Our technical director and lead teacher here at Splash Stars, Nichole Robinson, has, from the very start of the Splash Stars journey, worked extremely hard to ensure our programme is gentle, fun, progressive and most importantly, child led. You will hear us describe our lessons as being ‘child-led’ but what exactly does that mean? Read on to find out!
We believe being led by your child is the most effective way for babies and children to get as much out of their time in the pool as possible and the same can be said when a child is learning any new skill; whether that be learning to walk, learning to use a potty, ride a bike etc. It’s the most important aspect of everything we do as we want every child to feel at home in the water and by respecting them and nurturing them we believe they do.
You may have noticed when parenting in general that if you force or coerce a child to do something they want to do then it often backfires! When they are introduced into a new environment or you are teaching them something new you encourage them, support them and take their lead right?
The same approach should be used during swimming lessons and this has always been our ethos; our programme is designed to gently introduce children to the water, making them confident and comfortable which is why you will hear us say countless times during our lessons; ‘Do not submerge your child if they are unhappy after the signal’ the reason for this is simple, if we want our children to love and enjoy the water then we need to ensure we are confidently and lovingly handling them whilst they are in it.
At Splash Stars we work closely with the STA, our governing body, and learn a lot from Birthlight, who are the pioneers of this gentle approach and teaching method, they support the health and wellbeing of Women and their families from conception through to the third year; to quote their website:
“All practices taught are consistent with research developments in infant physiology and infant psychology and with technical advances in swimming. Our programme blends enjoyment, safety and systematic foundations for swimming in interactive practices for parent/infant pairs. The focus is on the parent as much as on the baby: Birthlight has pioneered the concept of ‘Water Parenting’. “
You will know yourselves that when you have been in the pool with your little one they have not put their face in the water to blow bubbles until they have been ready, we never force our children to do anything they don’t want to do during classes and this is fundamental to our programme, if the child or baby doesn’t want to do it, then they don’t. This isn’t because we aren’t interested in when they do it, its because we want it to be their choice, that their love and curiosity of the water has led them to that decision. Forcing a child to do something like that before they are ready, will only make them not want to do it again or worse, make them afraid of the water.
If you are wondering how we know whether a child of non-verbal age is willing to submerge then the answer to that really depends on the child, but generally, a negative reaction to our ‘name, ready, swim’ signal is tense bodies, frightened face or crying whereas a positive reaction would be smiling, relaxed body, a physical reaction to that signal, i.e., head down, intake of breath these are all things to look our for on your journey with us. Our teachers are highly trained to assess a child’s demeanour during the lesson and we also know typically where your child will be at developmentally, generally due to their age, these things help us decide what your child is ready for in that lesson but what it all boils down to is your child and you. You always know them best.