– read this and you’ll be in the pool before you get to the end!
by Vicki Bates
the little swim school
My journey with swimming started when one of my best friends, Briony, who now runs Wet Wet Wet swim school told me that I had to take my three month old baby daughter to Little Dippers – no ifs, no buts, I had to. Now, she can be a bit bossy at times, but this was insistent – she didn’t really talk about it in terms of benefits (well, apart from the sleeping baby afterwards) more what an amazing experience it was. Anyway, we went and from the first lesson I was hooked – Coco loved the water, I loved the fact it was warm and even more I loved the half hour of just focusing on my baby – no phones or daily life distractions. After a while I started working for Little Dippers and became even more amazed when I learnt about the myriad of benefits of baby and preschool swimming. I then started the little swim school, and for over thirteen years now have continued to love being part of this amazing experience.
The benefits are well documented now, but I never miss a chance to quickly re-cap in case it encourages a few more people to try it. The biggest and most obvious reason is water safety and literal life-saving training. I will never forget the first time I saw a toddler fall into the pool, turn round, swim to the side and climb out exactly as she had been taught in her lessons. I couldn’t believe it and this is all the more amazing when put into context with current ASA research, documented recently in the Guardian, showing that 45% of 11 year olds still leave primary school unable to swim. I know there is a huge call for schools and the government to do more – recently supported by Prince William, but it’s such a positive move to take your child to swimming lessons – and even if you can’t afford to join lessons, take them swimming yourselves. To be part of teaching a child skills that could save their life, or the life of another is truly special.
Other benefits include physical fitness – many of our children are now classed as obese, and with many under twos using digital gadgets on a daily basis, we need to make sure that we do all we can to encourage our children to be physically fit.
Studies have shown that if good habits and attitudes to physical exercise are started in early life they are much more likely to be carried on into teenage and adult life. As a parent of a teenager and an eleven year old I see first-hand how sedentary some children now are and always encourage mine to move as much as they can – they are both still very physically active with hobbies they started before they were three, so preschool really is a good time to start good habits.
Swimming is also good for brain development with research from Newcastle University showing that swimming lessons increased children’s maths’ grades and other research has shown that although most of our brain cells are formed before birth, the majority of the connections between these cells are made in infancy and the toddler years.
Over the years our customers have also told us how swimming lessons have also helped their children’s confidence, social and friend-making skills and sleep; we love it every time we get a good review or a happy parent on the phone – an excited parent whose water adverse child has turned the corner and is nearly swimming or whose water baby has been snorkelling at the age of two and now swims unaided! It makes us really happy and feel really lucky to be a part of something so special. Our teachers often tell us the same so I asked a few of them to put in to words why they love being a preschool swimming teacher and from the responses it seems like it is one of the best jobs in the world!
Hayley: “I have been teaching preschool swimming – parent and baby – for over six years now, and I never get tired of watching swimmers achieving their goals and knowing that I had a part to play in the process. The smiles on the children’s (and parents) faces when they swim for the first time is priceless and something that you don’t get in every job. I love making the children laugh and encouraging them to try skills for the first time – growing in confidence. This is the most rewarding job I have ever had and I don’t think I would find anything else that comes close!”
Jo: “This is very hard, so many reasons…In particular I enjoy a child who is petrified of water and working out a system where they can become comfortable within the pool environment and then progress them to swimming. I like seeing how much the children enjoy the activities we plan, when it goes well. I enjoy seeing the parents’ face the first time a child swims a distance on their own or jumps in for the first time. It’s amazing how quickly children develop amazing skills within the water if you manage to explain it just right so they understand what they have to do and if they can’t get it, working out a different way to explain it.”
Rachel: “Here’s why I love my job – I have always been a passionate swimmer and I really wanted to pass on my love of the water to children, and teach them to be safe too. I never quite realised how rewarding this could be until I started with a group of swimmers at the age of 12 to 13 months old and watched them develop into competent and safe swimmers. I am a big kid myself, so find that by making lessons fun, as well as progressive, you can really grab the children’s attention and they learn through playing in the water. I feel very lucky to have this job!”
Well, if you haven’t dashed off to the pool yet and you want any information about baby, toddler and preschool swimming or to book some lessons, do call us at the little swim school on 01273 207992 or visit www.thelittleswimschool.co.uk