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Nine months ago, in a Sports Centre near my home. A five year old drowned in the swimming pool after leaving his father and jumping back in the pool while he should of been getting dressed. Now there are several people, that could of prevented this tragic accident. The life guards who happened to be chatting and his father who was trying to get his younger son. The two life guards in question were suspended and then sacked for incompetence. The Sports Centre is paying out compensation to the family and I feel that the father is suffering more guilt then I could ever imagine..
Since that dreadful day, there is a new rule that every child under six years of age must be accompanied by an adult, one to one. A child over six years of age still needs an adult with them, but the adult can take another child in with them. No child under ten years of age is allowed into the swimming pool without adult company.
Why am I telling you this? Well up until that day I took Jess who is now 3.5 years swimming every week. It was cheap enough, the pool offered 1 pound a session on a Monday and Thursdays all day because it was Mother and Toddler group. That's 1 pound for the child, not me. If I were to go swimming at any other time, children under 5 years are free but I would have to pay for me, which is about 2.25 pounds. Even when I had my second daughter Lucy, I took them most weeks with a few friends who also had children. Lucy would be in my arms and Jess would be playing in the baby pool with arm bands ..Safe? Its never safe around water.
Because I could no longer take both of my daughters swimming on my own, I had two choices. I could wait for the weekend and make a family outing out of it. Or I could enrol Jess into Ducklings ( swimming lessons) when she turned 3 years. I could then take Lucy either while Jess was at nursery, to the mother and toddler session in which I still paid a squid, oppps a quid for. Or again wait till the family outing. Well, my Tim has good intentions but we never really got out to go swimming as regularly as I wanted. So after a few months, I opted for the swimming lessons.
So I phoned up the very local swimming pool, which is about 5 minutes away and booked her into Ducklings. There's is usually a waiting list for Ducklings but usually you get a phone call at around 6 weeks after you enrol. When you enrol will you be giving a selection of days and times when you prefer to take your child and then you will be told a fee. Mine cost 14 pounds for a 6 week block and they do like you to pay up front. Obviously you can carry on with Ducklings as long as you need to, not just for six weeks.
Once you have had your phone call and hopefully getting the day and time you want, you can think about how you are going to tell your child about it. Most of you thinking about swimming lessons will of already said to your child that they are going for swimming lessons, but have you told them that you are not going in with them? This they might or might not be happy with but reassure them that they are in good hands and they will have fun too.
The lessons are 30 minutes long, which is long enough in the main pool. Unlike the baby pool, which is usually warm, the main pool is cold. When you get there, you check yourself in and then take your child to the changing rooms to get into their swimming gear. Most pools supply buoyancy aids which are known as "hamburger" arm bands, rather than the blow up kind( remember to ask before hand). These hamburgers are like slim rings of foam that fit around the arm. Usually they start off with 4 rings and then as they progress, the instructors slowly remove one from each arm. This makes them better than the blow up arm bands as some children can become quite attached to them and are reluctant to try and swim on their own.. Children may become too dependent on their support, and that can slow their progress. What is more important, flotation devices often give children (and their parents) a false sense of security in their youngster's ability would/ could quickly place a child in a drowning situation.
With children under five years old, it's very difficult for you to reason away fear. It's better to acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that you would not put them in any danger. Standing Fast With Older Children .With children five years and older, you need to be committed to helping them overcome their fears. Be ready to stand fast no matter how much they protest. You don't want them to "cry their way" out of swimming. It's unfair to children to have them work partially through a fear and not experience the pride that comes from conquering it. And once they conquer it, they'll be ready to have fun swimming.
You are not allowed to enter the pool and you never let your child get into the pool either without the instructors there either. Once they are in, have warmed up by doing a few lengths, they will come to the steps and ask the children to come in. There are several stages of Ducklings. Ducklings one, Ducklings two and then they go onto getting their badges for 10 metres, 20 metres, 50 metres and so on. Ducklings one is down the shallowest of the pool and is where all the new ones or the ones who can't swim with buoyancy aids. Ducklings two is around the middle of the pool and is slightly out of the children's depth. This is why the children who can swim are progressed into the second one.
When I took Jess to her first lesson, I felt really guilty. I knew that not going swimming for quite a while would of knocked her confidence in the water but that's half the reason why I thought it would be great for her to take up swimming lessons. I told her to walk down the steps to the instructor, Dave, but she didnt want to go. At this point she suddenly realised that I was not coming in with her, even though I had discussed it with her. I knew she was frightened but I also knew if I took her out, then I wouldnt be able to take her back. I told her that mummy would be watching through the windows and how proud I was of her. As I went, the last thing I saw was her clinging onto Dave, shouting for me. I can tell you, it broke my heart. I felt awful, but after talking to a lady about it outside, I felt a bit better. She told me that her son had started 12 weeks ago and was exactly the same. After the 3rd session he had calmed down and really liked it and after just 10 weeks was down the other end, swimming happy with his hamburgers.
After 25 minutes, I went back though just to have a peep at what they were doing. Jess was still in the arms of Dave but had calmed down. They ( 12 children) and 3 instructors were playing "Ring a Ring a Roses" and at the end they had to dip their faces in the water. It was so sweet watching Jess but I hoped she was okay. When she was given back to me, say said' Mummy, I was crying for you" I felt horrid, but I asked her whether she had enjoyed it and would she want to come back. Jess replied that she had enjoyed it but she missed me. I gave her the reassurance that I wasn't far away and would be watching her all the time.
When we got home, she did tell her dad all about it and was quite eager to return. Until the following week. Again, I had tears and the yelling, but again I walked away. When I came back through, I was surprised to see Jess out of Dave's arms and swimming on her back with his arms underneath her. When she had finished, she even stood at the side on her own. Now there was progress. In the weeks that followed, I could see that she was gaining confidence in the water. She has always loved water and its a nightmare getting her out of the bath at night!
Now since June, she has been going to Ducklings most weeks and is now just this week been moved to the middle of the pool to Ducklings two. Jess was wearing 4 hamburgers but now she's down to 3 and can swim a width on her own. Well its more than a width because she cant swim straight!!! I can see she has a lot of fun while learning and has built up respect for the water and her teacher. Dave and the two girls that teach with him always make sure that there is no messing about in the water and if they don't listen, then whoever it is, has to get out. They make the children understand that by messing about, they are putting their own lives and others at risk, without scaring them. I know this because Jess has relayed all of it back to be, which shows she does listen, even if its not me!
Its not just the enjoyment the children get out of learning to swim, its an exercise and more importantly, its a life saving skill. Your child can go though ducklings and once has learned to swim, he can go for medals, competitions and learn about lifesaving techniques to. One of the young lass's who teaches, its 17 years old. She didnt learn to swim until she was 10 years old, but with determination and support from her nan, she has become a trainer for the centre. Swimming is brilliant for strengthening and toning the body all round and kept a child fit and healthy. This keeps the body supple and strong and that's really important for a growing child.
Some people have asked me why don't I teach Jess to swim. Well I've tried. She wont do it for me even when we go on our own. She clings onto me and I'm not a very strong swimmer either. I have adopted some very bad habits as I taught myself to swim at 11 years of age. My brother also took his children to swimming lessons simply because he cant swim. In fact he even has a fear of water, which is weird because he is a commercial fisherman. Sometimes its better that someone else teaches them to swim as some children tend to listen more to teachers rather than there parents.
If you do decide to go for Ducklings or you want to teach your own child make sure you do the following.
The teachers and yourself know C.P.R and first aid.
Never let a child into the pool unsupervised or alone
Always insist on wearing swimming aids if necessary
A swimming costume must be worn for hygienic reasons
Never swim less then an hour after a meal or on an empty stomach as it causes cramps
Pool must be clean and hygienic
Although I think swimming lessons are a really good idea, its handy to bear in mind that most parents of young children are anxious about water safety - and for good reason. For children under the age of 5, drowning remains the second leading cause of accidental death. Many parents believe that infant swimming classes will safeguard their preschooler against the tragedy of accidental drowning. Over the past decade, numerous infant and toddler swimming programs have emerged that promote a variety of benefits, including "waterproofing" infants and teaching small children water safety and swimming skills. While toddlers can learn to propel themselves in the water, parents cannot expect young children to learn the rules of water safety or to know how to act in an emergency. Furthermore, no one can be "waterproofed." Toddlers can easily drown even if they have had swimming lessons, and parents can be lulled into a false sense of security believing that their infant or young child can "swim" a few strokes. Parents considering lessons for their young child should remember that motor skill development at this age is unpredictable, so avoid the "hurried child" syndrome. Any pressure from parents, beyond providing the exposure to swimming, will ruin the fun and cause the youngster to become anxious and resistant.
Parents should remember that the water is a new element that their child must slowly get used to with supervision. When encouraged, but not pushed, all children will learn to swim when the time and place are right.
Being a swimming coach myself, i have found that the kids who take best to the water or generally those who have been exposed to the a swimming pool environment before with their parernts. If the parents do not do the initial orientation months before the childs first swimming lesson, the teacher has to spend more time on boosting initial water confidence, I have often spent more than 3 or 4 weeks trying to get children into the water for a full lesson. Even though water isn't always safe, now, it is much safer and drownings in swimming pools in the UK are extremely rare, i would encourage everyone to expose their children to water from as early an age as possible, i would even say within their first 2 years, once they have had all their jabs, etc. good op though james x
jamez 15.02.2002 21:21
Excellent op! I had lessons as a young child and also at school but I was never a strong swimmer until I started going regularly with some work colleagues, they were both strong swimmers and one of them gave me a few technique pointers. Maybe your children will now grow up to be Olympic swimmers? Also perhaps a good way to get them out of the bath is to empty the water - take the plug out and the water will drain away - they'll soon want to leave the bath when they start getting cold!
Barb 23.11.2001 19:46
I would love for my son to have swimming lessons, better to learn from a trained instructor, although I am a strong swimmer myself. It's just the idea of 12 3-year-old non swimmers and 3 teachers, in water, doesn't sound very safe to me! I think we'll continue taking him on our own until he's a bit older. Some great information and advice there, thanks. Barbara