Swimming: What makes the best swimming class for children?
When is the right time for swimming school, when will my child learn to swim, which swimming school is best for my child, how to choose a swimming coach, what to bring to the first swimming class, what are the rules of conduct at the swimming pool, is it better to have individual or group swimming classes, are all the things you will not read about in this text. However, here you can find out what a swimming class for children is, and what it should be like, and what it is not. You will also see what swimming and swimming classes may give to children and what they may take away from them? Also, you will learn about the opportunities children may get from swimming and that the best swimming class for pre-school children is the one with lots of playing. You will also see what effects such swimming has on children.
When after baby swimming they started coming to swimming classes, my four-year-old Little Fish and five-year-old Little Shark would always finish the class by saying: "This is my best swimming class ever!" If you asked them: Why? I always got the same answer: "Because we PLAYED, Daddy." By using the play in the water and by presenting the pool as a playground, I motivated my Little Shark and Little Fish to start loving the water, swimming and enjoying it.
Swimming through playing should become a child’s routine, because playing as a trigger will never get redundant. The question that arises is - how?
After decades of working with children in the water, I can say that these are just some of the key elements that the best swimming lesson with playing can offer to children, and thus to the whole family.
The best swimming class for children IS…
· Where every turn and movement is just part of a GAME that grows into a life skill.
· One in which time flies. A dynamic one.
· Swimming class is best if it is SAFE for children.
· In the best swimming class, children are never cold, as they are swimming and enjoying it all the time.
· The one that engages all their attention.
· Children refuse to leave the water as the class is FUN.
· You come and go with a smile on your face.
· It gives children the FREEDOM of movement, and safety in and around the water.
· In the best swimming class, parents are not coaches, but partners.
· The one where the coach is a support in the water, not only at the pool’s edge.
· The best swimming classes encourage SELF-ESTEEM in children.
· The swimming class with children who are future swimmers, not competitors.
· The one that motivates, inspires and where children PLAY
· The one that eliminates the FEAR in children.
Who does it all depend on? It depends on both the coach and the parents and children. When this trio complements and supports each other, every swimming class with playing can be the best for children.
A swimming class IS NOT…
· A water battlefield, nor a COMPETITION podium, a place for showing off.
· There is no room for anxiety and fear.
· There is no room for IGNORANCE and MISTAKES because the water remember it all.
· Swimming class is not surviving in the water, nor just swimming from one edge of the pool to another.
· Solitude, sadness and tears are left in front of the entrance door, regardless of the fact that water can keep the secret.
· It is not tedious; it turns every trouble into an opportunity both in the water and near it.
· There is no room for CARELESSNESS or disobedience.
· It is not a cause of negative anxiety and trauma.
· Not a bad memory…
· It is not a sporadic summer activity!
The best swimming class for children OPENS the doors of the largest playground in the world - WATER. This makes room for new opportunities in and around the water. Of course, in order for children to play on it, they must know how to swim and be safe in the water.
A panting mom, come to the pool one day with her three-year-old boy. She is explaining to me that her parents are planning to take all their grandchildren, six of them, on a summer break for three months at the sea, for sailing. The house they are renting at the seaside also has a swimming pool, but her three-year-old son is the only grandchild who can’t swim. She is not sure whether to let her son go to the sea with them, because she will not be able to be with him, and he doesn’t feel safe in the water. With the support of his grandparents, the boy came three times a week to PLAY in the largest playground in the world. The water was not foreign to him because he had been swimming for 6 months. By playing in the swimming class every time, he easily mastered the basic elements of swimming for his age in half a year: He learnt to float on his stomach and back, to swim 5m on his stomach and back, to change body positions in the water… He learnt all the rules of behaviour in the pool and around it. He has learnt to stay safe in water and enjoy it. When he got back from the seaside, he continued with his swimming classes until the following summer, when at the age of four he was a much more prepared swimmer for new summer adventures.
The best swimming class for children aged 3 to 5 is the one with PLAYING.
Wanting to test the play-based swimming, not only with my children, I have created a programme, a little survey, with the support of the parents. In the period of sixteen weeks, I was observing the development of sixteen children in the pool, age 3 to 5, both boys and girls of the same swimming level. The idea was to have the children divided into four groups of four children. Once a week, the children of all four groups attended the swim lessons for 30 minutes, which is 16 lessons of half an hour altogether. Two groups were working in line with the “school” programme, strictly following it every time, while the other two groups were more flexible. They were learning how to swim and how to do all other swimming-related elements in the same way as the first two groups, but exclusively by having great fun, playing and exploring.
The hardest thing for me was when I had to explain to my friends swimming in different age groups why some children can play while swimming while the others can't. However, the little swimmers were very sensible and accepted the challenge.
The goal of swimming for preschool children should be swimming and having fun at the same time, because that approach helps the children become independent and safe in the water. And on the other hand, it makes children curious, persistent, creative and open to hear and learn new things.
How do swimming classes with paying affect children?
Swimming and PLAYING at the very start make children relaxed and happy. Children had more fun while swimming, played more, explored more and learnt more. The group of playing children did not only create the future swimmers, it created the team players, future leaders with critical thinking inside and outside the water.
- Children from the flexible programme, with playing and exploring, made a better progress. One of the reasons was because this interesting programme made them interested in learning and achieve the result, compared to the dull and “boring” repetition, due to which they would lose interest quite easily.
- The atmosphere in the water with the playing children was always relaxed, more positive, with lots of fun. The children were getting in and out of the pool with a smile! However, the thing that got me even more excited was the fact that the children in the programme “by the book” also showed good spirit after the classes. This just shows that swimming as a physical activity has a positive impact on the mood in any case!
- The children who were playing and swimming were extremely interested in what their peers were about to do and how they were to master the elements necessary for the benefit of the entire group. In this way, they learnt much better and they evolved together as a group, learning not only based on their own experience, but also the experience of one another. The thing I also found surprising was that they were much more careful and focused, which made the work with them easier.
- The playing children made excellent intrapersonal relations and became friends outside the pool, which I was told later by their parents. They had a communication with no restraints and peer pressure. They were more open for cooperation, free and ready to make their own initiative for another play.
There’s a lot of ways of learning through playing and exploring, but this is my way!
Because life is better when you're swimming and reading picture books about swimming!