Before I had children of my own I taught in a very structured manner. Children would come and they would do what I told them to or up on the wall they would sit. At the swim school I used to work at lessons would only be 20 minutes long so I would try and cram as much into that time as possible.
Parents want to see progress from week to week. If you let the child just explore the water often this takes much longer and the parents are not seeing the progress they are paying lots of money for.
It is important to have children explore the water and have structure. Some children do better with less structure and others do better with lots of structure. Everyone is different and we all learn at different rates.
Often I tell parents to go to the pools and let their kids just play as they will gain more confidence. At Turtle Swim School I encourage play before and after their lesson.
Swimming lessons are often only 20-30 minutes long so there does need to be some structure within this time or children will not be getting much out of their lesson.
It is often the children who are beginners who really benefit from play and unstructured holistic learning. It is scary coming to a big pool for the first time and trying to get a child to put trust in an adult that they have never met before.
Can’t afford to take your children to formal swimming lessons? That’s ok!
Encourage play at the local pools, friends pool, your pool or the beach.
The kindergarten format is to learn by play. Exactly the same concept applies with swimming. Take your babies, toddlers and preschoolers to the local pools during the week for a play.
It is FREE for all under 16’s in Auckland, in South Auckland FREE FOR EVERYONE. It costs me $5 to get in to west wave as a supervising adult.
I have taught my children to swim quite differently to how I have taught children in my swimming lessons to swim. We will spend at least an hour at the pools often longer and the whole time is pretty much unstructured play, we have diving and mermaid competitions and often I only get 5-10 minutes of structured swimming.
I teach my children all 4 strokes because they have a small attention span so I find by not concentrating on just freestyle and backstroke they are more engaged. We also do water safety where I get the kids jumping into the deep water and coming back to the wall to gain deep water confidence. So even though there is only 5-10 minutes of structured swimming there is always a lot of unstructured learning and play involved. I may spend only 5 minutes teaching my children how to do breathing to the side but the whole time we are at the pools they are learning.
You can do this too! Just make sure you make a habit out of it. It needs to be a weekly activity. Pick a day and have that day as swimming day every week. Make sure you are always within arms reach of your preschoolers and toddlers and get in the water with them.
You don’t have to be a swimming teacher or even good at swimming to teach your children to swim. Most often us kiwi’s have learnt to swim growing up and even though you may not know the exact steps, you can teach your children confidence in the water. The fundamentals of swimming are confidence and floating which you can teach your own children.
Play is extremely important in whatever your children are doing. Whether they are learning at home, kindy, day care or swimming.
You will gain more confidence from your children if you are allowing them to play as well as having a lesson. If your instructor decides to spend time playing with the kids don’t be too concerned. Most parents will be sitting on the side thinking I am paying all this money for my children to play! But often if is the best thing for them. Your child may have plattoed or is struggling with picking up a skill and they need some time out to just relax and play. Your children will then be more enthused to come back the next week because they will be looking forward to the play.
Always encourage PLAY!