ethan; Karen Kahane with Brianna; Keith and Stacey Kern with Elisabeth; Leimomi Lane with Kaui; Gillian Lopez with Fox; Heather McKay; Victoria Neil with Tyler; Luis and JB Perdomo with Sofia; Cherly Price with Danny; Candace Pritchard with Carson; Hervé and Sylvia Rivere with Lily; Becky Schmidt with Slade; Irena Scroggie with Nicole and Sophia; Karen and Jim Shields with Joshua; Danté Sigona; Joshua and Kinga Snowhorn with Alma and Luca; Regina and Charles Stabile with Adrianna; Terri Stetz with Jacklyn Lipp; Stephanie Welch with Gavin. AUTHORS’ BIOGRAPHY Rob and Kathy McKay have been practising their child-centred approach to teaching young children to swim for over 23 years. Their Lifestyle Swim School in Florida has international acclaim, and they have trained teachers from around the world in how to use their innovative methods. Rob serves on the board of the World Aquatic Baby Congress, and has won numerous awards for his contribution to baby swimming. Dorling Kindersley would also like to thank photographer Zena Holloway, her assistant Vanessa Sherry, and make-up artist Kim Allegra; the Great Little Trading Company for the loan of props; Florida Atlantic University and Art and Irena Scroggie for the use of their pools; and Lavish Locations. Finally, the publisher would like to thank John Searcy (proofreader); Hilary Bird (indexer); Adam Powley (jacket copywriter); Carrie Love (jacket editor); and Tony Chung (jacket designer). Picture credit p38: Getty images/P T Santana.