Choosing to live in a house with a river at the bottom of the garden was very concerning when it came to considering children. I decided from very early on that any of my children must be confident around water and be able to swim as soon as they were physically able.
When Georgia, my eldest, was eight months old, I met a mum through a parent and baby group who was attending swimming lessons with her baby which involved putting babies underwater. Whilst it sounded very scary at the same time I was extremely intrigued. I therefore, decide to give it a whirl. The aim of this style of teaching was to encourage a natural swimming skill which promotes confidence, health and well-being within both parent and child. At the time this way of learning to swim was quite unique and it quickly progressed and developed Georgia’s natural ability in the water, building strength, stamina and agility. You may not be aware but every baby is born with the natural instinctive ability to hold their breath underwater “THE MAMMALIAN DIVING REFLEX”.
I was so inspired by what Georgia and her peers were achieving at such a young age, some were as little as 12 weeks old, that I decided to undertake the necessary teacher training to become a qualified swimming teacher so that I could bring this swimming method to Hertfordshire. (At the time lessons of this kind only seemed to be in the London area.)
Little Fishes was formed in September 1998, at a Special Needs School in Welwyn Garden City. The school has a beautiful hydrotherapy pool which is kept at a constant warm temperature ideal for introducing new babies to water. My aim was to provide a calm and gentle introduction to water for infants from 4 months to 4 year olds and involves sub-surface swimming without the use of artificial buoyancy aids. All classes work on a play-train-play basis because learning should be fun! We play with lots of water toys to encourage movement thus developing physical activity and then add valuable life saving practices to ensure that the babies/toddlers can learn to do independently the skills of holding on, jumping in, going underwater, floating on their backs and so on. Reports state that drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death amongst the young. So, I ultimately wanted parents to have the reassurance that if their child fell into any kind of water they would be able to hold their breath and kick up to the surface of the water.
My method of water safety training cannot be achieved with armbands because, armbands whilst providing independence in water, do take away the natural ability of learning to kick and paddle. Armbands keep little ones afloat without any effort needed so babies and toddlers do not feel the need to learn how to kick and paddle. The outcome of this could be worrying. By taking the armband route of learning to swim, should a baby/toddler fall into the water without their armbands on they wouldn’t instinctively kick and paddle so the consequences could be extremely serious.
You may not realise but one in five children begin secondary school, yes secondary school, without knowing how to swim and if they haven’t learnt by this age are probably scared, fearful or at least totally nervous of water. So by introducing babies/toddlers to my method of swimming because they start so young they never remember learning to swim, they always knew they could. My children, Georgia and Luke, believe that they have always been able to swim and water has always been a part of their life which they never seem to tire of. So learn to swim the Little Fishes way it is great fun and could one day save your precious one’s life!
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