Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Good Start

We are getting a lot of new swimmers here at LPB this New Year. Lots of new babies and pre-schoolers who have never had lessons before. I just opened a new shift that I teach here in Half Moon Bay on Thursday mornings. With that are what we call "Novice" students who might be uncomfortable in the water or even having water touch them. While we keep our water at 90 degrees, our pool is like a giant bath tub, kids still sometimes need some help 'navigating' themselves into a comfortable time at swim lessons. I do however love picking up a fearful student and bringing them down into the warm water see that first hurdle of their body relaxing with the warmth. Like they thought their mom was throwing them into the Pacific Ocean, their lips blue and quivering. Not in my pool! Nice and toasty so those nervous muscles can relax and we can begin building trust.

Step 1 for the teacher is to build trust with the student. Are you sensing when the child gets nervous? Do they need a little more touching and holding while they learn to balance in that inner tube or even on the stairs? Once I have that relationship with them through body talk as well as my reassuring voice, then I can begin swim skills. Little baby steps for some.

And here's where you the parents come in. What you do at home even before swim lessons can make a huge difference. I have had 4 year olds come to swimming and never even taken a shower before. Only baths. Well, time to expand the comfort zone and save some water at the same time.

Here is what I tell my new parents with new students:

Get their face wet. Shower instead of bathe them. Let them have special toys to play with while the water runs down their body and face. Take them in the shower with you. We want them to get used to the feeling of water on their ears, nose, eyes and hair. Desensitize them in a way. This can help your swim teacher move forward on into swimming sooner. Teaching a toddler or pre-schooler to hold their breath and put their face in the water is one of the trickiest parts of lessons. Water in the ears doesn't hurt and plain water in the eyes doesn't hurt either. I tell my kids when they feel water in their ears that it tickles.

Ever get water in your nose? Yah, it kills and burns. That is why it's important to start learning how to hold their breath (we do have nose clips for nose sniffers). At LPB we don't blow bubbles. Most parents come to lessons doing that with the kids. We want our kids to learn to hold their breath under water, not blow it out. So we ask and show them a 'balloon face'. Puffing out the cheeks with the mouth closed. There we go, a Rainbow Ribbon skill! Once a child does a balloon face out of the water then we work on putting it in the water. But even before that, we do some play showering. We have many little watering cans around our pool and we play with gently pouring water over their balloon face. Then we tell them to blow like a whale. They love it. Whale blows. Parents, you can easily do this at home in the bath and shower.

This is the start of swimming. Getting that face wet. Getting them comfortable with water all over their face, ears and eyes. Practice the balloon faces and whale blows. This 'homework' will be so helpful to your teacher when you come in to lessons. Knowing that you are helping us during the week between classes, I bet your teacher will be able to tell if you have done your homework. I know I can. All of a sudden a student will come in and can do something they struggled with last week. I look up at mom and say, "Oh, someone has been practicing!" Mom nods and beams. Her "Little Whale" is off to a great start!

Please go to our website for more ribbon level "HOMEWORK"

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