A great instructor stands out from the rest!


What is a great instructor and how do you get one?

I believe that a great instructor really stands out from the rest.

It is often when the parents sit on the side and think

“Wow! how can we get her/him to take our children”

What is it that gives that edge over other instructors?

  1. Confidence – Knowing what drills need to be done to encourage change from a fault in the stroke.
  2. Approachable – If you are approachable then kids will feel at ease with you and try hard when they are swimming.
  3. Timely – Always on time and ensuring that the children get the maximum amount of swimming time.
  4. Feedback – Constructive criticism is given constantly.  A Positive, something that needs to be worked on and another positive.
  5. Continuity – If you can keep an instructor for a few terms then you will be winning.  That instructor will know your child and will be able to pick up where they left off from the previous term.  They will get to know your child and what works or doesn’t work.
  6. FUN and sense of Humour- One of the most important things when you are teaching swimming is to have fun with the kids, so that they want to come back again and again.  Build up a relationship with the child so they have a connection with that instructor.

There are some amazing instructors out there and they are not always the ex swimmers.  I have had some amazing instructors I have worked alongside of in the past.  Some were mums who were amazing with kids.  Some were students who had, had barely any experience teaching swimming.

You will know when you have struck an amazing instructor!  Your kids will talk about them and really want to go back to swimming.  I have had dolls named after me at home because I had made such an impact in their lives.

Get a great instructor and hold on to them!



Does my child need one to one lessons?

I think there is a time every parent thinks

“Should I spend some money and get my child a one to one lesson?”

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One to one lessons can be fantastic for progression.  It gives the instructor time to concentrate on your child without having the distraction of others.

If your child is disrupting other children by screaming or not wanting to get in.  They have been to many lessons and you are not seeing any progression or you can see their frustration when they are not understanding what the skill being taught is.  You may like to think seriously about getting a 1:1 but you may also be able to save some money and help your kids yourself.

I have had many kids come to me for a one to one over the years and it proved to be great value for money.  I had one child who was struggling with his breaststroke kick.  All he needed was a little bit of time just me and him and he took everything I said on board and put it into his swimming and by the end of the session his breaststroke was beautiful.

I have had other children who are beginners and just need a bit of time spent convincing them that the water can be an enjoyable experience.  It is sometimes hard to get children who are screaming and unwilling to enter the pool in the water when you have other children waiting for a lesson.

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If your child is a beginner and has not been to the facility before on the first lesson they may be hessitant.  My sugestion is to come to the pool early to watch other lessons and get familar with their suroundings.  If you come to the middle of the term and your child is still hesitant to enter and upset coming then I would say that having a 1:1 might be a good idea.

If your child is stuck on a particular skill sometimes having a 1:1 can get them over the hurdle.  I would also recommend always going to the public pools and keeping that confidence up.


As much as we don’t want it to happen often something happens and your child goes backwards.  Maybe they were in the bath and they went under the water?  Or they went to the pools and got a big mouth of water?  Maybe there has been a change in the family a new baby, parents have separated, child has moved houses.  Sometimes we as parents don’t know what the cause is but the instructors have to take a step backwards to go forwards.

It is often frustrating for the parents and instructors when we  know their child was doing a particular skill or was at a certain level and now they can no longer complete it as well as they previously had.

Sometimes like I have said above your child just needs a bit of play time in the water at the public pools to gain that confidence back.  If it is something like a near drowning this is more delicate and I would recommend having a professional instructor do a 1:1 with you.

1:1’s can be excellent and get great progress out of your child.  But you can also take your child to the public pools to regain that confidence or build it up.  You may only need one or two 1:1 lessons.  I don’t feel as though you would ever regret getting a 1:1 and spending that money.  If you feel your child needs it then go for it and also ensure that you are taking them to the pools.


If you would like to book in with Turtle Swim School please contact Helene on turtleswimschool@gmail.com or 0211024184

How do I teach my own child to swim?

Recently I was at the pools and I got talking to another parent.  She started saying she had taken her child out of swimming lessons during the winter because he continually got sick and wondered if she was getting value for money.

If she just knew how to teach him herself or they told her what to do at home it would make a huge difference. She suggested lessons for parents. To teach them how to teach.


As we all know swimming lessons are expensive.  At Turtle Swim School we try to keep our prices affordable.  I can understand that it would get frustrating when your child is always sick and missing swimming lessons.

There is a lot you can do at home or at the pools yourself.  I have mentioned it before but always worth saying again.

Do you need to know the steps to get your kids progressing?  Here they are!

The first step for your children is Water Confidence.

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Go to the pools and just play with your kids, never force them under the water they will do it when they are ready.  Once they have water confidence and are happy going under the water the next step is Floating.

Try to have fun with floating, get your kids floating like mushrooms or balls.  Maybe they could float in the letter of their name.

Get your kids Gliding from one parent to the wall or from one parent to the other.  They need to be looking down to be able to float on their fronts so maybe put some sinkers at the bottom that they can see.  Use boards or the big floating mats that are free to use at public pools.  They will find it easier to float with aids.  Then try and get them floating with you holding them and then decrease the amount of help.

Remember to try and make it fun and don’t be too concerned if you don’t get what you want out of your kids.  Make is relaxed and fun they will get there.

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I have been teaching my own two kids for a couple of years now and it is a challenge but worth it when you see the improvement.  We go to the pools and spend on average between 1-2 hours at the pool most of the time playing, but they still learn.  I also use a bit of bribery telling them they will get a special treat if they show me their best swimming.

After your kids can glide, Kicking comes next.  The legs need to be stretched out and long.  The kick comes from the hip and the toes are pointed.

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Then they need to do big arm strokes with kicking.  Arms need to be reaching up high, legs out long with pointy toes and floppy feet.

Breathing is the next progression.  This one may be a bit tricky and may be worth looking at starting swimming lessons.  But by all means have a go.  The main thing with breathing that does get looked over is if the children are blowing bubbles.  I often start teaching breathing but having the kids stationary and getting them bobbing up and down just blowing bubbles and then breathing.

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I do believe that you can teach your kids to swim up to a certain point.  Breathing does get a bit tricky and would suggest that when they reach this stage you do start to look at putting them into swimming lessons.  Getting them up to the stage of breathing yourself would have saved you a lot of money.

Start with water confidence, then move onto floating on their fronts and backs.  Gliding, kicking and then arm strokes.  Make it fun and don’t worry too much about structure as they will learn as they play.

Ensure that you go to the pools at least once a week or more to keep up the confidence and water play.

If you need any advice please ask.  I am more than happy to help out.  Helene Aitchison at turtleswimschool@gmail.com or on https://www.facebook.com/TurtleswimschoolNZ

How do I keep my confident toddler/preschooler safe around the water.

The other day I posted on facebook that I was throwing my 2 year old daughter into the pool and encouraging her to swim back to the wall.

I can’t imagine that there would be many mothers of 2 year olds throwing their children into the water but I do it for her safety.



Both my children have learnt to swim before they have walked and are both extremely confident in the water. That does not mean that I am any more relaxed when they are around the water. If anything I think I am more worried about them being so confident because they do not have the fear that other children have when they are around the water.

I am always encouraging both children to float on their backs as much as possible so that if they were in a situation they could float on their backs to get their breath back. But most of the time they choose to swim with their faces in the water and kicking on their front. So I decided that I would take a different approach to ensure their safety.

Initially I would drop my daughter into the water vertically In a deep pool facing away from the wall. Once she was in the water I would encourage her to rotate and turn towards the wall and hold on. This was done both with goggles and without.
Children who slip into the pool often do not have goggles on and if they fall in don’t realise that the wall is only behind them and they just need to turn around and hold onto it.


Every time we went to the pools I would do this with her a few times. Once she was turning around and holding on herself I then dropped her in further out and got her to turn and kick back to the wall.

Once you feel confident with your child doing it themselves. Get them to do it without an adult in the water and extend them out further. Make sure that you are right there if they get into trouble and you need to get back in.

If your child is not confident enough to kick back to the wall yet then just practice dropping them in right next to the wall and encouraging them to turn around and hold onto the wall. Talk to them and tell them what you are going to do. Explain that they need to turn around to hold onto the wall and when they are dropped in have another adult in the water to begin to ensure safety and to gently rotate them around.

Once you have talked to you child to let them know what you are going to do use the cue that you would have used when they were younger to put them under the water. “Paige ready go”. Or “Paige 1,2,3, go”

I hope that this has helped and that you are still always an arms length away from your children when they are around the water at all times. But we all know that sometimes things just happen and you can be right there the whole time and they can still fall into the water.

Do you run swimming lessons in the winter?

Recently I have had lots of people ask me “What do we do in winter?”

“Do you do lessons somewhere else?”

As much as I would absolutely love to continue lessons in the winter I feel as though it would just be too cold swimming in the hail, rain and thunder!

That does not mean that swimming needs to stop for you and your children.

In the winter I take my kids down to the local swimming pools once a week. It is free in Auckland for under 16 year olds and is only $4.90 for a supervising adult. If you travel out south it is totally free for everyone! So there are no excuses.

If you can make time once a week to take your children to swimming lessons you can make time to take them to the public pools.


“But I don’t know how to teach them to swim” you say.

You don’t need to know how to teach your children. You will be surprised at how much they will learn by just playing at the pools.

1. Take your children to the pools once a week.

2. Have competitions to see how well they can do.

3. Use their older siblings to encourage them to practice.

4. Don’t push learning too much, let them play and just try to get in a tiny bit of swimming when they are ready.

5. Use bribery! I tell my kids that they have to do some swimming to get sushi for lunch. Seems to be the only way I can get them to show me some swimming.

6. Practice at home. If your children are doing arm strokes or breathing get them practicing on the table with their heads down and manipulating their heads and arms.

7. Make it fun, change it into a game where your kids have to swim to their sinkers across the other side of the pool doing their arm strokes and breathing.

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You could always take your child to different swimming lessons during the winter but I feel as though you can keep up the progress they have made by just getting to your local pools once or twice a week.

You will be amazed at how well they can do and retain what they have learnt at lessons with play.

If you can get to the pools this winter then your children will retain what they have learnt or even progress a wee bit and your instructor can continue come term 4 lessons.

It is so important to keep the swimming up. If you don’t go to the pools in winter you may end up with your children digressing and your instructor may have to go backwards before going forwards when going back to lessons.

My advice is to continue with lessons else where or go to the public swimming pools once or twice a week during the winter to ensure that your children don’t lose what they have learnt this summer.

Keep up the good work and get your kids into the water!


If you are interested in learning to swim with Turtle Swim School please contact Helene at turtleswimschool@gmail.com or on 098263366

How much actual swimming time should your child be receiving when learning to swim?

Swimming lessons are not cheap and as parents we want to get the most for our money. Swimming lessons can be anywhere between 20 minutes to 1 hour long depending on your child’s level.


As a parent I want to see my children swimming as much as possible and getting maximum swimming time. I will look at the clock and expect my child to enter the water at their specified time and exit at the end when their 20 minutes is up. Whatever level your child is they should always be moving and learning.

The instructor should ensure that your child is always doing an activity. If the instructor is working with another child they should have set an activity for the other children while they are waiting or only spend a small amount of time with that child before they come back to your child.

A good instructor will have all children swimming and correcting each individual as they pass the instructor. Then discussing what they can work on at the end of the pool.


Sometimes pre school children require a little bit more down time as their concentration levels are lower. Children can swim across the pool in groups while the instructor works with one of the children. Alternating who they have worked with on the way back.
Encouraging the children to practice on the side of the pool is a great way to encourage improvement and also get some input from the parents.

I have seen a parent use a stopwatch on one of my collegues in the past. The parent would start the stopwatch every time her daughter started swimming during the lesson. Out of a 30 minute lesson her daughter received 12 minutes of actual swimming time.


Your child’s swimming time is not divided, they should be getting maximum swimming time for the entire lesson.

What should you do if you feel as though your child is not getting enough actual swimming time. Contact your swim school and explain that you feel they should be getting more time swimming. They are there to learn to swim for the entire amount of time of the lesson.

Instructors should be encouraging movement by;

– Sending more than one child across the pool at a time
– Giving the children an activity to work on at the end of the pool if they are working with another child.
– Dividing their time equally between all the children
– Working as a group

A lot of children only get to go to their one swimming lesson every week and don’t get any other time to go to the pools to practice so ensuring that your swimming instructor is giving your child the maximum amount of swimming time is important. Approach your swim school and ask if they can offer any suggestions.

If you wish to get your child learning to breathe with Turtle Swim School contact us at turtleswimschool@gmail.com or https://www.facebook.com/TurtleswimschoolNZ

Helpful hints when your child is learning to breathe.

Finally they have made it! Learning to breathe is when we really see our children swimming and it is such an amazing feeling for the parent, child and instructor to see them able to swim without stopping to stand to breathe.


It is a long process and needs a lot of time and repetition. I do believe that doing a holiday intensive where the children come every day to lessons is the best way to learn to breathe.

At Turtle Swim School we begin with teaching the children to breathe on one side, their natural side. Once they are confident on one side then we will teach them breathing on both sides.

Exhaling air is the most important thing when learning to breathe. A lot of children are unaware of what to do under the water and may learn to do their arms and roll their head to the side but forget about blowing air out.

As parents we can encourage breathing at home in the bath.  Get your children to take a breath and then exhale everything in the water, then take another breath and exhale.  When exhaling count to 10 while the child is blowing bubbles, this ensures that children are taking a deep breath.  It is important to ensure that they are only taking one breath of air when they come up. This can also be done in the pool if you take them to the local pools for a play.  Ensure an adult is supervising whilst attempting breath inhale and exhale in the water.

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Learning to roll out in the right position is also important. This can be done at home or by walking across the pool with a board to start.
Exhaling and then rolling the head to the side to take one breath, then repeating this. Once the child knows how to exhale properly and is only taking one breath on the side then the arms can be added.

Relax in the water and you will be a great swimmer!

Relaxing will ensure your body is in a line and on top of the water. If you are not relaxed then the head may lift up and the feet will drop and you will find that you end up standing up.
If any part of your body is tense it will show in your swimming and may take you longer to progress onto swimming further without stopping to stand up.

Learning to breathe is an important step in your child’s learn to swim journey. It is a stage that needs a lot of time and repetition. If your child is relaxed in the water and keen to learn then they will pick it up fast.
Learning to exhale is critical when learning to breathe, practicing this at home is essential. I believe doing a holiday intensive or x2 lessons a week is the best for this level as it really establishes the freestyle stroke.

If you wish to get your child learning to breathe with Turtle Swim School contact us at turtleswimschool@gmail.com or https://www.facebook.com/TurtleswimschoolNZ

Lessons are running these holidays 5-9th of January, 12-16th January, 19-23rd of January 2015.  $55 for one week.  Email now to secure your spot.


What age should my child start learning to swim?

Both my children started learning about the water and swimming right from the moment they were born. Babies are in amniotic fluid for 9 months so keeping them in and around water after they are born is only natural. When we were bathing my two children water was poured over their heads right from birth. Both started official swimming lessons at 4 months old.

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As an instructor I would recommend starting swimming lessons at home from birth. You don’t have to take your baby to swimming lessons for them to learn. Start with a small cup of water and cue “your child’s name, ready go” pouring a quarter of a cup of water straight over their head running over their face. Sing to your baby in the bath and make it fun.
By pouring water over their heads it will teach breath control. The amount of water can be increased over time and then count to 10 so that the babies start to gain a better breath control.

Once you are comfortable to take your baby to the pools. Go and have fun, sing songs and build water confidence in a bigger area of water.

Taj swimming baby

I believe that swimming lessons are not essential for babies.  It is great for social interaction, bonding with mum and dad, water confidence and teaching water safety.

If you have not taught your baby water confidence early enough then they may be a bit more apprehensive about entering the water. In this case I believe that starting swimming lessons as soon as possible is best.

Swimming instructors have experienced children who are anxious in the water and they have the knowledge to help you get your child confident in and around the water.

Taj baby

I have had children start swimming lessons at the age of 6 months and become fantastic swimmers I have also had swimmers start when they are 4 years old and grow to be an amazing swimmers.

I don’t know if there is a specific age that you should put your child in swimming lessons. I do know that you shouldn’t leave it too long.  They should be in lessons before they start school.  In New Zealand we are surrounded by water and some of it is extremely dangerous,  It is essential that your child is confident in and around water and aware of its dangers.


Swimming lessons can be expensive but that shouldn’t stop you there are amazing programs that run swimming lessons free of charge.

The GAAAP program which is a fully funded program to get more young kiwis swimming is happening in almost all lower decile schools in Auckland. Aiming to get our young kiwis to swim 200 meters before they leave primary school.

There is also the Whānau Nui program which runs over five days [with one lesson per day] and through a simple, positive and fun approach to learning participating families gain the confidence to take part in aquatic activities, learn to stay afloat and develop essential skills. Skills that can that be taught and passed on to other family members
(Taken From Water Safe website)

My advice to you is to teach your child water confidence from day 1. Pour water over their heads, sing songs encourage them when they are around water. But ensure they also know the dangers of water. Once you feel as though your child is confident in the water then book in for swimming lessons. Or if your child is anxious or apprehensive either take them to the pools yourself to get their confidence up, or put your trust in a good instructor.

If you wish to get swimming lessons from Helene at Turtle swim School please contact her on turtleswimschool@gmail.com or   website – http://www.turtleswimschool.co.nz

How do I know the swimming teacher we have is the best fit for my child?

In the weekend I was talking to a parent who was unhappy with their swimming instructor.
My first question was, “Have you told the swim school?”
To which she replied, “Yes”.

Apparently the lessons had improved after she had spoken to the swim school but she was still concerned that perhaps the swim teacher wasn’t the right fit for her child.

More often than not we just put up with what we have been given and don’t speak up with our concerns, in order to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
I personally am a complainer, and am honest and up front about it. The way I see it is, if I don’t complain the company are not going to change or improve their service. I see it as constructive feedback.
As parents we are paying for the lessons, so I think you should feel as though you are getting value for money.


So what should you do if you find yourself in a situation, where you are unhappy with the level of service you are getting from you swim instructor and wish to give feedback. In other words, what is the best way to make a complaint?

If you were me then you would grab the bull by the horns and don’t hold back! But not everyone is comfortable with that approach. If there is a problem I will always let the service provider know, but I also ensure I give credit where credit is due. If a company gives me great service, I will let them know.

I would say the easiest thing to do initially is to talk to the instructor. You have probably already built up a relationship with them, so this should be the easiest route.


If that doesn’t work, approach the actual swim school manager. Most of the time they will be more than happy to help you out as we want to keep our customers happy.

Sometimes it might just be easier to get together with the other parents in the class that your child is in, and get one of them to go to talk to the swim school on behalf of the group.

At a swim school there is varying degrees of ability within the instructors. A good swim school will fit you with an instructor that will nurture, bond and extend your child. Although if you speak up and tell the swim school who you would prefer to be with and why then I am sure that they will try to accommodate you.


Get the right fit with your instructor.

– Male or Female? Which gender does your child bond with more easily? Sometimes children can be upset for a period of time and it is because their instructor is a male and they are female or vice versa.

– Experience – It is hard to know without asking the instructors about their experience. Ask what they would suggest if your child was not progressing at a normal rate.

– Personality – Is your child quiet? Or really full of energy? If so then they would probably be best suited with a teacher who is calm and nurturing. Or an instructor who is also full of energy and enthusiastic.

– If you want to pick your instructor then be prepared to have to come on the particular day and time when they are available.

– You may think that your child is not progressing but there maybe a reason why the instructor has kept them at that level. Speak up and ask, why are they in that class? What do they have to do to move into the next level?

Please don’t sit back and say nothing. We want to know if you are unhappy and how we can help you in the “learn to swim industry”. I feel as an instructor I am not doing my job properly if the parents are unhappy. Most of the time I get really positive feedback about lessons.
First approach your instructor then try the manager or the swim school office. We as swim schools are providing a service and want to ensure that you are happy, so if you are not comfortable speaking up try writing an email direct to the school raising your concerns. Also remember if you are happy with your swim school and instructor tell them! We are often quicker to complain than we are to complement.


If you would like swimming lessons with Turtle Swim School please contact us on turtleswimschool@gmail.com or at http://www.turtleswimschool.co.nz 

Keep your kids safe this summer with these 8 important messages.

  1. Learn to swim
    1. It is so important to learn to swim, with water all around us living in New Zealand.  Find a good swim school and book your kids into lessons. They will learn confidence and how to be safe in and around the water.

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  1. Swim between the flags
    1. The safest place at a surf beach is to swim between the flags, follow the lifeguards instructions and ensure that your children are only an arms reach from you.  If there are no flags then swim where there are waves.


  1. Swim with an adult
    1. Always make sure that you are watching your children when they are around the water. It only takes a few moments and DROWNING IS SILENT.  Children must be accompanied by an adult 16 years or older.



  1. Shut the gate behind you
    1. Make sure the gate is shut behind you so that younger children can’t get in.  It is also important that there is nothing close that children can push up to the fence and climb over.


  1. Walk around the pool don’t run
    1. If you run around the pool you could slip, fall and hurt yourself or others around you.



  1. If there is an emergency call the lifeguards or 111 for help.
    1. Unless you are trained to rescue people stay out and call for help they don’t want to rescue another person.


  1. If you are going on a boat wear a life jacket.
    1. Wearing a life jacket can be a bit intimidating for younger kids, wear them around the house, or on the jetty when you go fishing, so that the kids get used to wearing them.


  1. Learn about rips and currents.
    1. Living in New Zealand we are all close to beaches wherever you live.  it is important to educate your kids and yourself on rips and currents.

What does a rip look like?

  1. Dis coloured or murky brown water caused by sand stirred up off the bottom
  2. A smoother surface with much smaller waves, with waves breaking on either side.
  3. Debris floating out to sea
  4. A rippled look, when the water around is generally calm.


If you get caught in a rip:

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Don’t try to swim against the rip back to shore
  3. Let the rip carry you out until the current subsides, then swim parallel to the beach for 30-40 metres before swimming back to shore
  4. If you get tired or become frightened, stay calm, raise your      arm, call for help and wait for assistance.