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Teachers Blog Series 1

Week Two. Swim Teachers' Kit Bag series - Dive in and get to grips with S.W.I.M

When I started my swim school in Florida, I was blessed that I grew my business very quickly. I did not have to advertise and nor worry about my competitors. The community of Vero Beach (and surrounding areas) liked the fresh and progressive approach I took with creating engaging and fun swim sessions. It was after a particularly bad private lesson that I started to research child development and how children learn, this showed me there is so much more than just learning the techniques to swim.

Let's start to connect the dots between science, the essence of water and swimming.

Why did we, at Mini Water Adventurers, design the Learn 2 SWIM programme

S.W.I.M stands for: Sensory. Water. Interaction. Movement

We believe all four zones are essential for an all round learn to swim programme designed specifically for children up to the age of 7 years old.

Mini Water Adventurers S.W.I.M programme - let's dive in?

Learning to swim can be one of the most rewarding life-experiences a child can have.

Our aim is to teach children to swim in an innovative and fun-way so they fall in love with the water and want to come back for more! We create intriguing environments full of magic and adventure. You can confidently help them develop their swimming skills through games, songs and age appropriate activities.

Our emphasis is how a child learns rather than what the child is learning. As you gain your qualification to be able to teach swimming, you become proficient at lesson planning by gauging what you are going to teach according to your cohort of children. This is a necessary requirement to ensure that the progression of your swimmers is apparent.

A study was carried out in Australia on a large group of children aged between 2-8 years old. It was found that children who are 5-6 years old have the best readiness for learning front crawl (with unilateral breathing).

Optimal readiness is the time in life when one is most favourably ready to learn a given skill (Magill '88).

Knowing when a child is ready is important, valuable and useful to know because learning takes place with greater effectiveness and efficiency during this optimal readiness period.

The optimal periods are those when the maximum sensory, motor, motivational & psychological capacity exists. However, the successful achievement of skills is not dependent on the earliness of instruction but in the timeliness (Singer '80).

According to Magil ('88), the determining factors of readiness are the levels of maturation, previous experiences and motivation of the child for the skill can be learned.

After conducting the study, it was apparent that children can learn basic water skills at an early age but it suggests that the complex skill of combining arms, legs & breathing used in the front crawl stroke is learned more efficiently between 5 & 6 years old.

Lastly, they concluded that the more the child was exposed to the water they quicker they learned.

A child develops in an archetypal sequence of approximate 7 years phases. Each phase has unique and characteristic physical, emotional and cognitive aspects.

Our methodology of teaching swimming needs to shift. Ensuring a holistic process, addressing the whole human being, by re thinking about the style of teaching from a predominately teacher led approach to a true child centered approach. Meaning providing an environment that respects their needs, that allows them to move about freely, that contains a series of materials that allows them to discover, to touch, to follow their own impulses, without anyone attempting to teach them, learning at their own pace. We must educate & facilitate - not instruct!

So with a child's readiness and archetypal sequencing, this is why our unique SWIM programme was created.

What to know more? I'll go deeper.

In order I will explain the following:

SENSORY - Discovering how to tap in to your imagination and creative mindset to design purposeful lessons. WATER - A playground of fun. How can we fill a child's jar of joy and be immersed in the powerful conductor of energy, feelings and emotions (water).

INTERACTION - How to build trusted relationships so the pace of learning is effective. Why do we need to slow down and embrace the time in the pool? MOVEMENT - Why is it important to connect the concept to the action? The more we move, the more we learn.

Lets start at the beginning:

SENSORY - Multi-sensory approach.

What are the 8 senses?









When a child's sensory needs are met they feel more relaxed and comfortable in the water, therefore they learn quicker.

Our senses are unique to us, they help us interpret the world around us, we use the water to explore, play, investigate and create memories. Providing the perfect environment for growth and development enables opportunities for children to actively use their senses as they explore their world through EPIC activities (this will be explained further down in next zone) and sensory play, this is crucial for development during their swimming lessons. It helps build nerve connections in the brains pathway. This leads to a child's ability to complete more complex learning tasks and supports cognitive growth, language development, gross motor skills, social interaction and problem solving.

Using themed lessons each week provides unique opportunities to actively use their senses with fun and engaging activities involving the 8 senses.

Using music, singing and signing opens up the pool for creativity and fun experiences. Research shows exposure to music, popular songs and nursery rhymes can improve a child's ability to learn.

WATER - The Power of Play

The best and most effective way children learn is in their own way, at their own pace and in their own time.

How can we fill a child's jar of joy whilst learning to swim? Why use EPIC activities during swimming lessons?


Children are naturally curious, wanting to learn new things, to redo and to repeat. They learn through holistic development. Meaning to see the child as a whole person - physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, morally, culturally and spiritually.

Let's break it down. Who and what are vital for a successful learning environment?

There are 5 factors to consider:

The child

The water

The teacher

The adult (parent or caregiver)

The child's peers or group members

The child:

If we look at science and in particular Piaget's Cognitive Theory - Schematic play is the building blocks of cognitive models, enabling us to form mental representation of the world. Children are not smaller versions of adults, they do not perceive things or learn the same as an adult. Understanding what is behind child's play and by observing their patterns of behaviour will help you, as a teacher to provide a learning environment that will ensure the skill sets that they are learning in swimming will be achieved with strength and confidence.

The water:

Water is an important natural material that provides much time of absorbing fun and a multitude of wonderful development and learning opportunities. Water play offers so much value and gives a child a great early start to learning through fun hands on play.

The main benefits:

  • Releases energy

  • Emotionally therapeutic

  • Develops motor skills

  • Develops social skills

  • Builds language and communication

  • Stimulates creativity and imagination

  • Provides cognitive development

Children do not play in order to learn, they learn through play.

We will look at the other factors during the online SWIM Fundamentals course in 2022.

INTERACTION - Powerful communication

When a child feels safe, they will be ready to explore.

Encouraging a child to work at their own pace, allows them to push boundaries as and when they feel safe to do so. When a child is emotionally stressed or anxious, fearful or angry they move in to a state of mind where it is not a time to learn, not a time to trust and not a time to communicate.

Slowing down and using POWERful communication will provide an enriched environment where the adult and child become attuned and aware of each others state of mind and body working in synchronisation.

POWER stands for:






When looking at brain waves and the science of the first 7 years that our children are in their programming years (Bruce Lipton). With the knowledge about brain waves it enables an understanding as to why children act and react in certain situations.

Delta - birth to 2 years old

Theta - ages 2 - 6 years old

Alpha - ages 5 - 8 years old

Beta - ages 8 - 12 years old

Our focus age groups are 2-7 years old.

The younger age range (2-6 years old) the children are really connected to their internal world, they live in the realm of imagination. They day dream and they do not show signs of critical or rational thinking. They are in a super learning state and very open to suggestion. They accept what you tell them is true.

At the older age stage (5-8 years) the children have their feet in both worlds, one in the beauty of imagination & curiosity and the other where their analytical mind starts to form.

I will go deeper in to brain waves and epigenetic thesis during the Zone Fundamentals online course.

The other communication channels that are needed to be talked about are the 9 ways of effective communication:

  1. Sounds

  2. Body language

  3. Expressive language

  4. Echolalia

  5. Facial expressions

  6. Stories

  7. Sign language

  8. Singing

  9. Visuals

Effective communication is fundamental for a child's development. Children need to be able to understand and to be understood. Communication is the foundation of relationships and essential for learning, playing and social interaction.

MOVEMENT - Memory and movement.

The more a child moves the more they learn.

Let's look at the biological development of children up to 7 years old and the process/journey of learning the skills to swim.

We need to address:

  • the maturation of an individual's body

  • the child's motor development

  • the child's body awareness and balance

Memory and movement are linked, the body is a tool of learning. Movement allows children to connect concepts to action through trial and error. They require structured activities but it is about purposeful movement.

As Maria Montessori stated "movement has great importance in mental development itself, provided that the action to which it occurs is connected with the mental activity going on".

Swimming is a complex skill. Participation in swimming can start very early in life - in fact the baby is "swimming" from day dot in amniotic fluid and when they pop out in this world, being in warm water is more familiar than anything else. Why do think so many mother's ask for water births. There is some really interesting studies about indigenous cultures and their children's swimming journey. I will explain more in the SWIM Zone Fundamentals online course coming in 2022.

Anyway, back to babies and being introduced to swimming before they can walk or sit up independently. If science tells us we learn through our bodies and that a child's brain is development through movements, an activity like swimming should be ideal. Why is this? It is because with swimming, different parts of the body can move in all directions with barely any restrictions, in an environment which is both stimulating and yet gentle on young developing bodies.

Many parents have an interest in putting their children in to swimming lessons for the safety factor. And while helping your child learn to swim and to be safe in and around water are some of the most worthwhile motivations for enrolling in to classes, there are even further benefits beyond this.

As you can see from reading this that there is a little bit more than teaching a child to do push and glides or to do facial submersions or jump in. With the emphasis on how a child learns rather than what child learns we believe that more children will be STRONG swimmers mentally and physically.

Next week will be all about Purposeful play.

Make sure you are signed up for our free VIP membership. The MWA Meet - every month you will receive lots of information, free lesson ideas/songs and other great stuff!

If you have any questions please contact me, Helen Hughes any time.

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