You have received your Orca swim trainer. CONGRATULATIONS AND YIPPEEEEEE!!!!
Here is a guide for you to get the best use of your Orca:
How to use the 9 float pad graduation process to it's full capacity
How to care for your Orca
First off I can't stress enough that the Orca is NOT designed to protect against drowning. Only use when your child is under constant and competent supervision. NEVER leave your child unattended in the water. The Orca does not act as a life jacket. You must remain an arm distance away from your child once they are swimming independently and never turn your back on your child.
Let's start with the The Orca Graduation System.
This chart above show the stages of your child's progression when starting with the Orca swim trainer.
Step 1: Familarisation Phase
To become familiarised with how the Orca feels, hold hands wit you standing in front (eye to eye) with your child or stand to the side with your hands underneath their armpits. (stay low with them so you don't hold them high in the water).
They will be in an upright position for this step as they need to explore and move their legs, arms and full body to tattily figure out their balance and establish what they need to do. They will do this naturally so please do not put them in a horizontal position as this will hinder this important phase.
Let them hold your hands, not the other way around. This will give them the invitation to let go when they gain the confidence and want to. It may be you hold hands for some time to help them with their balance and increase their core strength - this is great. It may be that they let go of one hand, so encourage them to paddle with that hand. They may be bold and let go of both, which is brilliant. At first they may get all excited and very happy that they are doing it by themselves and inevitably get some water in their mouths, it is absolutely normal and will happen (potentially on a number of occasions) so go back to holding hands lightly to give the helping hand. Please stop and let them gather themselves before you carry on.
Step 2: Exploration Phase
Once they have let go of your hands this is the time to encourage and praise them being independent in the water and applaud them moving by themselves. They will be probably splashing with their hands and doing a cycling action with their legs. This is fantastic as this phase is all about gaining confidence and giving them the space to figure out what they have to do in order to move forward.
Please do not rush this phase as the magic will start to happen if you provide lots of encouraging and reassuring communication.
If they do splash a lot with their hands they will inevitably splash themselves so be mindful of the reaction that will follow. Some will be absolutely fine with it, others not so much so be right there to do what is needed to stop and console or encourage to carry on.
Step 3: Magical Phase
You will start to notice naturally that your child will gradually move in to more of a horizontal position in the water, closer to the surface of the water.
This is the best time to suggest blowing bubbles and using their paddle arms (long arms under the water), and long leg kicking (moving away from the cycling action to the flutter kick).
Their confidence is such that they will feel comfortable to be closer to the surface of the water in more of a streamlined position and over the time spent during Step 1 and 2 means that their overall strength and endurance would have increased hugely.
Do not take out any float pads during this phase.
Step 4: Transformation Phase
Do not miss this step out. This is where the transformation will happen. They are happily putting their faces in the water, they are confidently moving around independently, they are in control of the implications of different movements in the water, they understand the purpose of the Orca, they are moving around the water with strength and power over a considerable amount of time.
Please remember to continue to watch their mouths and stay an arms length away from that at ALL times. DO NOT turn your back on them.
Step 5: Float Pad removal Phase
Once step 4 is mastered, then you can start taking the float pads out. Start with the back pad. You will see them drop a little bit in the water but not enough to hinder their movements. If you notice they are struggling or they go back to turtle necks (lifting their chin and splashing with their hands again (as in step 1) then you have taken the float pad out too soon.
The signs to look out for to know when to take the float pads out are that they have enough flotation aid to get from A to B with ease and fluidity but not so much they it's too easy for them.
The signs to look for if you have taken the float pads out too soon is they drop too much in the water, they look as though they are having to work really hard to get from A to B and they are lifting their chins to compensate for their body being too low in the water.
This is the the perfect phase to really focus on "pop up breathing" (taking consecutive breaths over a distance they are traveling) and doing little, fast kicks with floppy ankles.
Step 6: Graduating Phase
They have all 9 float pads out of their suit and they are swimming confidently with a regular breathing pattern in a natural swimming position using paddle arms and flutter kicks.
To make note of and really important to read to maintain the use of your Orca:
Your Orca will arrive with 6 float pads in each pocket. You need 5 in the back pocket and 4 in the front pocket. You have these extras just in case you loose 1 or one gets ripped by accident.
Do not rush through any of the steps (when you start taking the float pads out - please keep them, don't throw them away).
If you have a period of time where you have been not using the Orca, you may have to put some of the float pads back in to boost that particular stage again.
Do not take 2 or more float pads out at a time - it's a progressive system so 1 at a time is purposefully recommended.
Always stay in front of your child when they are moving - this is to watch their mouths and that they do not take in too much water. This could potentially hinder the whole process.
DO NOT use the straps on the back of the Orca to hold up your child - they hold your hands or you hold underneath their armpits at stage 1. The straps will eventually break if you continually do this.
The straps around the torso need to be snug tight - these are the most important straps as it is essentially the float pads stay in the correct position. If the velcro is to it's max and you still have room then you need to go down a size. IT should NOT ride up to the chin when in the water.
The shoulder straps do not need to be done up too tightly (you have done them too tight if the material is stretched too much - if you do this too often, holes may appear as the fabric has been pulled too hard).
Open the poppers to use the toilet/bathroom - but make sure they are done up properly afterwards to ensure that the suit is comfortable.
DO NOT pull the suit up using the shoulder straps. You will strain the fabric too much. Step in to the suit and use either side of the float padded section to pull up.
Put your suit on when dry - it's easier. If wet make sure you push the leg section up the thigh first then pull up either side of the float pad section before closing the shoulder straps.
Take out the float pad bags to enable a quicker drying time for your suit. Lie flat to dry or hang using the shoulder straps only.
When opening the float pad pockets please hold on to the velcro section not the fabric. Over time if you pull open by the fabric, it could result in the velcro strip lifting up from the fabric.
For girls, I would recommend wearing a 2 piece swimming costume and for boys to wear swim shorts underneath your Orca so if they need to go to the toilet then you don't have to take off the whole suit - you'd use the poppers. The all-in-one suit is designed so you aren't required to wear anything else, so it's a personal preference.
If you are wanting to focus on safety skills from poolside, I would recommend to take out both float pad bags to gain the most out of simulating falling in then practicing safety skill 1 and 2.
If you are wanting to work on independent swims with no flotation assistance, please remember to take out the float pad bags to practice their form and method.
The beauty of the Orca swim trainer is that you can spend time together, swimming eye to eye or shoulder to shoulder so take your time and embrace this learning journey as one.
If you have any queries, questions or concerns please contact Helen Hughes, designer of Orca swim trainer and co-founder of Mini Water Adventurers.