Swimming and swimming fins: When should children start using the swimming fins?
Parents, but also coaches are wrong when they insist on putting on swimming fins to children at the very start, thinking that they will help the children learn how to swim more easily. What will happen once you take them off? How good are children at swimming when you take off the fins? Is putting on swimming fins to our children a good or a bad thing? When is the right time to put them on and why? When are swimming fins good, and when do they make it harder for children to learn how to swim?
Indeed, fins can be helpful in a certain phase of swimming in children, but not at the very beginning, when they are learning how to swim. Here is an example:
Ever since he started swimming, he’s been using the fins. To be honest, he can’t swim without them! To be more precise, he can’t swim with his legs extended! How? "Ever since he’s been in the water, from the very start he’s been swimming with his legs in the frog position – legs bent on the side. But, when he puts on the fins, he feels much more confident, he swims faster and his legs are fully extended", Luka’s dad explains. Is it really the case? Yes, the fins give him speed (5 times faster than his foot), make him extend his legs fully, and on the other hand, give them a false feeling of safety, and he believes he can swim, especially as a beginner. My question for his dad was: Who told you to put on the fins on your child’s feet before he learns how to swim properly? "No one. We were with our friends at the seaside and all their children could swim and dive using the fins, so Luka started swimming by using them! "
The fins are not harmful to your child if he or she uses them at the seaside in summer, but you need to explain to him or her that if he or she really wants to feel the water and learn how to swim properly, he or she should put them aside.
When should you say NO to putting the fins on to your child?
Children who are still learning how to float or using the noodle – the beginners.
In situations before they learn the swimming technique properly.
It is wrong to use long fins for children who are just starting to learn how to swim, however, the short ones could be OK.
If there is a problem with the leg motor skills.
If there is a problem with leg joints or muscles.
If your child doesn’t like them and if he or she finds them uncomfortable.
When is it OKAY to let your children use swimming fins?
Once they start learning the swimming techniques, more specifically, once they master them, only then can they use the fins as an additional «tool» helping them to improve the technique.
In small children, the fins can be used to correct the improper leg kicks, i.e. to get the feeling of a different leg position, in order to extend their legs fully. Long fins can be rather helpful here.
In competing swimmers, we often use short fins which help them get a better frequency in moving their legs and increase the intensity of the training, all in order to score a better result (long fins bring the speed, but make the legs lazy)
Also, the fins are used in a training with advanced older swimmers in underwater kicks, most often for the butterfly technique. In this way they develop and improve the underwater leg kicks.
If we want to improve the body position in the water, but also in situations when the flexibility of the joints in leg kicks need to be improved.
To catch, feel and learn the return leg kick better.
How should we CHOOSE proper fins for children?
When it comes to that, you should have two things in mind:
The length of the fins – The length of the fins is the most important factor when choosing them, since the length will substantially affect the child’s technique and speed development. Traditionally, short fins are the best for everyday trainings. Long fins are better to be used for underwater dolphin kicks and for learning the dolphin technique. Short fins give a more realistic feeling when it comes to the speed and can help the child learn the leg technique much better. Long fins help children swim faster with a reduced level of leg kicks, which is often the opposite of what we want to achieve.
Flexibility – In the end of the day (or an exercise), children should feel comfortable wearing the fins. Small and tight fins may increase the speed the child has, but on the other hand, the child may have the feeling of carrying a burden on the legs. This can result in a muscle pain and exhaustion. Also, if the fins are soft, they will bend too much and that will make the child have less benefit from them. The right stiffness and flexibility of the fins in children actually boil down to their needs and the level of strength and swimming skills, and the coach can help you there.
What if the fins pinch my child?
If the fins cause blisters, there are socks specifically designed for this. Ideally, you won’t need them as your child will find a perfect pair of fins. However, if that’s not the case, these socks are a solution.
Are there any universal fins for trainings?
Yes, those are positive “drive” fins. They’re my favourite! These fins are suitable for all four techniques. They have a unique ellipsoidal shape which helps the swimmers have a proper drive leg kick for each of the techniques, which makes them unique. They are extremely useful and should be used by all advanced swimmers, especially those swimming breaststrokes, or those swimming combined races. However, when swimming the butterfly technique, it is recommended to have the traditional short or long fins, as they are much helpful.
The most important thing is that children don’t become too dependent on them or any other piece of swimming equipment. If your child is an experienced swimmer wanting to increase the speed, let him or her use the equipment for less than 50% of the overall training time. The experienced coaches know this and always instruct the swimmers to do so.
Swimming with fins can help the swimmer increase the leg moves, foot flexibility, reduce the shoulder stress, improve the body position in the water and improve the swimming and stroke technique, increase the strength and stamina, increase the effect of the trainings and bring more fun during the training, and of course, "sink" all the other swimmers around! While for those who are beginners, the fins can make a false image of a swimmer.
Of course, you should be careful about how often the children use the fins and other equipment while swimming, as they can easily get into a «trap», once they stop using their "water toys".
You always have a choice, it just depends on what you want!