Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Why do they do that!?

La Petite Baleen has been teaching young children to swim for 37 years. We're well known for our unique child-development approach to swimming. Owners, Irene Madrid and John Kolbisen have backgrounds in education as lifetime credentialed school teachers. Hence, our innovative aquatic classroom is geared toward creating an individualized learning experience for each child.

Among other things, LPB is one of the first programs to use fins and goggles as learning tools. We revolutionized once-a-week, year-round, group swimming lessons, now considered mainstream in the learn-to-swim industry. It's not ironic that our flagship location in Half Moon Bay is just down the street from Maverick's surf break....we're definitely considered "mavericks" in the swimming world!

Many parents wonder about the "why's" of our curriculum. We've addressed some of these more common questions in previous Whale Wisdom articles:

Here are some other child-development activities we do in our lessons, and why we do them:


  • Motor Boat: Provides vestibular feedback to the brain, promoting self control (waiting your turn) and the ability to fall from a higher height without panicking.
  • Magic Carpet: Tummy time strengthens the neck and back muscles as well as social skill development. 
  • Tunnel Time: Separation and independence as well as social referencing through eye contact
  • Dog Paddle: Bilateral movements like dog paddle and flutter kicks use both sides of the brain at the same time. This motor development increases body awareness and ability to cross the mid-line.
  • Climbing Out: In addition to being one of our major safety skills, elbow-elbow-tummy-knee-knee builds core strength
  • Goggles: Provides sensory stimulation and visual perception development
  • Balloon Face: Builds respiratory health
  • Group Lessons: Proprioception and social development 

Swimming provides a unique environment for sensory stimulation and neuromuscular integration. Skin is the largest organ of our body and our nerve endings are constantly providing feedback to the brain. When submerged in water, the body receives unique pressure which provides valuable proprioceptive feedback.

While stroke technique and water safety are always a part of swimming lessons, LPB focuses on the overall development of the child first.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bathtime Blues

A very common issue that comes up with parents of toddlers and preschoolers is that their child suddenly doesn't like water on their face.

This can make bath time extremely stressful for parents and children alike. If and when your child becomes adverse to rinsing and washing hair due to fear of water in the face, swim lessons can help. We recommend bringing some of our teaching techniques into your bathtub at home:
  • Use a washcloth to gently dampen the head and face
  • Use a small watering can to sprinkle water over the shoulders, neck, back of the head, ears and eventually the face.
  • Try wearing goggles
  • Switch to the shower
  • Have your child try to rinse their own hair using any of the above techniques. Giving them some control over "how" we wash hair can help. 
When this fear appears, it's important to stay calm and reassuring. We recommend you avoid using special rinse buckets and visors that eliminate all water contact on the face. We want to slowly desensitize the children, getting them used to the feeling. It's important for little ones to be calm and comfortable with the sensation of water on and around their face.

Why? Glad you asked!

YAY!!! Water on the's a good thing!
Drowning is the #1 cause of accidental death in children under age 5 in California (and the US). When it comes to drowning, seconds count. The difference between life and death or even life with permanent brain damage can be a matter of seconds. So, if a child falls into a body of water, you want them to remain calm and hold their breath. You do not want them to panic and hyperventilate underwater, which quickens the process of drowning.

So, bust out some new bath toys and take some steps back...then slowly re-introduce water on the face. It may take some weeks, but with your swim teacher, we will get through this tough spell!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

CHLORINE: It'a a good thing! Plus, skincare tips..

We get many questions from new parents about our pool chemistry, chlorine, salt and of course the effects of pool chemicals on our skin. Since we have so many young bathers in our pools, these are excellent questions! Here are some important facts to know about pool chemistry:
  • Chlorine is required by law in all commercial swimming pools. "Saline" pools also use chlorine. 
  • Chlorine is used as a disinfectant to kill harmful bacteria and prevent illness.
  • Our public drinking and bathing water supply is treated with chlorine.
Wondering if the pool you are swimming in has too much or too little chlorine? Here are some helpful guidelines when assessing the pool chemistry in your pool:
  • If you cannot see the bottom of a pool or hot tub, do not enter.
  • If your eyes burn or you have any respiratory reaction (coughing, difficulty breathing) do no enter. 
  • If you smell chlorine, but none of the above issues apply, the water should be safe to enter.

After swimming, we recommend a warm shower. This helps open up the pores, allowing any residual chlorine to be washed away. We do not recommend the use of soap, nor do we recommend any scrubbing or exfoliating after swimming. Remember, chlorine is a is soap! You are basically adding more chemicals to chemicals. Using plain, warm water is best. Shampooing the hair is fine as hair will not break out in any rash or irritation.

After showering, we recommend applying an unscented, mild lotion and wearing loose fitted, breathable clothes.

In short, chlorine is a good keeps us healthy. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. For more information on why chlorine is good read our previous blog entry, WHY CHLORINE?

For more information on skin care, read our previous blog entry, SKINCARE.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Scoop on Poop

It may have happened to you before...class cancelled due to an "accidental fecal release" or "AFR" in the pool. Those of us with a good sense of humor get a chuckle and picture the candy bar scene from Caddyshack. Those of us who rushed across town to get to our coveted weekly swim lessons may not find it so funny...and neither do we.
Not so fun:

At LPB we take AFR's very seriously. We know what a disappointment it can be when class is cancelled, as well as what painstaking efforts LPB takes to restore our pools to it's pristine clean status.

We have a strict swim diaper policy:
  • All children under age 3, or older if not fully potty trained are required to wear snug fitting reusable swim diapers.
Why so strict? Because while our pools have the most effective, state of the art Defender filtration and UV systems, as well as turnover rates double that which is required by the health department...we want our water to be the cleanest and safest it can be for our swimmers.

"If all the pools in the county were as clean as LPB's, I'd be out of a job."
--San Mateo County Health Inspector

How can you help keep our water clean and safe? Glad you asked!
  • Avoid high fiber foods before swim class
  • Do not bring a constipated child to the pool. Warm water often relaxes the bowels whether potty trained or not
  • Do not bring a child with stomach issues, including diarrhea to swim class until bowel movements have returned to solid
  • Follow our swim diaper policy 
  • Potty First! Always use the toilet before swim class 
Again, your child's health and safety are our top priority. Help us keep our pools clean by taking steps to prevent AFRs.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Praise: Kids love it, Teachers too!

***Blush*** 'Tis the season of giving and while teacher gifts are never expected, they are always appreciated. Giving comes in all shapes and of our favorites is the gift of praise. We love feedback and can never get enough. A great big thank you to all our swim families who let us swim with your little whales all year. Because of you we love what we do! We look forward to swimming with you in the new year!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Patterns: A Learning Moment with Grey

At LPB, our curriculum mantra is "Pace, Pattern, Compassion and Fun!". We know that these four elements of teaching are key to engaging children in the art of learning. Our curriculum is child development based and was created by our owners, who are both retired school teachers. Because of this foundation, we are PASSIONATE about how children learn. We had to share this report from Los Ninos Nursery School in Half Moon Bay. It describes in perfect detail how Grey (grandson of LPB owners Irene and John) creates his own learning environment using patterns:

A fine, sunny October afternoon in the yard offered a great opportunity for outdoor artwork. I set the sidewalk chalk out on the paved pathway and directed my attention toward the children playing in the yard. I overheard Grey demand, “I need to draw here!” I turned to see what was going on and found Grey hastily drawing out a pattern of squares! Two squares; one square; two squares; one square. The pattern began at the bottom of the stairs and proceeded along the paved path towards the gate. As he continued to draw his pattern on the path, other children became interested in what he was doing. Recognizing the pattern, Jenna used the squares to play a rudimentary form of hopscotch, planting two feet, then one foot, and so on. Sophia Ta, Eli and Alex jumped in and began hopping along the squares. Grey just kept moving down the path, adding squares like he was on fire! 

I was excited to see this pattern that Grey was making because it highlighted Grey’s use of mathematical processing in his play. Patterning is interesting to young children; it is the underlying structure of algebraic thinking. Because patterns are predictable, the brain is primed from infancy for pattern recognition. Grey’s use of the squares supports the development of number and spatial sense. Patterns help children learn to make predictions, to understand what comes next, to make logical connections, and to use reasoning skills.

 As he came to the end of the line in his pattern drawing, Grey stood back proudly and watched as his friends jumped along his predictable path. When it was his turn to jump, he joyously announced, “Here I go!” I noticed, again, how very motivated children are when they are self directed in their learning, and given the opportunity to explore their thought processes through uninterrupted free play time. “You made a pattern!” I exclaimed, validating Grey’s learning. “Tell me more about that,” I said. “It’s just what comes next,” answered Grey. Voila! 

Drawing the consistent pattern of squares along the path, Grey demonstrated the following learning: • Ability to focus and use intention in planning his work:

• Understanding of pattern and sequence 
• Intrinsic reward of following his own ideas 
• Mathematical reasoning

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Celebrate Subs!

The student/teacher bond is one of the most powerful relationships in existence. At LPB, we strive to provide consistent teachers for our students. Like most other learning environments, the swimming pool requires a great deal of trust which is often formed over time.

That having been said, even the most experienced swim teacher who has had a student for multiple years may invariably run into a plateau of sorts. It might not even be noticeable. It could be that one thing holding them back from their next diving or climbing out of the pool.

Enter the substitute.

Students can learn more from a variety of teaching personalities

Our staff can help make a substitute something to celebrate!
While every teacher at LPB teaches the same developmental curriculum, each teacher brings their own unique style of teaching to the pool. For example, LPB is famous for teaching "Up-Faces". While all of our teachers use similar layers and equipment, each teacher may provide a slight variation of verbal or emotional feedback or energy. What works for some students may not be as effective with others based on personality and learning styles. It could be a simple change of wording, or innovative use of equipment that "clicks" in the student's brain.

On more than one occasion, I've come back from a day off and found that my students learned something new from their substitute! It's not unusual that they suddenly break through a barrier with a substitute because perhaps the student/teacher relationship had gotten stuck in a rut, or perhaps another teachers perspective simply saw something I'd been missing.

So, when you learn that your child has a substitute at swim class...celebrate! I guarantee they will learn something new.