The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

First-time Submersion and Breath Control: Child Development Milestones & Teaching Implications

As professional swimming instructors, we would be ignorant not to spend some time understanding, learning, and embracing the developmental characteristics of the students we teach. Why? If you look at them, you will see that there are significant teaching implications based on the generally accepted milestones experienced throughout the childhood years.

Children of the ages of 3 and 4 are experiencing what are known as the “magic years.” The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that 3 and 4 year olds love “Fantasy” and “Pretend Play,” as our young student’s imaginations are running wild. Early childhood educators also agree that by age three, children are becoming more independent, both physically and emotionally. One teaching implication is to give them time to ‘get things right’ or do it for themselves.

This research-based advice also should remind swimming instructors to never forget that patience is one of your most important teaching tools. For first-time submersion, one teaching implication would be to allow your students to decide when “they” want to go underwater, while providing lots of encouragement, praise, and support .

Here is an example of an activity where both children are benefitting from the recommendations just mentioned:
1. The 4-year old girl is being given time to get it right for herself without being pressured.
2. Both children are enjoying the activity that can be individualized for first-time submersion and breath control as “pretend play” is being utilized to make learning fun.

Hope you enjoyed today’s blog. For the complete Swim Instructor Certification course for teaching preschoolers, visit Swim Lessons University today or email

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November 11, 2013 at 3:30 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lessons Activities: Teaching Preschoolers How to Flutter Kick

When you can provide a positive, playful environment in your swimming lessons that also produces lots of quality repetition for your preschoolers, you are guaranteed to have success.   This is all possible because your students are fully engaged and having fun.  Here is an example of one of the kick activities for young children that will be featured in the 2nd Edition (coming in 2014) of Swim 101 Certification Course video and swim lesson plan:


This particular video was shot in 1999.  While children enjoy it just as much today, we will be making a few tweaks for the 2nd Edition Swim 101 Course Video:

1.  We now use the “thicker, super sized noodle” which is especially helpful when you have young 3-year olds just learning their balance or larger children in which the small noodle isn’t buoyant enough to give them the appropriate amount of support.

2. The instructor comments, “nice and straight legs.” That is an exaggeration. We really don’t want the legs perfectly straight AND it would be very difficult, let alone ineffective to kick with “straight legs.” But since young students generally bend the knees excessively, feedback cues such as “straighten the legs out” can be effective even though you don’t mean “literally straight.”

3.  When manipulating the legs, Swim Lessons University now recommends a technique we call the “Sack of Sugar.”   Watch this video to see how to do it:

4.  We now use the smaller nets as you just saw in the video demonstrating the “sack of sugar.”   If you would like to purchase the smaller nets, email jreiser@swimprofessor

Hope you enjoyed this post!

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November 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm Comments (0)

Swimming Lessons for Preschoolers: Getting Started

When teaching swimming lessons to preschoolers, you can be so much more successful when you make learning like play. The famous children’s television series “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” coincidentally targeted the same age group as our Swim 101 course, which is our beginners course for young children between the ages of three and five years of age.

Mr. Roger’s put it like this: “When we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that’s to be found in the creative spirit. It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.”

Encouraging children to use their imagination engages and excites this young age group. This why it is important to use “make believe” in your classes with young learners. Here is a short video of two activities that you can use:

Could you see the effectiveness of the “pretend play?” When you can accomplish this in your Swim 101 classes, the skills naturally follow with repetition and your guidance. This is all possible because you were successful getting your students engaged in a manner that they are bursting with enthusiasm.

The trick then becomes in the transition from one activity to the next. You got to see one of those transitions. In the 2nd Edition of Swim 101 which will be published in January, 2014, you will get to see how to do it from the start of your class to the finish.

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September 26, 2013 at 3:45 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lessons Ideas for Kicking

In the “Swim 101” Lesson Plan, you will notice that we like to rotate three different flutter kick activities for variety and to keep the FUN in the Fundamentals. While the emphasis doesn’t change (we are still working on developing a sound freestyle kick), we add a new kick activity every two lessons. THIS ACTIVITY, “Let’s Build a Castle” is a great one that your young students are sure to love. Take a look and give it a try in your next swim lessons. The colorful building blocks can be found on the Swim Lessons University website under “Swim Instructor Accessories.”

For the entire “Swim 101” Course curriculum, check out the Swim Lessons University.  Swim 101 video highlights and samples of the entire course video can be found on the Swim Lessons University website.

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October 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm Comments (0)

Fins for Swim Lessons

Dear Swim Profesor:

I hope you can help w/more advice. I”m still a beginner swimmer. My teacher told me I need to work on my kicking, and I’d like to get some fins. Saw some lightweight flippers at Todd & Moore, and then just regular swim fins (I guess). I think I need “short fins” or something like that. Suggestions? I haven’t looked at Dick’s Sporting Goods yet, but might tomorrow. thank you.

– Roxanne D.

Dear Roxanne,

Swim fins can be helpful for all swimming ability levels.  Personally, I would strongly recommend the Finis Zoomers.  For others reading this blog, for a limited time (while they last), we have children’s zoomers on sale right now for just $12.99 regular $37.95!  Here are the reasons why I prefer the short blade Zoomers over other versions.

1.  Short Blade – Long blade fins do have a purpose, for instance, scuba diving.  If I have to get away from a shark, I want the longest blade possible, LOL :)   But seriously, long blade fins are a nice training tool for elite competitive swimmers for “sprint assisted” swimming.   Research shows that one way to improve sprint speed is to train at speeds faster than you can normally go.  The long fins allow for that.  Of course there are other ways to do that too, i.e., sprint assisted work with tubing.  But long fins can serve that purpose for a coach who has lots of swimmers in the pool.

So why do I recommend the short blade fins for swimming instructors and their swim lesson students?  Very simple.  If you study closely the movement pattern of the kick with a short blade fin, it will resemble very closely the movement pattern with no fins at all.  ON THE OTHER HAND, if you observe a kick with the long blade fin, the kick is a little different.  For competitive swimming especially, when races are won and lost by fractions of a second, you would clearly want to gain a training edge.  So when you are training with fins, you would ideally replicate that movement as closely as possible (I will touch on swim fins for beginners again at the end of the blog).

2.  Negative Buoyancy – The zoomers (at least the Original Zoomers did) are constructed with a rubber that give the fins negative buoyancy.  In other words, they sink.   Why is this an advantage?  From a training standpoint, your legs will experience the strengthening benefits that are a result of the fins making your legs work harder.  Floating fins, on the other hand, won’t work your legs quite as hard.

Let’s get back to swim fins for swim lessons, beginners, and novice swimmers.   When I am teaching a non-swimmer or beginner to swim, you don’t want the teaching tool to give more assistance than necessary.  It goes back to my lesson plan philosophy with flotation devices, holds, supports, and progressions.  The best artificial support is the one that gives the student just enough support to be successful.  If you give the learner too much support, they become dependent on it.  Then when you ask the learner to perform the skill on their own, it’s like asking them to climb a mountain instead of a small hill.  If you take baby steps, the learner will not only experience physical success  faster, but he will experience a psychological success as well,  and more importantly–his confidence will grow.

I believe this directly applies with swim fins for beginners.  If you give your beginner swimmer this big flipper that provides extraordinary propulsion, that’s all well and good until you remove the fin and ask them to swim without it.  Suddenly, their feet feel like rocks instead of flippers,  often resulting in a discouraged student who was on the verge of success, only to learn it was the flipper, not him!   The Zoomers, on the other hand, make the transition much easier because while they do provide additional propulsion, the kick with the Zoomers feels very similar to  the kick without the Zoomers–because it is!

So there you have it!  I hope my recommendation helps you and many others!

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September 25, 2011 at 5:02 pm Comments (14)

Swim Lessons Themes

One great new theme that my young swim lesson students  have really enjoyed is an “Invisible Buddy Day.”  While adults may find it a little bizarre, young children love hanging out with “invisible buddies!”  I can’t tell you how much fun this can make a strokes class for a four or five year old.  In fact, our Swim Lessons University Swimming Instructors are loving it too!

According to Dr. Bergan, who interviewed with Parenting Magazine, these pals can actually be healthy for kids. “Playing with a make-believe sidekick can help children develop the social skills such as getting along with other children, sharing, cooperation, and taking turns.”

I like to have my young students teach their invisible friend the stroke cues, tell them to praise their “invisible buddy” for a good job, and even tell their invisible buddy how to perform the skill better–but reminding my students to make sure they are telling their invisible buddies what they did well too so they don’t feel bad.

According to Dr. Bergen, “Invisible pals can also provide moral support, just as a real friend would.”

Give it a try in your Swim Strokes 201 class (ages 3-5) class.  Your young learn-to-swim students will love it!

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March 6, 2011 at 7:41 am Comments (2)

Swim Lesson Games for Kids

If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for ways to be more creative and make your swim lessons more fun, without taking too much away from practice time.  Nothing is more satisfying for a swim instructor, or for a swim lessons parent as far as that goes, than to see the children truly enjoying learning to swim.  When you can cause your swim lesson students to smile and laugh, they will look forward to each lesson and want to come back for more!

One idea I recently came up with was to have a “Tongue Twister of the Day.”  The children absolutely love it!  Give it a try!  Here are eight good ones:

Swim Lesson #1:  “Rubber baby buggy-bumpers”

Swim Lesson #2:  “Red leather, yellow leather”

Swim Lesson #3:  “She shall sell seashells”

Swim Lesson #4:  “Eight apes ate eight apples”

Swim Lesson #5:  “Cool clean canned clams”

Swim Lesson #6:  “A stiff stack of thick steaks”

Swim Lesson #7:  “Around the rugged rocks, the ragged rascal ran.”

Swim Lesson #8:  “Toyboat, toyboat, toyboat”

Share this swim lessons activity with your swimming instructors, and let the fun begin!  Enjoy!

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February 13, 2011 at 10:05 pm Comment (1)

Swim School Ideas

As we prepared to get nearly 100 second graders in the water yesterday, many of whom have NEVER been in the water before (believe it or not), I did something I wanted to share with you that you may enjoy. In fact, you may want to try it next time you have a large swim lessons group as it had every child engaged:

After dividing up the 100 swim lessons students into three time slots, with about 33 swimmers per half hour, we gathered the first group on deck. With five instructors in the water, I had created five single file lines with an average of 6-7 children per line. I was about to have the instructors do a freestyle kick demonstration in the prone kick position (also known as the in-line kick). This is the second of two tests we do (first test: kick with a noodle or kick board with the face out of the water). This test determines what group we are going to place the students. One other note, 95% of the children are African American, and I’d estimate up to 50% of them have never been in a swimming pool.

So I say to the kids: “Someday when you grow up (like when your 21 or 22 or 23 years old) and my swim teachers are old and gray and retired, I would love to have some of you in here teaching swim lessons for me! So today we’re going to do a little role playing and pretend you are the teacher for a minute and see how well you do. Let’s imagine the swim instructors are your students taking swim lessons from you. I’m going to tell you softly what to say, repeat after me: Arms straight (arms straight), fast kick (fast kick), face in the water (face in the water), ready-go (ready-go)!”

It was such a neat thing to hear those 2nd graders pretend they were the swim teacher and to see the teachers do what they said. I even think it reminded the teachers how effective choral responding is and how important start signals are in their own teaching. There was no question what those kids playing the role of swim teachers wanted their teachers to do!

So there you have it:  a quick little swim school idea that that was fun for the kids and good for the swim lesson instructors too!

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September 28, 2010 at 4:29 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lesson Songs

As the late and legendary TV host Fred Roger’s from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood wrote, “When you help a child enjoy music, you’re also helping a child develop learning skills, like listening, coordination, imagination, and memory.”

Swimming lessons too, are a great place to help a child enjoy music.  I have always incorporated songs and music into my Parent & Me and Swim 101 classes, which you can get a free sneak preview of on my Parent & Me YouTube Video.   Singing songs the children know can also help alleviate anxiety and redirect a young, potentially fearful child’s focus to something other than what he/she is worrying about.

Here a few of the songs we like and use in our Parent & Me and Swim 101 classes:

  • “If You’re Happy & You Know It”
  • “Rain, Rain Go Away”
  • “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring”
  • “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”
  • “The Wheels on the Bus” (our version “The Babies in the Pool”)

As I noted, when we sing “The Wheels on the Bus,” we substitute the words “The Babies in the Pool.”  When I sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to my Swim 101 students and I feel I need to encourage them to kick more, I sometimes substitute the actual words of the song with “Kick, kick, kick, kick, kick your feet,  splashing in the swimming pool” so they are getting specific feedback/instructions while singing the melody of the song.

One way or the other, when you teach baby swim lessons, swim lesson for toddlers or preschoolers, you want to make swim lesson songs a part of your daily swim lesson plan.

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September 16, 2010 at 2:34 pm Comments (0)

Swim Lesson Games

When should you “play games” in swimming lessons?   When I coached USA Swim Age Group Swimming full time, I always reserved about 20 minutes every Friday for Water Polo unless we had a swim meet.

For swim lessons, however, I think it’s a little different, especially if your lessons are 30 minutes or less.

With young children, say under the age of six, there is no question that you should make learning like play.  You can call them games–I call them Swim Lessons Activities.  In my new Swim 101 DVD and in my older video, Home Swim School, I packed the video and lessons with activities that make learning more fun for preschoolers.

Here is a short list of examples:

  • Kicking – “Let’s Go Grocery Shopping”
  • Breath Control – “Hide Frog Hide”
  • In-Line / Prone Kick – “Super Heroes”
  • Back Kick – “Sing Yourself to Sleep”
  • Paddle Stroke – “Pretend You’re a Puppy”
  • Swim with Face in the Water – “Swim Like a Fish”

In fact, you can watch some video examples on my YouTube station on both Swim 101 and Home Swim School.  For this age group, you can’t go wrong with using swim lesson themes and swim lesson activities to make learning fun.

For children age 6 and over, I really focus more on skills when I teach.  I keep learning fun and positive, but I don’t necessarily incorporate swim lesson games into my swim lesson plan.   I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, and if you have some good ones, I’d love to hear them and I will be happy to give you credit for them if I decide to post (totally up to you)!  But in general, I think that when we have 30 minutes to teach a child age 6 or over,  “swimming” at this age is fun in itself.

On the other hand, preschoolers and young children under the age of six years old need activities to redirect them and make something that may seem a little scary more like play.  So in our swim lesson plans that we do with this age group—the children are learning and practicing skills without even realizing how hard they are working . . .   That’s what swim lesson games are all about!

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September 10, 2010 at 5:13 pm Comment (1)

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