How long will it take for my child to learn to swim?

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'How long is a piece of string?!' 

In all honesty we cannot tell you how long it will take your child to learn to swim as every child is different. We highly recommend that children complete stages 1-10 of the ASA Learn to Swim Pathway before their swimming journey is complete. This ensures that they are confident and competent swimmers that are able to move on to a range of aquatic activities knowing they are safe and able.

After many years of teaching children to swim Lucy and Calvin have found that children that take longer to get through the first few stages of the Learn to Swim programme do not necessarily take the same time to achieve the latter stages. Therefore just because your child has taken additional time to get to grips with the basics of swimming, this is not necessarily a reflection of how they will continue to progress. Many children will have a 'lightbulb moment' when it all falls into place for them and they begin a more rapid progression rate through the stages.

The ASA recommends that children should be able to achieve Stage 1-10 in an average of 4-5 years depending on the age they start their swimming journey. 

Minimum requirements for each class: Many of our classes have a minimum of two stages that must be achieved before progressing to the next class. Children are expected to take a minimum of one term for every stage or distance they are working towards. For reference the average child will spend the following length of time in each class:

Preschool - minimum of 3 terms to achieve Duckling 1- 4 and Stage 1*

Beginners 1 - minimum 1-2 terms to achieve Stage 2

Beginners 2 - minimum 2-3 terms to achieve Stage 3 and 4

Improver 1 - minimum 2-3 terms to achieve Stage 5 and 6*

Improver 2 - minium 2-3 terms to achieve Stage 7 and 8

Advanced - minimum 3-4 terms to achieve Stage 9 and 10*

(* theses stages are the most difficult to achieve and parents should not be concerned if their child is taking 2-3 terms to achieve the stage)

If you have concerns about your child's progress you should always contact Lucy or Calvin to discuss this. They can talk to the teacher and provide you with detailed feedback about your child. There are many options that can be facilitated within the class to help get your child back on track such as putting an assistant on the class also, extra lessons, 1:1s etc. 

What can I do to help?

  • Frequency of Lessons/Practice: Swimming is proof that practice makes perfect. So it makes sense that the more lessons and practice your child gets, the faster they progress. It's often unavoidable to miss a class but try to be as consistent as possible with your child's swimming lessons. The children that attend the class regularly are the children that progress the fastest.

  • Encouragement and positive feedback! The absolute best thing you can do to help your child is to encourage them in their efforts and praise them for any achievements they make regardless of how small they may be. Our teachers will praise the children for small achievements within the class, but we love it when parents reinforce this after class as it definitely helps to keep the child motivated.

  • Take your child swimming out with their weekly lesson. This is a good chance to enjoy the pool as well as practice any skills that your child may be finding particularly difficult. It also ensures that children continue to enjoy the water at times when they may not be enjoying their lesson quite as much as previously.

When is my child ready for swimming lessons without me in the water?

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So far you have enjoyed the unique magical journey with your little one in the pool, but you are starting to look forward to the next step, but the big question is how do you know when you are both ready to make that move?

Does your child enjoy being in the water and are they able to move around independently in a swimming aid (SwimFin, armbands, flotation jacket etc). Are they happy to submerge underwater and jump in? Do you feel they are losing focus in the class and not really wanting to repeat the same activities they’ve done before? This isn’t something to worry about as most children reach a point where they are no longer progressing in the water with their parent; they often start to become restless only wanting to play. This is a good indicator that your child is ready to take on the next step - a preschool class on their own.

It is a universal fact that children learn best through play and having fun in the pool is a vital part of the learn to swim process. This philosophy has been reinforced throughout the adult and child programme and should be carried over in to preschool swimming. At Big Blue our preschool classes are designed to incorporate a child’s natural desire to play using games, songs and other fun activities to develop the core aquatic skills – the building blocks of swimming.

 

How can we make the transition to preschool as easy as possible?

The first time in the pool without mum or dad can sometimes be a bit overwhelming for your little swimmers, we do all we can to minimise this feeling. Our instructors greet their class on poolside and walk with them to their area of the pool.

If your child is nervous it can help to settle them by giving their hand to the instructor to hold. This gesture may seem quite unimportant but it shows transference of trust from parent to teacher and can help reassure your child. By doing this you show your child that you trust their new teacher to look after them and they are not just a stranger.

Our preschool instructors are always caring, friendly, and enthusiastic and have infinite patience! We also have small class sizes and the instructor is in the water to offer additional support to your child. For any child who may be more anxious than others we like to add an assistant to the class to help give them that little bit more reassurance and support until they settle in. All preschool lessons incorporate teaching with SwimFin aids as well as the opportunity for the child to swim unaided.

 

What are the benefits of preschool swimming?

You are probably already aware of the cognitive benefits to your child from learning to swim at an early age, but these developmental benefits do not stop, in fact the first 7 years of your child’s life are crucial. For example you have been part of a class where your child has started to learn the vital life skill of peer interaction, this skill of social interaction only really starts to develop from 3 years old which is the age our preschool lessons start.

We use games and songs to reinforce the peer social skills within the class, which can help your little one prepare for nursery or school. Children learn to control their own body not only by being in the water to swim, but sitting on poolside waiting on their turn to jump. We use toys in our games to help aid in the development of good hand/eye co-ordination.

 

Does my child need to be in a preschool class?

Having made the decision to move your child on to swimming lessons how do you know which class is the right one for them. This is a question we hear often. Your child has completed the adult and child programme, they are confident in the basics and can travel a short distance unaided. Does this mean they should skip preschool?

At Big Blue we fully respect the skills your child has learned through their previous swimming programme, and even though they may be confident in some of the core aquatic skills there are certain skills they may not yet have. This is why we would advise that your child goes into a preschool class initially. However we look at every child joining our lessons individually and advise the correct ability group for them based on their ability in the pool.

Remember the fun shouldn’t stop at the end of the swimming lesson, if you can continue to take your child to the pool so you can keep on enjoying the magic moments. If you are not able to go swimming regularly then even bath time can be a fun – although we are not responsible for any damage caused by excessive splashing!

 

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First Step...Preschool swimming

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Big Blue preschool classes are designed for children aged 3 to 5 years old. The teacher is in the water at all times and many of our classes also have an assistant. Our ratio never exceeds 4:1 to ensure that all children receive maximum teaching time from every class. 

 

How do I know that my child is ready for preschool?

  • Suitable for children aged 3 to 5 years

If your child currently attends a toddler swim programme:

  • We recommend that you complete the programme and do not transition to preschool swimming lessons until they are ready.

  • We advise that these children are ready when they can move around the pool independently using a swim aid and are confident submerging and jumping in unassisted.

If your child does not attend a toddler swim programme and is new to swimming lessons:

  • We advise that they are ready for our preschool lessons when they are happy to enter the water without a parent and will follow very basic instructions.

  • If you feel your child is not ready for preschool lessons we would highly recommend the toddler programme with Turtle Tots Edinburgh.

We understand that children take time to settle into a new class and suggest that you give a minimum of 3-4 weeks to allow your child a settling in period

 

What does the class involve?

  • Our preschool classes are designed to introduce children to the water in a fun and safe environment.

  • It is a well-known fact that children learn best through play, therefore at Big Blue we teach using a variety of games, songs and activities to engage the children and build confidence in the pool.

  • All lessons incorporate teaching with SwimFin aids as well as the opportunity for the child to swim unaided.

  • Our lessons follow a unique programme that incorporates a range of techniques and practices to encourage all aspects of your child's development.

  • The first 5 minutes of every lesson will be the same as this is important for continuity and helps preschoolers relax into the lesson. It will involve splashing on the side of the pool, the use of plastic cups to wet their body and hair, moving around the side of the pool and finally getting their ears and hair wet in the water. The next 20 minutes will involve a selection of games, songs and activities that incorporate the core aquatic skills. Final 5 minutes of every class will involve a contrasting activity such as jumping in.

 

What are the benefits of preschool swimming?

  • Children that start their swimming journey early in life reach a range of developmental milestones earlier than children that do not.

  • Swimming accelerates cognitive and language development.

  • Improves motor development by promoting strength and coordination.

  • Builds independence, confidence and social skills.

  • Teaches children a lifesaving skill and a love of the water.

 

What should I do if my preschooler is unhappy to enter the water?

  • The pool can be a scary place for a young preschooler so remain positive and try to reassure your child.

  • Encourage them to participate in the class from the poolside.

  • Allow your child a few weeks to settle into the class environment.

  • If you have any queries or concerns always let the teacher know or contact Lucy and Calvin.

How to handle tears at the poolside?

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It’s the first swimming lesson. Your child seemed ready for their first lesson, growing more excited as the day arrived. But as soon as you walked through the door, the tears began.

This is pretty common. A child who is very excited about a future event, can suddenly feel overwhelmed when the moment actually arrives.

Do you know why the tears come?

Separation Anxiety

This is a natural part of growing up. Even if you’re simply at poolside, your child has been accustomed to being able to reach out and touch you. 

New Experience

Being in the water – and especially in the pool where lessons are given – is a new experience in a new environment. This new experience is exciting and a little frightening at the same time. It simply takes time for your child to get used to.

Personal Pace

Children learn and progress at their own pace. Your child’s tears may dry up when they see others enjoying the water or experience how good it feels to splash about in the water. Or it could take them a few lessons to develop the level of comfort they need to happily approach the lesson.

The magic number of lessons that it takes to clear up the tears is 4. This gives even the most upset child enough time to develop trust in the instructor. We always recommend our parents give it 4 lessons for their child to settle - the difference from week 1 to week 4 can be amazing.

Does your child have additional support needs?

For some children, this experience is a little different. Children with additional support needs, including those with down syndrome, autism, sensory issues, ADHD, issues with motor skills or other concerns, the tears can be driven by other factors.

Our instructors are trained and experienced in working with children with additional support needs. They’ve not only been trained in how these children may be feeling and what can be bothering them, but also in how to approach them and encourage them to learn skills that they will enjoy. 

Please always inform the instructor or Lucy and Calvin if your child has additional support needs. This ensures that we can work with them and provide them with the best lesson possible.

What will help your tearful child?

Here are 6 things you can do to help your child through swim lesson tears:

1. Stay in the viewing area but out of the direct line of sight for your child. Children tend to settle easier and quicker if they can’t see you. Your child must build trust with his/her instructor, but they can’t compete with you. If they see you, they will want the immediate security you offer. After building just a little trust – without you in view – your child can focus on how much fun they are having in the water.

2. Support and encourage – continuously. You may find this a little contradictory to staying out of direct view, but it works. Your child will turn around and look for you for encouragement and show you what they’ve learned. When they do, be ready with a quick thumbs up. After the lesson congratulate them and provide plenty of praise for a job well-done.

3. Reinforce the positive. Getting in the water, not crying, learning new skills, listening to the instructor… celebrate all of this and your child will be more likely repeat the positive action at the next lesson. A gentle reminder of all of this positivity just prior to the next lesson will help your child remember what they should do again.

4. Practice at home. We provide all our customers with a handbook - in this handbook are some ideas and suggestions about practising in the bath. This is especially important for our preschoolers. The more comfortable your child becomes with water, new skills and doing activities independently of you, the better they will do in swimming lessons. Please always supervise your child when in the bath.

5. Keep coming to lessons through the initial tears. We know it can be very difficult to persist through the tears, but its always worth it in the end when you see your child enjoying the class only a few weeks later. If you stop your child’s lessons because they cried the first week, it not only shows your child that quitting without really trying is acceptable, but it also shows them that swimming isn’t very important. This is far from the truth since swimming is an important lifelong skill that all children should learn. Many adults we teach regret not having had the opportunity to learn to swim as a child when learning new skills is far easier. 

6. Swim, swim, swim. Take every opportunity for your child to swim whether it be fun at the weekend, on holiday, at the beach etc. Your child will learn to love the water and the fun activities they can do in and around it and will thank you when they are confident, competent swimmers in years to come. 

 

Why is my child not progressing as fast as they were previously?

Sometimes children appear to plateau in their swimming lessons or do not appear to be progressing as fast as they were previously. This could be that they are not moving up a class as often as they used to or are taking a while to adapt to a new class. There can be a number of reasons for this including:

  • Complex skills and minimum distance involved in certain ASA stages: Some of the ASA swimming stages involve learning a number of new or complex swimming skills that can take time to master, as well as an minimum distance that children should be able to swim. This is most evident at stage 1, 6 and 10 where children should take a minimum of 2 terms to achieve these awards.

  • Adapting to a new class: The jump up a class can be big at certain stages, particularly moving into beginners 1, improvers 1 or improvers 2. Children can take time to adapt to the new class and at this point you may see a regression in their technique as they work hard to manage the class. Parents should not be concerned about this - as long as the basic technique and core aquatic skills were there previously they will return as the child gets used to the class.

  • Not physically or psychologically ready for the next stage: We feel that children should never be grouped according to age, apart from our preschool classes. However, when children progress through the stages at a very young age there will come a time when they may not be physically or psychologically ready for the next stage. It is never in a child's best interest for them to move to a class when they are not ready for it.

  • Variation throughout the year: Many children 'plateau' at certain times of the year and you may see this every year as your child progresses through lessons. This can also happen at times of change for children such as starting school.

  • Minimum requirements for each class: Many of our classes have a minimum of two stages that must be achieved before progressing to the next class. Children are expected to take a minimum of one term for every stage or distance they are working towards. For reference the average child will spend the following length of time in each class:

- Preschool - minimum of 3 terms to achieve Duckling 1- 4 and Stage 1*

- Beginners 1 - minimum 1-2 terms to achieve Stage 2

- Beginners 2 - minimum 2-3 terms to achieve Stage 3 and 4

- Improver 1 - minimum 2-3 terms to achieve Stage 5 and 6*

- Improver 2 - minium 2-3 terms to achieve Stage 7 and 8

- Advanced - minimum 3-4 terms to achieve Stage 9 and 10*

(* theses stages are the most difficult to achieve and parents should not be concerned if their child is taking 2-3 terms to achieve the stage)

  • Frequency of Lessons/Practice: Swimming is proof that practice makes perfect. So it makes sense that the more lessons and practice your child gets, the faster they progress. Its often unavoidable to miss a class but try to be as consistent as possible with your child's swimming lessons.

What can I do to help?

  • Encouragement and positive feedback! The absolute best thing you can do to help your child is to encourage them in their efforts and praise them for any achievements they make regardless of how small they may be. Our teachers will praise the children for small achievements within the class, but we love it when parents reinforce this after class as it definitely helps to keep the child motivated.

  • Take your child swimming out with their weekly lesson. This is a good chance to enjoy the pool as well as practice any skills that your child may be finding particularly difficult. It also ensures that children continue to enjoy the water at times when they may not be enjoying their lesson quite as much as previously. 

  • Don't take a break from lessons. Many parents think that this period of 'plateau' is a good time to take a break from swimming. However, this is probably the worse thing you can do in your child's swimming journey as it reinforces the halt in progression and many children can be reluctant to resume lessons again if they have left on a negative.

  • Explain the importance of the other awards. Children can get frustrated being 'stuck' at a stage for a couple of terms and may be disappointed come award day if they do not receive the badge they were hoping for. We will always award a child a badge regardless of their progress that term as we feel every child should be rewarded for their effort in the pool. The best way to approach this with your child is to explain to them that some stages are difficult to achieve and the distance badges are just as important as the stages.

Changes to Preschool for 2018

At Big Blue, we believe that good foundations are vital in the learn to swim process. Therefore, we have been working hard to develop our preschool programme and ensure every child is in the most suitable class for their ability. Moving forward in to the new year we are officially introducing preschool 1 and preschool 2 classes.

 

Why the change?

We have been gradually introducing this change over the past two terms by allocating children to specific classes. It has worked well allowing the children to receive a lesson that is even more suitable for their ability. 

For example, in our preschool 1 classes children who may be new to the water or only in their first few terms of swimming are able to take things at a slower pace. The teacher is able to structure the class appropriately and reassure and engage new swimmers. The focus of preschool 1 is learning through play, with lots of songs, games and other fun activities to introduce children to the core aquatic skills. 

Classes allocated as preschool 2 with more confident pre-schoolers have been able to focus on fully independent swimming with minimal use of fins and progress towards more complex skills. We have found in the past that some of our pre-schoolers who have had the ability to move to beginners 1 haven't been ready to focus on learning technique without the use of games during the main part of the lesson. Preschool 2 will hopefully allow for a smoother transition to beginners 1. 

Due to the number of awards associated with preschool it can sometimes feel like children are in the class for a while. This can occasionally result in children working towards duckling 1 in the same class as children working towards stage 1. We feel this gap is too large and therefore not beneficial to either child. Our hope is that with the introduction of preschool 2 we can eradicate this problem. 

 

How will this affect you?

As with any class move we will always contact you ahead of rebooking to let you know your child is ready to move up to the next class. However, the move may involve a change of time as we are unable to run all classes at the same time due to pool space. We understand you may have other children in the pool at the same time and we will always do our upmost to accommodate this.

Why do we teach using SwimFin?

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At Big Blue we use SwimFin as an integral part of our preschool, non-swimmer and beginner 1 teaching. 

We feel that they are a fantastic aid for allowing young children (2.5 years and up) to gain independence in the pool. They are designed to provide just the right amount of support and assistance to the child as they progress from a complete non-swimmer paddling around the pool in a vertical position to the competent beginner 1 swimming horizontally across the pool. As the child's body position changes from vertical to horizontal the swim fin moves further and further out of the water and provides increasingly less support and assistance.

SwimFin can also be used to swim on your back and you will see us using it in this way in most of our preschool classes. This is because many young children feel nervous on their back and are unable to hold a swim aid such as a float or woggle, therefore SwimFin allows them independence on their back that they would otherwise not have at this stage. Most of our beginners 1 classes use swim floats or woggle's when swimming on their back as most children can confidently hold a swim aid by this stage.

You will see that our use of SwimFin differs as a child increases in confidence and ability in the water.

 

Preschool

We use SwimFin in all our preschool classes as it gives our very young swimmers freedom to move around the pool independently. Preschool is designed to build confidence in the water and introduce children to the basic core aquatic skills. Using SwimFin facilitates our philosophy that young children learn best through play and allows us to teach these skills in a fun and engaging way. SwimFin allows children full use of their arms unlike other swim aids, therefore encouraging participation in a variety of games, songs and activities. SwimFin also allows us to teach our lessons with all children in the water, limiting the duration that they spend on the side of the pool and allowing them to get the most out of each class. 

 

Non-Swimmer

Non-swimmer is similarly created to pre-school, but with older children in mind. The class content is designed to introduce children to the fundamental aquatic skills, but in a way, that is suitable to the age group. We still use SwimFin in this class when the child is comfortable doing so, but their use is more flexible. We use SwimFin at this level to encourage independence in the nervous non-swimmer and facilitate the transition from a naturally vertical body position to a more horizontal position. 

 

Beginners 1

Many children new to beginners 1 will still use a SwimFin during their lesson. The focus of beginners 1 is to introduce basic stroke technique and continue development of the core aquatic skills. SwimFin allows children to focus on learning this basic technique without tiring so quickly. It also alleviates the temptation to go from point A to B as quickly as possible forgetting all technique. 

In beginners 1 we are aiming for children to achieve a horizontal body position when swimming on their front and back and SwimFin naturally encourages this. At this level, we aim to never use SwimFin for more than half a lesson allowing children plenty opportunity to swim unaided.