Puddle Ducks Doncaster have been delivering swimming lessons to babies and children in Doncaster for the past four years and currently have 600 little ones enjoying their classes every week. .
In September they will roll out their new re-developed Baby & Pre-school programme and here is Owner Nicola to tell us a bit more about it…
We have often been asked to define our unique approach to baby swimming and it’s actually easy; child-led. It’s what we’ve always done. Our babies and children have always been at the centre of everything we do but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it better.
A child-led approach to swimming
Getting babies and children to be comfortable and confident under the surface of the water is a key part of their swimming journey. All our teaching methods are consistent with research developments in infant physiology and infant psychology and with technical advances in swimming. This not only keeps us ahead of the game, it means we have to be prepared to change when new developments are brought into the mix. For a few years now, we have worked closely with Birthlight and the STA on the best and safest way to submerge children so that they feel empowered and never forced. The answer is simple; the child decides. Here is an outline of our improved programme, which rolls out at all of our Baby & Pre-School swimming classes in September.
Children love to mimic their parents; our little ones love to copy us. They initiate the activity when they are ready and it’s no surprise that this leads to independent swimming sooner than adult-led activities. We see babies as young as 8 weeks of age copy their parents by putting their mouths and faces in the water – the first step in swimming head down.
Surface swims are lots of fun and they lead to independent swimming – our little ones glide through the water, gently supported by their parents. There is no pushing or pulling and the child decides whether they want to submerge themselves – which they often do!
We have never forced our children under water – we have always used a signal, listened and looked for any negative reaction and stopped if necessary. We still use this very important method so you might ask yourself what has changed? Well, our new holistic approach includes creating more opportunities for elective submersions, throughout the entire lesson. Our new lesson plans are far more fluid and whilst submersions are no longer an official activity within the lesson plans, they are encouraged at every possible opportunity; here’s an example: We run an activity called aeroplanes or motor boats where the child’s arms are placed over their adult’s arm and the adult glides them through the water in a circular motion. We always used to request that the adult kept their child’s head above water but now we encourage them to put their chin/mouth/face in the water, if that is what they choose to do.
How does a baby ‘choose’ to be submerged?
Good question. Previously, our teachers were trained to look for all the signals (positive and negative; e.g. tense bodies, crying, fists vs smiling and relaxed) at the point of submersion but our teachers are now trained to also look for pre-swim cues – the teacher spends the whole lesson observing each child and making judgements about the general mood of the child, whether they appear to be ‘in the zone’ that day, whether they seem relaxed. The teacher then gently guides the parent to help them understand these cues. The end result is that the baby is relaxed, never put in a position where they feel uncomfortable or shocked and chooses to place their face in the water as and when they are ready. The really exciting outcome from this new approach is that babies are putting their faces in the water, under their own steam, much sooner than they were previously.
Once our little ones can talk, communicate with us and tell us exactly what they want, we start to introduce surface-dives, but they are still entirely child-led.
The changes in our programme may seem subtle but they are revolutionary in terms of the speed at which our children are progressing.
As part of our re-developed Baby & Pre-school programme, we have also made the decision not to run underwater photoshoots any more. We hope that this is a good example of embracing change, for the good of the children.
We can’t wait to roll this out from 1st September – our teachers Vicky, Rebecca, Nikki, Sarah, Madi & Clair have spent the summer training and preparing. We will continue to learn, continue to develop and continue to make sure our lessons are of the very highest standard, because our mission is simple: we want every child to love and respect the water and learn to swim beautifully.