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Introductory guidelines: https://blog.intheswim.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/swim-lesson-plans-by-InTheSwim-Blog.pdf
Every swim lesson should have a pool safety component. In the early years, pool safety should focus on definitive rules such as no swimming alone, no swimming without a bathing suit, stay in the shallow end. As a young swimmer develops greater awareness, more advanced pool safety education should be taught, and reviewed annually.
Don’t rush this step, even a small pool can seem intimidating to a young child. Standing in the shallow end, have the swim student sit on the edge of the pool, or on the pool steps, with their feet in the water, and start with a little splashing to get used to the temperature. Pull them up close to your chest when they are ready, and hold them closely while smiling and having fun, moving into the shallow end. Gently dip your body lower until the water is up to the child’s shoulders, bouncing up and down with a reassuring smile. Using pool floats to rest the child on while you stand, holding your student are helpful at many stages during beginning lessons.
Proceed deliberately slow; this can take several lessons to perfect. Gradually dip lower in the water, looking and smiling at your student until you can get up to their chin. Slowly dip both of your mouths below surface, and blow bubbles just under the surface. Once you’ve mastered the blowing bubbles by mouth, the next milestone is going over the nose, eventually dipping fully underwater and looking at each other without blowing bubbles, holding your breath for 1-2 seconds. Taking an exaggerated breath, or blowing in babies face can cue them to hold their breath.
Hold your child in front of you and help them to begin kicking their feet, showing them a slow and steady underwater kick. Using a foam pool float or large kickboard can be helpful for kicking exercises, to help support the student comfortably. Practice front kicking and back kicking until they can do it on cue, it’s one of the most important skills of swimming.
Use both hands to support your student’s head and body while back floating and breathing. Stand behind them and try to encourage eye contact, to help keep your students head down and eyes back. A song or gentle rocking can help to calm anxiety. Float for 30-60 seconds, or until your student becomes fussy, gradually reducing your hand support.
Use both hands to support your student’s arms while front floating. Start with head up front floating, supporting your student. Work up to face-in-the-water front floating, which can take some time to master. It may help if you can sit on the floor with your student floating on the surface, within arm’s reach. A snorkel and mask can be used for older students.
Review of previous swim safety rules such as never swimming alone, or without a swim suit and staying in the shallow end. Jumping in safely means feet first, in shallow water, where you can see the bottom. Diving head first is never safe, and should be reserved for competitive swimmers. Practice skills of getting to the edge of the pool from a short distance away.
A sophomore swimmer is not very coordinated with breathing around water, they may inhale some water and cough. When this happens, respond with smiles and encouragement, and resume when they regain their composure. Separately practice blowing bubbles and breath holding under water. Practice breathing while back floating and front floating, with support.
This has reminded me of a dog trick, but being able to roll over, from back to front and vice-versa, is an important early skill. Start with a supported and comfortable back float, and help your student to turn right by throwing right the left arm and pushing the left elbow back. Start with these mechanics and gently ease into the skill of rolling from a back float to a front float, with support, and the reverse, rolling from front to back. The student should be able to roll themselves easily, with breath control.
Practice a flutter kick in several ways during each lesson, to build the muscle memory of a movement which is actually quite complicated. In more advanced swim students, the swim kick develops to use the entire lower half of the body, the hips, knees, ankles and toes. For now we are splashing water, motor boating, and kicking rhythmically. Use a pool float or kickboard for student support while you give some assistance
Jumping off of the side of the pool’s shallow end and into your waiting arms is both fun and scary for a young swimmer. You can start from a seated position if needed, and work your way up to jumping in towards you, submerging and resurfacing to your waiting arms. Teach them to jump out into the pool, away from the wall. You can practice on land, and show them how far they can jump.
Continue skills of swimming short distances to the side, steps or ladder. Practice skills of touching bottom and pushing off the pool floor to resurface. Discuss pool barriers – fencing, gates, doors, and how they can protect non-swimming people and animals.
Continue to practice front floating and back floating breathing exercises, and practice rolling and dipping while holding breath. Gradually increase the time underwater, but to no more than a few seconds. If the child is over 3 and they like to jump, go into water just deeper than their head and practice bouncing off the bottom and springing up above the water.
It’s very exciting when your student begins to paddle short distances. To start you can provide a little lift to their swimsuit, or support under their belly. Perfecting the doggy paddle means slowing it down, taking deeper strokes and using a longer kick stride, for a less tiring stroke.
Floating on their back, teach your student to use their hands and wrists like fins, to paddle slowly (sculling) and help stay afloat easier. Add in some arm motion and the arms can be used like boat oars to move more water. Add in a back kick for faster propulsion, encouraging and demonstrating a proper back flutter kick.
Dive and Rise
With the student on the edge of the shallow end wall or on the pool steps, have them push off underwater, extended like Superman, and glide to your waiting arms 4-6 feet away. Add in a front breast stroke pull if possible.
As they gain more comfort and skills in the water, you can assist them with treading water skills by giving light support and helping them to coordinate their arms and legs to keep them afloat while using the least amount of energy.
Review rules of the pool such as no swimming alone (If adult must leave, you must leave), and no swimming without a swim suit. No diving. No running. No horseplay. No glass. Keep the gate shut. Give your child a small responsibility for pool safety around your home pool, telling him or her how important their help is in making the pool safe Give praise for positive safety behaviors.
This is advanced kicking, working on the involvement of the entire leg A true ‘flutter kick’ motion, is below the surface of the water, with fluidity and full leg coordination. We constantly work on kick improvements throughout Swim College, until it becomes automatic, or something the swimmer doesn’t have to think about.
The backstroke kick appears to be a mirror image of the front kick, but in fact there are small differences in the stride and rhythm of kicking while back floating. Different muscle groups are also used. Give the backstroke kick as much practice time as the straight kick. Playing slow rhythmic music can be used to help establish a tempo.
As a precursor to freestyle stroke, teach the method on dry land first, using a short bench to lay your student upon. Dry land videos of swimmers in slow motion could also be used demonstrate the motion in action. Demonstrate and practice in the pool with light support for your swimmer. Practice for several sessions, with support and without kicking, until the motion of turning the head to breathe in coordination with the opposite hand thrust, becomes nearly natural.
Bringing together three skills – kicking, pulling and breathing, freestyle stroke is what separates the non-swimmer from the swimmer, when they continue beyond basic stroke development. For many children, this may not come until ages 5 or 6, even for those with advanced motor skills. Take it slow and stick with it – and always end your swim lessons on a positive note.
Advanced Treading Water
Now we enter survival swim training territory, and most boys will like it when you give it that name. Review the basics of treading water with hands and arms sculling and legs doing a modified ‘bicycle kick’. Practice rhythmic breathing while treading water until your swim student can tread water for 30-60 seconds, with you within arm’s reach.
Water Rescue Basics
Review the rules. Praise your student (gold star!) when they show safe water behavior (entering/exiting safely, shutting a gate or door, or leaving the pool with you if you have to run inside the house). If appropriate for your child, instruct on what 911 is and when it may be appropriate to dial 911 for water rescue. Young children should be taught to find an adult for any kind of small or large emergency at the pool. If appropriate for your child, CPR demonstration and discussions can be held – no giggling!
The backstroke begins with a good back float and a solid back kick. Add to it a head-back shoulder rotation windmill motion, scooping lots of water on your down stroke. Breathe rhythmically with the stroke and really stretch out long to bring kicking, stroking and breathing together.
This is the kick used by water polo players to lift them out of water to their waists. A very powerful kick, but at much slower rates, it’s an easy way to tread water and conserve energy. Each leg moves in opposite rotation to the other, so that the upper leg is pumping up and down while the lower leg is swirling in a circular rotation from the knee to ankle.
The eggbeater kick has been said to be a modified breast stroke kick, which is also known as the frog kick, where the legs are drawn up and then squeezed together while being thrust out to full length. Practice kicking while holding onto and facing the wall or a large float. Small kickboards can be used for further training. Dry land bench training or videos can also be used, along with demonstrations.
Pushing off the wall and gliding, like superman, is a good place to start. The motion of the stroke used in breast stroke is a hard one for younger kids, and will take some practice. I think of the stroke motion as an upside down heart. Pull down from the top, then join hands below your chest and bring the arms back up the middle. Keep the torso flat, (no rotation) and bob up for air as you bring your arms back close the chest.
Picking up on what was learned in earlier lessons, the stroke mechanics of the freestyle or crawl can be fine-tuned for both distance and endurance. Stronger breathing skills, more powerful strokes and less turbulent kicking are the objectives.