Teach your Newborn baby to swim from birth.


My favourite level to teach is babies and Infants.  So of course having another baby 7 weeks ago has encouraged me to start another blog which I will continue to add to as she grows.


Indy Mae was born at home on the 14th of January.  It was the most amazing experience.  Everything went to plan and I was immediately in love with her.


A lot of first time mothers rush to give their babies a bath in the first few days.  Babies are born with vernix over them.  It is a waxy white substance that protects the baby while they are in the amniotic fluid for 9 months.




There is no need to rush into giving your baby a bath straight away.


My daughter had her first bath at nearly 1 week old.



I held her head and got a clean cloth and wiped her face first and around her ears then moving onto her head.  In the winter you want to make sure that you have a nice warm room so they don’t get cold.

Dry their head and face and then hold your babies arm on one side with your arm running behind their back, so you can then support their head.


Ensure that the water is not too hot and not too cold when you put your baby into the bath.


Holding then slowly swish your baby up and down the bath.  You can sing songs to your baby like;


“swish swash, swish swash I’m a little cookoo clock, swish swash, swish swash now we are striking 1 oclock,”


Remember your baby has been in amniotic fluid for 9 months.


Ensure that your new born has had lots of sleep and hasn’t been awake for a long period of time.  They will need to have a full belly!


I am not a big fan of anything going in the water for a newborn as they will have enough chemicals in their lives growing up.  I just use water and a few sprays of rose water.  Lavender oil is also nice when they are a bit older and not newborn anymore.


Start with just a flannel squeezing it out over their head.


“Indy ready 1,2,3 (trickle water over their head)”


After 4 weeks I can’t say that Indy loves the water.  She has actually cried every time!  I don’t remember my other 2 crying when they had a bath but that doesn’t mean that she gets out of the bath any earlier.  A couple of weeks down the track and she is loving it.  Either that or she has realised that it is just going to happen.


New born babies don’t need a long bath just a quick clean and then learning the cue to go under the water which only needs to be done a a couple of times every time they have a bath.


Once you have done the flannel for the first few baths you can move onto using a small cup a quarter full with water and once again use the cue


“Indy, Ready, 1,2,3 (pour the cup of water over her head)”




With our first two children we only gave them baths.  But with Indy sometimes it is easier to go in the shower.  Great bonding time for dad and your new baby.  Once again you can cue “Indy, ready, 1,2, 3 and then put them under the shower and then pull them out straight away.”  Maybe this is something that Indy prefers as she doesn’t seem to cry as much with Dad in the shower!


I think it is good to have both baths and showers as it means the water is going over her head.


If you are anxious then your baby will read that from you.  Don’t hold back from putting the water on their head at this young stage as they will develop a fear of the water going on their head.  At the moment it is just natural to have water around them and over their heads because of them swimming in the amniotic fluid for 9 months!



The importance of PLAY.

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!


If you need some help please don’t hesitate to ask me for suggestions.  I would love to help out.  Helene at turtleswimschool@gmail.com or www.turtleswimschool.co.nz



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

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

My child has been stuck and I feel as though they haven’t made any progress.

How many times have you sat on the side of the pool, ballet class or karate and wondered to yourself.  My son/daughter has been in this level for ages.  Why is he/she not progressing.

How long do you sit there and think about it before you get up and do something about it.  You are paying good money for your child to have lessons.  There are always other things that you can do to encourage progress.


The other day I was at kindy and a parent turned to me and asked how old my son was.  I told them he was 3 years old, she was very surprised he could write his name because her son who is the same age was drawing on the paper and not doing any letters.

Every child learns and progresses at different rates

Children getting stuck in a level happens more often than you think.  We parents tend to think that is is something wrong with our child.

Why are they not progressing?  How come they are not getting it?

Don’t stress, there are things that you can do to encourage your children over this hurdle.

1.  Talk to the instructor – Ensure that the instructor knows your concerns.  Once they are aware of your concerns a good instructor will try to encourage the child to make some progress.  They may also talk to their colleagues to see what advice they offer.

2. Extra work at home – Ask the instructor what extra work that the child could do at home.  If it is kick then manipulating the legs at home on the bed.  For breaststroke kick manipulate their legs on the floor.  These are just a couple and your instructor will be able to help you with more.  YOU DONT NEED A POOL TO GET BETTER.

3.  Use of aids – If your child is struggling breathing or with their kick then the use of fins could help encourage the kick and a better body position.  If your child is struggling with dolphin kick tying the legs together can encourage children to remember to kick together.  There are lots of different ways that you can use aids to encourage your child to progress.

4.  Change of instructor – Some children relate better to male instructors and some to female.  It is also important to have your child with an instructor that can nurture your child and their personality.

5.  Go to the public pools –  You would be surprised at how much kids can learn by just going to the pools and playing.  They get more confident, even if they are not learning formally.

6.  Video – get that video camera out and film your children.  Often children get frustrated because they don’t know what they are doing wrong.  It is easier to watch themselves so they can see where they are going wrong and then use youtube to find a video of it done correctly and watch it together.

7.  Goals – At http://www.turtleswimschool.co.nz  we encourage the children to strive toward a goal.  In week 5 they have a mid term goal set by the instructor and then they have an end of term goal that we strive to meet.

8.  Positive encouragement – Always be positive when you are talking to your child about their swimming.  Say something that you thought they were doing well, something they need to work on and finish with a positive!

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Don’t just sit there and get frustrated with your child and the instructor.  Ensure that the instructor knows of your concerns and do some homework!  The more that you do at home the better that your child will become and over come their hurdle.  They will be more confident and positive about coming to swimming.

If you are interested in swimming lessons with Turtle Swim School contact us at turtleswimschool@gmail.com or refer to http://www.turtleswimschool.co.nz


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.


Should my child do two lessons a week?

Parents ask me this all the time and my answer is always YES YES YES! Two lessons is more beneficial than one lesson.

Children will gain more confidence, independence and be more relaxed in and around the water.

“Mum when is the next lesson?”

“Is it swimming day today?”

I have even had kids name their toys after me because they love coming so much.

Beach ball close-up with water dropplets

As well as being a learning environment swimming lessons are also fun and children love coming so they can see their teacher, play games and learn.

Just like anything the more you do it the more confident, relaxed and better you become.
Children that have pool’s at home tend to progress a lot faster than those without pools because they are in the water more than other children just attending swimming lessons once a week.


We see some amazing progress during the intensive holiday lessons where children have a lesson every day. They are able to build on what they have learnt the next day. If the children are only coming once a week we have to go over what they have learnt last week and then start to build on the skills already learnt.

Seven days is a long time for the younger swimmers.  Two lessons a week is a fantastic way to build on skills and learn a lot faster than if the child has one lesson a week.

Ensure that they keep their skills up. If you choose not to do two lessons a week make sure that they go to the public pools for a swim once a week as well.


Swimming helps improve coordination and balance

Drowning is consistently the third highest cause of unintentional death in New Zealand
The following facts represent fatal drownings in the Auckland Region from 2008-2012. All data is sourced from Water Safety New Zealand’s DrownBaseTM.
• • From 2008 to 2012 there were 122 drowning deaths in the Auckland Region.
• • 48% of drownings in the Auckland Region occurred whilst participating in a Recreational Activity.
• • 77% of Auckland victims were Male.
• • 13% of drownings in the Auckland Region involved Alcohol.
• • 48% of drownings in the Auckland Region occurred when the victim was alone.

We want to decrease this number. Get your children into a learn to swim programme where they can learn to be safe in and around the water. One lesson is better than none, there are some great swimming instructors in New Zealand and we are all passionate about the learn to swim programme and making our littlest kiwis safe around water.


If you want to book swimming lessons please contact us at Turtle Swim School http://www.turtleswimschool.co.nz or https://www.facebook.com/TurtleswimschoolNZ/timeline  

Teacher versus the parent: on child encouragement

Is it the teacher or the parent who should encourage a child who is screaming, crying and doesn’t want to get in the water?

As a parent you are thinking, I have paid for this lesson stop crying and just get in.


As an instructor you want to talk to the child and try to win their trust. This can be done in several different ways, with the use of toys on the side of the pool or talking about what the child likes to do and trying to relate. I will always ask the child if they have any pets, ask who their favourite cartoon character is. Dora and Diego are big in our household at the moment.

The difference between having a male or female instructor may also affect the child’s temperament.  Generally girls seem to be more confident with female instructors and this can also be seen vice versa with a boy being more willing to show off to a male instructor.  This is not always the case but could be a reason why your child may be a bit apprehensive about getting in the water when they were happy and content previously.


The instructor should spend a bit of time with each child, even if that child has yet to enter the water. The instructor will turn their attention to the other children in the class do an activity with them and then go back to the child who is anxious. Each child should have an equal amount of time with the teacher. The mother or father should be close, talking to their child and following what the instructor is asking to help encourage their child.

So what do you do when you are still standing on the side of the pool with your child wrapped around your legs and it is half way through the lesson? Most parents are thinking by now ‘what a waste of money my child is not even going to get into the water.’


Don’t worry if your child doesn’t get into the water at all on the first lesson. Even if they just get their feet into the water and paddle them this is still progress. Hopefully the teacher has gained a wee bit of trust with the child and the next lesson might be better.
Another thing I find that usually helps children like this is to get them to bring a toy that they play with in the bath at home to the next lesson. It is also highly recommended that you come a bit earlier to the lesson and sit with your child and watch the other children’s lessons.


It’s generally good practice for a swim school to allow your child to come back later in the week for another lesson at no additional charge.  However, you may also find it beneficial to take your child to the local pools during the week to increase their confidence around water.

This is an area I feel very passionate about because I have been on both sides of the fence. My son went to lessons once and got out of the water crying and the instructor did nothing try and coax him back in, but continued to work with the other two children down the other end of the pool. It’s fair to say we didn’t return to this swim school.

If you find yourself in this situation talk to the instructor and see what they suggest. If you don’t have time to talk to them ring the swim school and explain the situation, I am sure that they will have some good suggestions.


Evidently it should be both the parent and the instructor who take responsibility for encouraging the child into the water. The more support a child has throughout the process; the more confident and wiling they will be in and around water.


If you wish to book lessons through Turtle Swim School please contact Helene on Turtleswimschool@gmail.com

Things to expect from your Swimming Instructor

IMG_3070  You arrive at the pool; you may have been before to have a look and book in, or you may have booked over the phone or internet. So as you enter you may be feeling a bit anxious, nervous or excited and are wondering what to expect.


It’s important to remember that whatever you are feeling your child is also feeling, so as you enter you would normally expect someone to greet you with a smile, ask your name and show you who your instructor will be.


As an instructor myself I notice new children are often shy and will stick close to their parents, so I will usually give them a sneaky smile even if that child is with another instructor. Hopefully this makes both you and you’re your child a little more comfortable.


Your son or daughter will be watching the lessons from the moment they enter the pool. If the instructor is loud and boisterous with the other children in the previous class this may make your child either more anxious or excited.


As an instructor it is important to start building a relationship with your child from the beginning. I generally comment on their togs or clothes, tell them that I think look pretty or cool and make sure I keep smiling!



When it’s your child’s turn to enter the water, the instructor should call out his or her name and you should both go up to the instructor and introduce yourselves.


As a parent myself and an instructor, I am always watching the clock. Some of us do and some of us don’t, but if the lesson is only 20 minutes I want to ensure that my child gets the most out of their 20 minutes in the water!

I have had parents sit on the side of the pool with stopwatches and time how long their child has been swimming. In a half an hour lesson her daughter got 7 minutes of actual swim time. As parents we are paying for a 30minute swim class, you should expect at least 25-30 minutes of actual swim time. Each child should get an equal amount of time with the instructor during the lesson.


Children should be sent across the pool in groups or one at a time in a circuit and the activities will be done as a class. I normally have a class of 4 children. Two children will go across the pool I will help one and look at the other at the same time. On the way back across the pool the other child will be helped.



The instructor should be manipulating the children and should be specifically commending, recommending and then commending. Children love to be encouraged and praised, this is why saying something positive before telling them what they need to work on will ensure a great result.

For example:

“Sally your kick was amazing but next time try and reach out as far as you can with your arms. I loved those fast legs well done.”



Sometimes preschoolers do need some down time on the side of the pool to have a little play, and this is ok, but usually an instructor will allow time for this while they are taking another child across the pool.

Instructors should try and engage with you as the parent/caregiver in the class. Children love swimming and showing off for their parents or family. I have had a parent come to swimming lessons every week, sit and read a magazine, and then complain at the end of the term that they didn’t see any backstroke being done. As a parent it is important to watch and engage with your child’s lesson. This is how they progress and get better.


Things that a good instructor will know and do!


  • They will know your child’s name
  • They will be able to see an anxious child and work with it, by talking to the child and building trust
  • They will never force or push your child under the water
  • Your child will have maximum swim time
  • Your instructor will be timely, encouraging and positive
  • Have fun and play games
  • They will understand how to correct a fault in the stroke.
  • Teach your child as an individual


Instructors are usually very patient, encouraging positive people who generally have a passion and love for their job. Most of the time they go out of their way to ensure you are happy and that your child is progressing and getting the most out of their swimming lessons.

Find a good swimming instructor and try and hold onto them because they will do wonders for your children!

For more information or to book a swimming lesson at Turtle Swim School call 09 8263366 or email turtleswimschool@gmail.com