Important Factors in Teaching Children Swimming
There are many variables that go into giving children quality swimming lessons. We all know kids can be unpredictable and no teacher in the world can say every lesson is a complete success. However there are variables that teachers need to be aware of which can contribute to the long term success or failure of swimming lessons. It is normal for parents/teachers to get frustrated when their lessons are not working or the student is not engaged.
Often the easiest thing to blame is the attitude of the swimmer or their behavior when there is usually something else causing the problem. The more experience we get as teachers the more sensitive we get to the things that can influence lessons. The following are some of the factors that affect students we have noticed both in swim schools and specific feedback from Uswim users.
The environment plays a huge part in your child’s willingness to learn. The obvious choice is a place that is as quiet as possible with minimal distractions, which is not always possible. Outdoor pool settings can also cause problems with sun exposure or wind chill.
We used to have a very well-known children’s psychologist (Adam Bear) as a customer and he would also run seminars for our teachers. He really opened my mind up to observing and being aware of the mental state that the child is in during lessons. While each situation is different and general advice is difficult, I remember Adam stressing the importance of observing rather than reacting to child’s behaviour and also asking kids questions not related to the task you were trying to do. These are not quick fixes but over the course of months or years these habits build a sensitivity to the child’s emotional state and how to get the best out of them each lesson. Once you begin to understand what frame of mind your swimmer is in that particular day, you can adjust your lesson accordingly.
The time of day can affect your student more than you think. Like adults some kids prefer concentrating and learning in the mornings and others later in the day. A good example of this was school age children at our swim schools used to be much calmer 2-3 hours after school rather than immediately following it. The environment felt calmer in the swim centers and the children usually had better swimming lessons. We often had success when changing underperforming children’s swimming times.
There is a really good reason why our lessons are all kept to half an hour – half an hour is the optimal time when kids can maintain concentration and you can get a proper amount of work done. Of course kids can swim for longer – I regularly go swimming with my daughter for over two hours in the ocean, but lessons are a time when attention and focus is required by both teacher and student. Even if you think your child is gifted and can do longer lessons – we would suggest half an hour focused lesson and the rest playtime.
One of the most overlooked elements is what children have eaten and when they ate. I remember us teachers used to be terrified watching an already hyperactive child eating red colored sugary food or drinks right before a lesson cause we knew it would affect the child’s behavior. Timing is also important with some children needing to eat quite close to the lesson and others vice versa. This is something parents know best and should pay attention to.
Pool temperature and water quality is important for safety. It is hard for a teacher or student to focus and enjoy lessons if the pool is cold. Another factor is the look of the pool itself. Dark pools can often scare kids. We used white tiles at Aquatic Achievers’ pools for this reason. I think most people remember being a little frightened.
These are just some of the variables that affect swimming lessons. As a teacher its your job to create the most ideal environment for learning. Great teachers also become experts at evaluating the state their students are in and making adjustments so the learning level is maximized.