The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

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.

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 the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

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

Fun Swim Lessons Ideas

When teaching young children how to swim the freestyle/front crawl (4-5 year olds especially), a traditional teaching approach may not engage the children enough.  I find this to be especially true for demonstrations to four year olds.  To increase my effectiveness, I often make the demonstrations more like play but without eliminating the important points of emphasis I want my young students to duplicate and understand.   Let’s take a quick look at one example:

As you saw in this video, I told my students that we were going to pretend that they were the coach, and I was there student!  This amuses them and immediately engages them in the demonstration.  After having my young students give me instructions during my demonstration, such as yelling out the cues, I let them give me feedback too.

Give it a try!  Not only will you maximize their willingness to pay attention, you will have a blast with it too as your  kids will say the darndest things!

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 the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com 

We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

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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July 25, 2012 at 6:12 pm Comments (5)

Swim Lessons Parents

Last night my wife overheard a swim instructor tell one of her swim lessons student’s parents that “he was not listening very well today.”  She could be mistaken, but she believes that was pretty much the beginning and the end of the conversation.   The swim instructor, in my opinion, is otherwise fabulous!   But I want every one of our swim instructors to remember  that PARENTS WANT TO HEAR GOOD THINGS ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN TOO!  By no means am I saying that the parent doesn’t need to be aware of a behavior issue, but they also need to know that YOU (the instructor) still enjoy teaching their child and that you recognize the positive things about their child too.

In our swim instructor training, we train our teachers to do three things with our young students every class:

1.  Warmly greet your students, hold their hands,  and walk them up to the pool.

2.  Teach Like a Pro!

3.  Walk them back to mom or dad, and ALWAYS tell the parents about something good, i.e.,  any improvement, something funny their child said or did, or simply how proud you are of them.

These three simple steps go a long way in establishing customer loyalty (your students will come back to take more swim lessons with you).

I also want to challenge instructors to do the following when you have a behavior issue:

1.  EVALUATE YOUR APPROACH!  Were you clear on your “START SIGNALS?”  Did you keep children moving and limit downtime?  Did you communicate your expectations clearly?

2.  ASK FOR HELP!  If you are struggling with behavior issues, have a senior staff member or manager observe your class.  Sometimes another set of eyes can give you a different perspective.  My wife still does this for me all the time even when I don’t ask for her opinion, LOL!  Although I’ve been teaching for 30 years, her insight always makes me better.  In fact, she’s the one who inspired this blog.

3.  TALK “WITH PARENTS” vs. “AGAINST” THEM!  If you come across as confrontational(especially this day and age),p arents will be quick to defend their child.  If you come across as “someone who really cares and is looking out for the best interest of their child,” they will love you for it.  Say something like this:   “Nolan’s skills are really improving.   I am just amazed by his progress.  I did want to ask you though, do you have any advice for me?  Sometimes I feel like I could be doing more to keep him on task… any suggestions?”  And then listen.   Then say: “Thank you so much.   That is helpful.   I can’t wait to see him next class!”

I hope today’s blog will help you and or your staff!   OH!  One last critical tip:  ALWAYS keep your conversations on the professional level.  Avoid talking about personal matters at all costs!  Also, when a parent asks you how you are doing, always respond something like:  “I’M GREAT, THANK YOU!” NEVER RESPOND: “I’m making it or I’m getting by.”   If you’re having a bad day, never wear it on your sleeve.  As the saying goes, “fake it until you make it!”

Thank you for visiting our blog page!

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 was the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com 

We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

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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May 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm Comment (1)

Fun Swim Lesson Ideas

One of my Swim Lessons University talks in 2010-2011 was titled, “Tricks to Making Learning Fun.”  In this presentation, I shared with my attendees 14 Swim Lesson Tips and Success Strategies that I have found to be fun and practical to adapt in your learn to swim classes.

Tip #4 was one I learned from the TV series Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.   Each day Mr. Rogers would bring a special item of interest to his show to share with his young viewers.   He would then  find a way to work it in to the show’s theme, one way or the other.  It could be anything!  Something  he made, a picture, a toy, something you eat, etc.

So my Tip #4 was that I encourage my teachers to “Bring an Item of Interest” for your kids swim lessons to share with your young students.   It doesn’t take much to spark a young child’s interest and curiosity, and the response you will get from it is amazing.  Not only does it take just a minute or so to incorporate, the motivational factor is priceless.  You wouldn’t believe how much your young swim lessons students will look forward to your next class just to find out what their swim instructor will have to show them next!

Instructor Maria Darwood, who attended my conference in Orlando, brought a perfect example of this to the conference.  It was a little cut-out of a character she named “Stanley.”  It was colored in crayon and laminated, and she tells her students about all the places Stanley visits.

During the past week he traveled to New York City and saw Rockefeller Center Ice Rink, Time Square and the Statue of Liberty. He then traveled with another family in Virginia aboard the U.S.S. Newport News, nuclear submarine. Stanley went flying from an airfield by Langley Air Force Base. Then traveled to D.C. to visit the White House, the U.S. Capital, and the Washington Monument, “It was Presidents Day!”

Of course Stanley visited “The Swim Professor” at the Swim Lessons University Swim Teachers Conference in Orlando, and I was honored to have my picture taken with Stanley!  He will be wrapping up his travels in Tampa, Florida.  He will then go across the state to visit Kennedy Space Center for the final launch of Discovery this Thursday at 4:50 P.M.

You can see my picture with Stanley on the Swim Lessons University Facebook Page!

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February 23, 2011 at 6:03 pm Comments (3)

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 Toys

Do you incorporate the use of toys when you teach your swim lessons for kids?  Swim Toys can certainly add a dynamic to your class that helps young children get extra excited about learning, and often even help redirect a child who may be scared or hesitant in the beginning.  Nevertheless, when you teach swimming lessons to children between three and five years old, I think it’s extremely important that the toys have a purpose.  In other words, don’t just have toys for the sake of having toys.

Here is a list of examples of swim lesson activities, the swim lesson toys we use, and the purpose of what we are teaching in our preschool swim lessons curriculum at Swim Lessons University:

  • First Time Submersion (skill), Danny the Dolphin Time (activity), & Dolphin Puppet (toy)
  • Kicking (skill), Let’s Go Fishing (activity), Floating fish and small nets (toys)
  • Prone Kicking & Breath Holding (skill), Super Heroes (activity) and Super Hero  Capes (toy)
  • Paddle Stroke (skill), Pretend You’re a Puppy (activity), and Puppy Noses, which we place on the forehead (toy)

Many times you can do without toys and just get the children to use their imagination.  That’s a big part of making learning like play.  We do this when we practice swimming with the face in the water, and we pretend to “Swim Like a Fish (activity).”

You can watch these activities in action and many more on the Swim 101 and/or Home Swim School DVD’s.  You can also watch free swim lesson video samples of some of these swim lesson ideas to get an inside look at what great DVD courses we have for you and your swim lesson instructors!

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September 21, 2010 at 8:16 pm Comments (2)

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)

Swim Lesson Techniques

When you are teaching any given swimming technique, your instructions typically should focus your swim lesson students on a set of cues or buzzwords.  For example, you may say something like:  “Here we go, I want to see you keep your kick small and fast while during your side breathing.  Ready, go!” 

Because your instructions or buzzwords emphasized “small and fast,” your feedback should then be congruent with your instructions.  In other words, when your student finishes the swim, you should comment on how your student performed the part of the skill that you had him/her focusing on.  

Too often, swim instructors will tell their student to concentrate on one thing and correct them on something else.  It’s important to try and avoid this mistake because it indirectly confuses your students and isn’t the best motivational tactic in the world either.  On the other hand, if your feedback specifically relates to what your instructions were before the swim, then you increase your effectiveness. 

Why?  Because your student’s focus is rewarded when he or she does well.   At the very least, your students will learn to focus on the task at hand, trying their best to impress you, especially if you reward them with praise when they are successful.

You can learn more about this swim lessons tip and many more in the Teach Like a Pro DVD.

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September 6, 2010 at 12:06 am Comments (0)