Sunday, January 1, 2012
Fins as a learning tool
Why we use fins.
Last post I talked about why La Petite Baleen uses goggles in their classes. This post is about why we use fins. It's very likely your child has used them here if they have swam with us. The fins we use are amazing for babies. We have 3 types of fins we use:
Our "Fishtail" fins, made by Finis are the most common ones you will see. We keep them in baskets all around the pool and put them on all children age 1 to 5. They are blue and triangular. It doesn't take much movement from these fins to provide motivating feedback. Even toddlers can really propel themselves with these fins. Because LPB teaches swimming from a developmental perspective, we focus on rhythmic breathing first, before any stroke introduction. That is why we have always said that our Up-Faces are the most important skill (with breath exchange). Head size is disproportionate for toddlers and small children when compared to adults. A toddler's head takes up approximately 25% of their body length vs. 12.5% for an adult. Given a small child's lesser gross motor skills, it is challenging to physically come up, exchange air, submerge back down while moving forward. At LPB you will frequently see pre-school age as well as toddlers doing these perfect Up-Faces. The fins help them to not only remain horizontal but also to lift their head to exchange air. I love these fins! We put them on our toddlers around age 1. Babies tend to 'kick' with sort of a bicycle kick that mimics crawling due to tight hip flexors. The feedback, is "when I kick, I go". Fishtail fins help maintain a horizontal body position and builds strength for our littlest swimmers...they're a wonderful teaching tool.
Zoomer fins, also made by Finis. I am a big fan of our miniature "zoomer" fins. They look like regular small racing fins but the whole top is cut off making them short and stiff. I use these fins on my students in Levels 2, 3 and 4. It's time to start manipulating those 'bicycle'/crawling kicks to a flatter 'flutter' kick that uses their hip flexors. I start my kids who are beginning stroke layers with these fins to get the proper foundation in their kick. Without a kick initiated and moved from the hip flexors, the strokes will not be strong, supported or even legal! These are especially useful when kicking on their back in the "superman" or kickboard over the head position. If they can achieve a great kick on their back with these fins without the use of their arms then they are ready to learn backstroke and freestyle.
Racing Fins are the standard fins you would see on a swim team. They are long and floppy. I will use these on children who can swim strokes and have the proper kick but might need more speed. I especially use them for butterfly. I am careful not to use them on kids who have a natural frog kick because even these big fins can give them improper feedback. Please, no fins with breastroke! Teachers need to keep an eye on the use of these fins to make sure good form is used. But boy is it fun to see the kids do their wiggle butts with these on! Girls really think they're Ariel and boys love to race.
We like to travel with the Fishtail Fins. Our kids are stronger and more comfortable with them on when they are little. They are easy to pack. People often comment and ask where we got our fins. It would be a great investment, if you swim often enough away from LPB, to purchase your own pair if your child uses them in swim class. What a great opportunity to have fun and see what they can do.