"Just let me play"

Why is it so important that learning to swim is fun and playful? Many traditional swimming schools have sadly become very strict and rigid during their swimming lessons. Is this starting to frustrate your child and they just don't seem to be enjoying their time in the water anymore as much? I understand as I used to be one of those swimming instructors.


I have been teaching swimming since I was 14 years old. After being in the pool for 2 hours myself training on a Saturday morning I used to stay in the water and help with the little ones during their lessons. I absolutely loved it and have been actively teaching ever since. 2020 will be 27th year of teaching - OMG!!!!! I have just realized that that's a long time.


When I was qualifying with Swim England - in my day they were called Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) - I didn't think any different with having all the different levels/stage and then teaching the children to achieve all that was on that list. I registered them, taught them for 30 mins then if I saw that they could do a certain skill on the sheet given to me during the course I would tick that off. The last lesson of the course was "assessment day" which they had to perform all of the skills on the level/stage that they were in. If they had all the boxes ticked they moved up if they didn't then they stayed in that group. Simple, right? Well that was over 20 years ago now and nothing has changed. 27 years on, and to me that just doesn't seem logical and forward thinking.


I was thinking about this the other day after a mum had posted a recommendation on a Facebook Page. She was wondering where others send their children to swimming lessons because her son wasn't moving up because he couldn't do one of the skills on his teachers list. He was a little older than the others in his group and was starting to become annoyed as he wanted to be with his friends and children more his age. The teacher just couldn't justify why he should move up. So she was reaching out to other parents to see if they had experienced this and if she should move or stay and say something. Many people responded that yes they too had experienced that but they spoke with their Swim School Manager and it didn't seem to get resolved or they explained their reasons for why so they just carried on.


This made me upset for the little boy who obviously wanted to swim but didn't seem to get rewarded for all his strengths only be dragged down by what he couldn't do. This is where in the swimming teaching world lets our children down in so many ways.


Learning to swim should be the activity that a child can't wait to get to, laughs, smiles, has so much fun that are already looking forward to their next time in the water.


Their faces should look like this:


Being in the water has so many benefits not only as a life saving skill but also a life skill. The beauty lies with the power of the water. Water is magical and if used correctly, anyone can learn a lot about themselves, those around them, those close to them, and those things in life that happen.


At Mini Water Adventurers swim school we start as young as 3 months old through to 7 years old. I truly believe that if a child starts at Level 1 with us by the time they are 7 years old and at level 7 they will be a strong, confident and a very happy/content swimmer.


So, yes I have just mentioned levels - these levels that I have are only GOAL GUIDELINES as to what a child is to AIM for. These are not set in stone, it based on ages rather than ability and if I have a 4 year old that isn't yet doing what is on my goal sheet then that's ok and we celebrate everything that they are achieving in the water. At each level, I then group according to pool experience & confidence levels.


All swimming teachers/instructors have an end goal which is to learn how to swim absolutely but it's the journey how a child gets there and their experience, building positive memories, exploring, playing, using their imaginations, and creating a fun environment which is MOST important.


When moving back to England after living in Florida for 10 years and having a successful swim school (Helen's Fishes Club) I thought that things might have moved on but it seems that it's only become painfully stuck.


Does learning to swim have to be so formal? Well I can understand from a large swim school or franchise point of view that a standardized system has to be in place due to the huge staff numbers and them all being on the same page and yes safety comes first absolutely. But there are ways that it can be manipulated in to a positive route.


My learn 2 swim programme is flexible and works alongside in unison with a child. Our sessions (not lessons) are engaging, themed and small. From years of experience, I understand a young child and always try to see it from a child's eye/perspective, think/understand with a child's mindset and listen/watch how they are communicating as a child NOT as an adult.


The pool is not just a place to swim and only be taught from what is on a governing bodies list of things that they think is what a child should master. At Mini Water Adventurers we provide a place where a child can comfortably explore the water world through sensory play, we have a mindful approach that is relaxed with no pressure on outcomes and letting your child feel respected and understood and that it's ok to take the lead. We develop themes and activities around their stages of development and feed their curiosities and interests. We encourage building strong emotional connections between the parent and child.


Our learn to S.W.I.M (Sensory, Water, Interaction, Movement) programme encourages a child to work at their pace and at their own depth. To allow them to push the boundaries as and when they feel safe to do so. We reward with praise and build a trusted relationship.


It's just swimming, right.... so just let me play!


Do you think that swimming lessons structure and system should change? Do you think your child would benefit from just having the time of their life in swimming sessions and get excited when they go to the pool? Some children like the formal approach but I would take a guess that the number of those is fairly low, don't you? What would you rather? Or should I say, what would your child rather?


For more information about swimming sessions with Mini Water Adventurers please click here.


Please comment below if you have any questions or feedback.


Hope to see you at the pool soon.


Hugs from Helen.

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