The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

How to Teach Babies to Swim Safely

Whether you are a swimming instructor or parent, when it comes to teaching infants and toddlers to swim–PLEASE choose your approach carefully.   It is absolutely imperative that you really research the pros and cons of the teaching method before enrolling in an infant swimming program, especially one that may promise drown-proofing or mastering survival skills.  These approaches can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening.  Simply put, your baby’s (or student’s) life and emotional well-being is in YOUR hands.

Teaching an infant or toddler to swim can be done successfully in a naturally progressive, child-centered learning environment.   One that is gentle and kind.  It is my professional opinion that this is the ONLY method any responsible person should consider for a baby.   We certainly want children to learn to swim for safety, but there is no iron-clad, guaranteed defense against drowning.  There is no such thing as drown-proofing.

In fact, the Broward County Drowning Prevention Task Force in Florida published a program called Water Smart Babies.  They created the program to help educate parents on how to best protect their children and keep them safer around the water.  Water Smart Babies stresses that the parent is the most important factor  and encourages parents to Follow the Safer 3, a layered approach to drowning prevention.

To keep infants and toddlers safer, parents should be taught to take every precaution when the child is in or around the water.  Never let your guard down no matter how many lessons a toddler has taken or how many times they have shown the ability to swim.  To keep children safer, we must combine learn-to-swim with as many layers of protection as possible, from touch supervision, to lifejackets, to fences, to self-closing gates, and pool alarms.

But you ask:  What about those infant-survival skills that  I’ve seen on YouTube?  I believe former NDPA Executive Director Kim Burgess hit the nail on the head in the position statement for the Broward County Drowning Prevention Task Force, “The water-survival skills program make compelling videos for the internet, but no scientific study has yet demonstrated these classes are effective.”

The report also concludes that these types of programs place inexperienced swimmers in what he perceives as life or death situations.”  If practiced repeatedly this places a child in a chronic stressful situation of “saving his life” every time he swims, which could detrimental to the child’s emotional and cognitive development.

Karen King, also referenced in the report, states:  “Putting babies in life or death scenarios is not an acceptable teaching practice in swimming or any learning situation. It’s like showing a child a busy street, putting him IN the road, and watching to see if he makes it to the curb.”  Do you see the cruelty and absurdity in this?

The bottom line is that the ultimate goal of teaching infant, toddlers and young children to swim is so that they love their swimming experience and learn to be safer in the water in the process.   Like any other worthwhile skills, skill mastery is a process–not an event.  Don’t be fooled!

Here is a short video example of what the Swim Lessons University “Parent & Tot” learn to swim program looks like.

Give a child a lifetime gift–teach a child to swim using a gentle, loving approach.   An approach that has proven effective for not only my own three boys, but for the thousands and thousands of students who have safely learned to swim with a Swim Lessons University certified instructor.

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about How to Teach Toddlers to Swim or more about the Swim Lessons University Online Swim Instructor Certification  and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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Today at 3:03 am Comments (0)

How to Teach Breaststroke to Beginners

Here’s an inside look at Jim Reiser teaching one of his new students the breaststroke.  As you can see, his student is just in the beginning phases of learning the stroke.  Coach Reiser will not only use good verbal cues and specific, corrective feedback, he also incorporates kinesthetic teaching methods so Austin can “feel” what he needs to do in order to swim the stroke correctly.  Let’s take a peak:

If you would like to learn more about How to Teach the Breaststroke or the Swim Lessons University Online Swim Instructor Certification  and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com    Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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November 21, 2016 at 4:59 am Comments (0)

Demonstration Tips for Swimming Instructors

When giving demonstrations in your learn-to-swim classes, there are a number of critical factors that should be taken into consideration. In fact, numerous studies have been conducted to support the following demonstration considerations:

  • Status of the model (Landers and Landers, 1973)
  • When the model should begin demonstrating (McCullagh, Weis, and Ross, 1989)
  • Correctness of the demonstration (Landers and Landers, 1973)
  • Observing incorrect demonstrations (Weir & Leavitt, 1990)
  • Frequency of demonstrations (Sidaway 1992)

My goal in this blog/video on demonstrations, however, is to focus in on how the age and skill level should influence your demonstration.

Here are a Few Demonstration Guidelines:

Young Beginners (Swim 101):

      • Limit your demonstrations (one or two is sufficient).
      • Have them seated on a step or bench (keep them in the water).
      • Perform your demonstrations toward the students so you can see them at all times.

Stroke-Ready (Swim Strokes 201) or school aged beginners(Swim 102/103):

  • Limit your demonstrations (one or two is sufficient).
  • Keeping your students safety in mind, you may want these students to stand so they get a better look at what you are demonstrating (Standing gives them a higher vantage point which may be helpful).
  • Keeping safety in mind (each class is different), providing your students a look at the skill from different angles can be especially helpful (see video embedded below).

Advanced Strokes (Advanced Swim Strokes 300 or Lifesaving Strokes 400):

  • Provide a third demonstration if you feel it would be helpful and that you still have your student’s attention
  • Keeping your students safety in mind, you may want these students to stand so they get a better look at what you are demonstrating (Standing gives them a higher vantage point which may be helpful).
  • Keeping safety in mind (each class is different), providing your students a look at the skill from different angles can be especially helpful (see video embedded below).

Three More Helpful Tips for ALL Ages and Skill Levels:

  1. Don’t just demonstrate when a skill is new.   Demonstrate anytime you feel that feedback alone isn’t getting the job done. “Seeing it” again can be huge!
  2. Make sure that you are performing the skill correctly.       Students are very good at replicating what they see (right or wrong).
  3. Compare and contrast. Show the skill correctly vs. the skill incorrectly vs. the skill correctly again.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University Online Swim Instructor Certification  and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com    Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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November 13, 2016 at 7:48 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lesson Games for Breath Control: “Whack-a-Mole!”

Have you ever seen the “Whack-a-Mole” game at Chuck E. Cheese’s?   That’s where I got the  idea for “Whack-a-Mole” in the pool!  The children like when I pretend to be a “grumpy old man” (I’m really not :-)and they pretend to be the moles.    As you can see below, the kids really love it.  In fact, it is one of my most requested games from my Swim 102 and Swim Strokes 200 level students!

SAFETY NOTE:  As you can see in the video, all you have to do to make “your club” is simply slide the foam from one end of the barbell next to the other.  Even though the barbell is made of foam, I strongly recommend that you hit the water to the right or left of where the child goes underwater to be sure you don’t actually hit anyone!   This safety precaution also actually makes this swim lesson game even more fun because you can hit the water harder–making more noise and adding to the excitement . . . for the kids of course!

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University Online Swim Instructor Certification  and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com    Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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November 5, 2016 at 8:14 pm Comments (0)

Halloween Swim Lessons Games for Beginners

Would you like a fun, breath holding activity for your beginners with a Halloween theme? Give this one a try!

While this a seasonal activity, it is perfectly adequate to utilize in the Breath Holding part of the Swim Lessons University Swim 101 Lesson Plan.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University Online Swim Instructor Certification  and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com    Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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October 30, 2016 at 1:01 am Comments (0)

Halloween Swim Lesson Games

Halloween is just around the corner, so I wanted to share an activity I created called the “Haunted Island.”   I use it mainly during “In-line/prone kick” skill since it’s a simple skill that doesn’t require a lot of feedback.  In other words, when I get to the part of the lesson where we are working on the freestyle/front crawl (I combined a Swim 102 student with a Swim Strokes 201 student), I can get back to giving the children more specific, corrective feedback to ensure the class is both INSTRUCTIONAL and FUN!
I think that you will find that when you teach perpetual swim lessons (weekly lessons vs. sessions), theme-based activities and games are extremely valuable to keep the monotony out of the lessons.  Of course, it is equally important that you don’t lose sight of the skills that your students need to learn in the curriculum.

At any rate, here is an activity/game for the in-line kick that we call “The Haunted Island!”  I hope you and your students have as much fun with it as we did!

While this a seasonal activity, it is perfectly adequate to utilize in the In-line Kick part of the Swim Lessons University Lesson Plan.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University Instructor Certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com    Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

For more information on the Swim Lessons University Swim Instructor Training or our Online Swim Instructor Certification courses, check us out on the web or call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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October 28, 2016 at 3:48 pm Comments (0)

Private Swimming Lesson Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Have you ever taught a private swimming lesson? Have you ever needed a couple activities in your back pocket to add some fun and variety to the lesson?  Here’s a couple quick ideas that you could try in your toddler or preschool swim lessons:

While these aren’t regular activities that are part of our curriculum, they are certainly great “fillers” that can keep your private swim lessons fun and upbeat, or something you can throw in for a change of pace.  As you could see, this little toddler absolutely loved “The Motorboat Song” and the little tosses up in the air!

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University Online Swim Instructor Certification  and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com    Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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October 27, 2016 at 1:51 am Comments (0)

Breath Control Game for Swimming Lessons

Writing about this activity has  “I Saw Esau,”  playing over and over in my head, a song made famous by the Ames Brothers in 1956!  At any rate, if you’re looking for a fun breath control game for swimming lessons that will take the monotony out of your rhythmic bobs, your learn to swim students will certainly enjoy this one:

This is not an activity for true beginners, as children would need to have some basic air exchange skills as a prerequisite for this activity.   It would work perfectly, however,  in the Swim Lessons University Swim Strokes 201 or 202 Lesson Plan though for sure!

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University Online Swim Instructor Certification  and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com    Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

 

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October 18, 2016 at 3:07 am Comments (0)

Swim Lessons Levels: Move up or stay down?

Dear Mr. Reiser,

I don’t know if other coaches have asked this question but…..After finishing a season of teaching & starting a new one a few months later–do you start your children in the level that they were at before or do you place them in the lower level to make sure the skills they learnt are still familiar?

If my swim lessons student swam without the flotation devise and performed the Surface Swim with Pop-up Style Breathing (just about) at the end of the season last year, do I place him in “Swim Strokes 201″ right away or go back to “Swim 101?” I’d appreciate your thoughts.

Thank you.

Helen H., Aquatics Director

Vero Beach, FL

Excellent questions.  Helen!  Your first question: 

Do you start your children in the swim level that they were at before or do you place them in the lower level to make sure the skills they learnt are still familiar?   Generally speaking, we would recommend that you place the child in whatever level he left off before taking a break.  Do students come back a little rusty sometimes?  Of course!   But our experience is that that won’t last very long.  Within a lesson or two, the skills and stamina will be back.   While I don’t like to compare swimming to riding a bike because it is much more complex skill, there is still truth in the statement.  Once you learn a skill, you don’t forget it.   You may lose conditioning, flexibility, reaction time, etc., but you remember the skill.

Your second question:

If my student swam without the flotation devise, Surface Swimming with Pop-up Style Breathing (just about) at the end of the season last year, do you place him in “Swim Strokes 201” right away or go back to “Swim 101?”  Now this part is a slight bit trickier.  Quite frankly, I would base some of this decision around the child’s age as well as the quality and consistency of his performance.

For example:   If you have a 3-year old or even young 4-year old who just barely passed the “Surface Swim with Pop-up Style Breathing,” then I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend that he continue to strengthen this skill.  If your best judgment is that you believe the young child will struggle to learn the new skill of Freestyle (Front Crawl), then I would recommend to his parents that the “Swim 101” skills are going to be a little more age-appropriate and stick with those for another session or so until they are “mastered.”  Don’t get me wrong, 4-year olds and some 3-year olds can pick up a crawl stroke, but there is plenty of time for that if the Basic Surface Swim with Pop-up Style Breathing can still improve a good deal. 

When you look at the child development literature, research shows that most children develop in a natural, predictable sequence from one developmental milestone to the next.  AND THIS MILESTONE stands out to me in this case:  On average, three to five year olds do NOT have real control over their major muscles. They lack coordination, which is critical to combining the arms and legs in putting together the front crawl.  So this is why we teach 3-5 year olds the Surface Swim with Pop-up Style Breathing.  But again, as we pointed out earlier, once a 3-5 year old has mastered the “Swim 101” skills and is stroke ready, you can graduate him to “Swim Strokes 201” and add the Front Crawl (Freestyle). 

I hope this helps, Helen!  The brand new 2nd Edition of Swim 101 is coming soon!  Pre-order it today and get 20% off!

 

 

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January 29, 2014 at 11:15 pm Comments (0)

Pop-up Breath for Beginner Swimmers

One of our Swim Lessons University Instructor-Trainers in Virginia sent this great question today:

Dear Professor Reiser:

We conducted training at Winchester Parks and Rec today for six prospective Swim Lessons University instructors for our staff.   A question came up.  In Swim 101, why not have the children take their breaths to the side instead of breathing forward?  The questioner observed that one of the children seemed to be getting too vertical when breathing forward.  What do you suggest?

Thanks for your insight!

Coach Bill

 

Dear Coach Bill,

Excellent question!  Having experimented with about every beginning swimming technique, our experience is that turning the head to the side is just too complex of a skill for a 3-5 year old BEGINNER in Swim 101.  I stressed beginner because once a child masters the “pop-up style breathing,” this front breath without hesitation will transfer effortlessly to the freestyle side breathing when the student is ready for the Swim Strokes 201 class.   When you start with the side breath for such a young child who is also a beginner, it is just too much for them both physically and developmentally to put it together right away in Swim 101.  And again, as you know, once the child is stroke ready we introduce the freestyle with side breathing in the 3-5 year olds Swim Strokes 201 course

The secret to success when teaching the 3-5 year old beginners is to keep the skill as basic as possible.  The less complex the better.  Then when the child masters the less complex skill, he/she will be ready to learn something more difficult like the side breath in the strokes class (progression principle). 

In regard to this particular child getting vertical, generally speaking our goal is to discourage any vertical body position in the water and we accomplish that in most cases by allowing the child to master the breath while keeping a narrow, fast kick with any given amount of buoyancy.  We don’t remove the buoyancy until they are successful.  However, on occasion there may be an exception where you accept what the child is doing at that point in time (A good example is that kid who is ready for the swim team, does all the strokes, but just doesn’t flex one foot out yet.  You don’t hold him back and keep him off the 8 & under swim team over something that is just going to take a little patience and persistence).

Back to the pop-up breath. One of the changes coming in the 2nd Edition of Swim 101 is that we believe it is so important that we don’t take away flotation too fast.  If the student is taking more than a second or so to get a breath or he looks distressed, you put a flotation pad back in.  You want the pop-up breathing skill to be automatic and comfortable. And regarding the video clip I believe you are referring to, McKenzie was very comfortable in the water but I agree she was getting a bit vertical on her first breath without the vest.  Today, 7 years later, I may or may not put the Power Swimr swim vest back on her.  Remember this:  That was literally the VERY FIRST TIME McKenzie EVER swam without her vest!  We just happened to get lucky and catch it on video!  She deserves a few chances to get it right providing there is no safety risk and she is happy and comfortable swimming without it vs. nervous or distressed.  I think you would agree she looks happy, comfortable, and confident!

Also please note:  In the 2nd edition of Swim 101 there will be even more video examples.  You’ll also see that we have COMPLETELY ELIMINATED the Paddle Stroke.  If the child isn’t putting face in, the new lesson plan will call for another set of in-line kick practice which makes the combined skill of first-time breath holding while kicking much easier.  It also give our students extra reps on the skill they need the most work.

Hope this helps!  The 2nd Edition of Swim 101 is coming in February.  For a limited time, it can be pre-ordered it at 20% off at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com

SwimmingSafercerely,

Jim Reiser, Executive Director

Swim Lessons University

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December 15, 2013 at 2:03 am Comments (0)

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