On April 15, 2019, La Petite Baleen celebrated 40 years of teaching...Read More
Fins are an important learning tool when learning to swim, especially for small children. It’s true that many of us adults did not learn to swim with fins (or maybe even goggles), but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful. Fins provide kids with the feedback and support needed to compensate for a developmentally appropriate inefficient kick.
Fishtail Fins are introduced to students as early as 6 months of age, or when babies’ feet are big enough. You will see them in baskets all around the pool and swimmers will use them until teachers begin weaning them away in Level 2. It doesn’t take much movement from these fins to provide motivating feedback. Little kid brains quickly get the message, “when I kick, I go!” as soon as their legs start moving.
Because LPB teaches swimming from a developmental perspective, we focus on rhythmic breathing first, before any stroke introduction. Fins gently overload the muscles to strengthen kicks, stretch the hip flexors, and provide students with the support needed to lift their head out of the water for Up-faces while maintaining a horizontal body position.
All of these factors aid in building the foundation for proper rhythmic breathing. For these reasons, fishtail fins are strongly recommended for older babies, toddlers and students ages 3 and older. For criers or hesitant new students, we may delay a week or two while they adapt to their swim environment.
Now, we know toddlers and love their spirited ways of dealing with anything new and different. Teachers will reintroduce fins every week with the goal of getting all students comfortable with them, and sometimes it takes a while. That’s ok.
Why Even Bother? Great Question!
Small children are proportionally much different than adults in the size of their head. A toddler’s head takes up approximately 25% of their size vs. 12.5% for an adult. Given a small child’s lesser gross motor skills, it is challenging to physically come up, exchange air, submerge back down while moving forward. At LPB you will frequently see preschoolers and toddlers doing perfect Up-faces. The fins help them to not only remain horizontal but also to lift their head to exchange air.
Won’t They Become a Crutch?
Nope! Once students have earned their Blue Ribbon, teachers begin removing fins one at a time. We are methodical about weaning fins: we’ll reduce the swimming distance and increase other methods of support (floaties, noodles, etc.) until students are swimming comfortably with one and then zero fins. If their breathing becomes compromised in any way, we put the fin back on, rebuild the skill and confidence, and try again in a couple weeks. This process can take some time, but will promote stronger, more confident swimmers in the long run.
Zoomer Fins are typically used in Level 2, 3 and/or 4 classes. They are good for weaning off Fishtail fins. They promote “long leg” kicks, providing more stretch in tight hip flexors. They help build strength in the legs, and are particularly good for eliminating bicycle kicks and teaching proper kicks for back swims.
Racing Fins are most commonly used for teaching strokes or underwater swims. They are best for students who have a proper kick but might need more speed. They encourage a streamline body position, and are excellent for teaching dolphin kicks (wiggle butts) and butterfly. Kids love them because they are super fast and fun!! Simply adding these fins to a Level 4 or 5 class can boost student confidence and enthusiasm for swim class!
FUN FIN FACTS!
- Historians credit Benjamin Franklin with coming up with the first fin concept.
- Fins can be made from rubber, plastic, and carbon fiber.
- To date, LPB’s fix-it fellow Fred has repaired 1,000 pairs of fins, extending their life and saving them from the landfill.