I love my job.

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When I was in my early 20’s I went on my OE and worked in a swim school in Scotland.  Ever since then a seed was planted in my mind that one day I too could have my own swim school.

For years I have taught kids to swim and loved it!

My dream was that one day I would have a swim school to call my own.

I started teaching kids to swim at 18 years old in an Auckland swim school.  I loved it, but the pull of going overseas was too much, so off I went on a trip of a life time.

I started working in a summer camp in America working as a life guard and a swim teacher.  One day we had all these new kids come to the camp and we asked them if they could swim.  Some of the girls said no but most said yes.  We were located on a lake; the girls that had clearly said they could swim were to swim from the end of the pontoon out to another pontoon and back.

These girls were jumping in the water and going straight to the bottom of the lake.  Lucky there were about 10 of us lifeguards.  We were jumping in and rescuing the girls left right and centre.

After spending a summer in America I decided to go to the UK to live and experience life over there.

I applied and got a job working for a local swim school over in Edinburgh.  I started as a swim teacher but quickly worked up to managing the pools and the office.  I loved management and my boss at the time said

“Helene you could have your own swim school one day.  You would be amazing at it”

I have always remembered her saying that and from then on the seed was planted.”

Where do you start though?

How do you go about starting your own swim school?

Don’t I need heaps of money?

Maybe a pool would be good.

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Once I got home I went to see a man that had taught me to swim all those years ago to see if he could offer me a job.  Of course he offered me a job, I am amazing!  Or so I thought I was.

Once again I started as a swim teacher, which felt like a step backwards after managing and pretty much running the swim school in Scotland.  But I had to start somewhere and I loved teaching kids so much I wasn’t bothered that I was earning half of what I was in Scotland because I was doing the best job in the world.  I was teaching kids to swim!

Once again I quickly moved up in the ranks and was ended up managing and teaching full time for him.  I was paid extremely well and put lots of time and energy into my job.  After about 9 years working for this local Auckland swim school and having two children I felt like it was time for me to go off on my own.  I did a certificate in small business management and I felt like I had direction.

I put a proposal into a local school that had an outdoor pool.  The board of trustees said yes and I was away.  I was to teach the local kids how to swim in the afternoons.  It was great!  I had set up a website and got a logo for my swim school.

I called myself “Turtle Swim School”.  This was special to me because “Turtle” was my husband’s nick name for years.  It felt like a name that resonated with my family.

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I was in love with my little swim school!  I could do it in the hours that suited me, around my family.  For three summers Turtle Swim School ran out of Owairaka District School in Auckland.

Until we decided to move our family to Papamoa, Tauranga.  We wanted our kids to grow up near the beach and my husband was over the traffic.  So then the tears started streaming down my face.

I had just started my swim school, the dream I had, had for over 10 years was about to end.

Or was it?

We decided to look for a house that had a pool that I could use to work out of.

We searched and searched.  Nothing was coming up so of course there were more tears.  I must admit that all the tears were also due to the fact that I was also pregnant again with our third child.

I was now pregnant, hormonal and looking for a very specific house.  There was one house which we fell in love with.  It was built in the 70’s, 4 bedrooms only 300 meters from the beach and had a pool.  It was perfect but after getting it checked out by a builder we were advised against buying it.  There were too many major issues with this house!  So of course more tears!

Was I ever going to get my dream again or were we just going to get a house in the beautiful bay of plenty and say good bye to my dream of working out of home and having Turtle Swim School start again.

We stumbled across a house only a few meters from my sister’s house and after it being on trade me for a night and my brother in law having a look through it.  We put an offer in on this house.  No pool though, but potential!

The dream was back!  Or was it………

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We moved in May 2015 and I had my daughter in January 2016.  My husband was on my case about putting this pool in.  But I felt like it was in the too hard basket.  We had just brought a house and now I had pressure to put the pool in and get things started and I had also just had a baby!  My husband is away for work so I have three children by myself most of the time.

 

I got a few quotes and they were all between 80-100K.  There were more tears wondering where this kind of money was going to come from.  I also thought I better go and ask my neighbours because if they were going to be extremely unhappy about it then the dream would also not be happening.  I was so nervous!  If you know me I am not normally a nervous person but I plucked up the courage to go and ask my neighbours because it meant so much to me.  They both said yes and then relief oh my goodness.  Tears of happiness!

In June 2016 after the bank said yes, we said yes to Penguin Pools and by October 2016 we had a 12 meter pool.  That wasn’t after lots of tears as well.  At one stage I thought that my neighbours shed was going to fall into this massive hole they had dug.  There were lots of sleepless nights!

You know when you go to the beach and you dig a hole, the water comes in and the sides keep collapsing.  That is what happened to our hole.  It started off being the right size for the pool and with our water table being extremely high, the hole just kept getting bigger and bigger!

Tears, tears and more tears!

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I was pretty much fully booked and ready to go in October for the first lessons with Turtle Swim School in Papamoa!

Lessons went extremely well!  I loved it.  Classes are a maximum of four children and are affordable for the community.

We live near the beach and it is essential to learn to swim.

I am missing not being in the water over the winter but I look forward to getting back in and teaching kids in our local community again this coming summer.

This year there is less stress, less tears and lots of love, excitement, laughter and play!

Turtle Swim School looks forward to seeing lots of new and old faces this coming summer.

If you are keen to have lessons with Helene this summer contact her at turtleswimschool@gmail.com

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A great instructor stands out from the rest!

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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!

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Butterfly – The last stroke to learn but the one with the fundamental movement for every stroke.

When I learnt to swim, I learnt how to do freestyle and backstroke before I learnt how to do breaststroke and WAY before even thinking about learning how to do butterfly!

The kick in butterfly is used for all 4 strokes.  You may want to go and correct me there and say no actually it isn’t used in Breaststroke but the undulation in dolphin kick is used in breaststroke.

The movement in breaststroke and butterfly is exactly the same.  When you take off and dive into the water for breaststroke you do a dolphin kick right before you do a pull out.  Then as you are moving through the water your hips go up and down with the pull and the kick.

The link below shows the change in rules with the breaststroke pullout.

FINA Announces Another Rules Change to Breaststroke Pullouts

 

So why is it that we have not taught our kids dolphin kick right from the start?

A lot of swim schools in New Zealand are now are changing the way they teach and have started to bring in the dolphin kick a lot earlier than previously.

I think that dolphin kick is a fundamental kick and a separate stroke in its own right.

 

I believe it is critical that we ensure all our young swimmers are learning how to dolphin, mermaid or merman kick right from as soon as they are past the gliding stage.

As a parent when your kids go to the pools get them to have competitions to see who can get to the other side being a mermaid. Who can dive down to the bottom and pick up the sinkers like a mermaid.  Who can swim through the hoop like a mermaid?

 

 

The kids will love it!  Give it a go get them moving their bottom up and down and keep their legs together!  Have fun.

There has recently been a bit of controversy in New Zealand with the use of Mermaid tails.  The kids see them and think what a cool idea and ask mum and dad for one.  The only thing is that they are quite dangerous.

They do not allow you to stand up and often children can end up in trouble if there is not a parent closely keeping an eye on them.

 

Once your child has the basics of the dolphin kick they can then move onto learning the arms.

Break it up for them so that it is easy.  Walking along arms in streamline position then down to the hips, out behind them, thumbs down up over and out of the water back to the top.

  1.  Learn how to do dolphin kick – play games, have competitions, have fun!
  2.  Arms by themselves stationary and then walking.
  3.  Arms and legs together no breathing – one arm drills
  4.  Stand on the side and do kick and arms before getting into the pool to ensure the correct timing.
  5. Put it together.  arms breathing with two kicks – one kick to move you through the water and the other to encourage the arms out of the water.

Butterfly is not a hard stroke if the timing is correct.  Make sure your kids are doing dolphin kick from an early age which will make it much easier once they start learning the full stroke.

 

 

Can swimming at an early age have your child ahead of the class before they start school?

In the past I have read articles and seen videos on how swimming from an early age can improve your child’s intelligence before they get to school.

Recently I watched a video on you tube from Australia which says that children who have swum from an early age are 15 months ahead of their peers when they get to school.

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Have a watch below, it is fascinating!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Pu_ZPQFwP0&feature=youtube

Both my kids started learning to swim from birth.  They were in official swimming lessons at the age of 4 months.

My kids did seem like they have been ahead of other children’s milestones growing up, but I  have never thought anything of it as I thought every child develops at different rates.

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Below I have a link to a wonderful article on how children who learn to swim early develop earlier in many different areas.

It also discusses how it helps motor development, cognitive development and emotional development.  Please take the time to click on and read the link below.

It states “No matter how old your children are, you have the power to affect their development and even their success in life”

http://www.aquazone.co.nz/uploads/2/4/3/3/24337322/develop_your_childs_genius_with_swimming.pdf

Swimming is fantastic for children as it teaches socialization, hand eye co-ordination and helps children reach their developmental mile stones sooner than other children who don’t swim. It is never too late to get your children swimming.

If you would like to have lessons this summer with Helene then contact her now Turtleswimschool@gmail.com or 021 1024184

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)
http://www.watersafe.org.nz/family-communities/programmes-and-support/whanau-nui/

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