On April 15, 2019, La Petite Baleen celebrated 40 years of teaching...Read More
A look at our teaching toolbox!
One thing that sets La Petite Baleen apart from other learn-to-swim programs is our focus on FUN. Along with Pace, Pattern, and Compassion, Fun is something we strive to bring to every student’s experience at the pool. You’ll see it from the moment you walk into any of our facilities – toys, decorations, coloring pages, and more!
To the casual observer, it might seem like we stock our pool decks with nothing but toys. But for those of us “in the know” we see nothing but learning tools. We know that children learn best when they’re having fun, and nothing is more fun than toys!
Toys are used for helping with flotation, balance, breath control, isolating kicks, isolating paddles, increasing distances and, believe it or not, so much more! This month, we’re taking you on a deep dive into our toolbox to show you how much mileage we get out of the tools we use.
Swimming, at is most basic, is nothing more than propulsion, buoyancy, and breath control. Propulsion comes from the legs (kicks) and arms (paddles at first, then pulls in the strokes). To develop propulsion, we use toys like tubes and noodles to provide the buoyancy needed to isolate the kicks. For little kids, tubes and noodles are easier to hold onto than a single kickboard at first. As kids grow and progress, we use noodles and kickboards for slightly less support so that the kick can elongate and become more productive. Holding onto foam toys and floaties help build paddle strength and draw focus for proper arm position for stroke (pull) and recovery. Our teachers constantly evaluate swimmers’ progress to see if more support is needed, or if any can be removed.
For breath control, we use watering cans to help kids adjust to the sensation of water in the face. Rings and sinking toys are used to give kids something to look at when they are first learning to put their faces below the surface. Hopping on a magic carpet gives a teacher an opportunity to be face-to-face with all students for practicing Balloon Faces and building up to longer breath holds.
Getting down below the surface takes a lot of strength and effort for small bodies. Coordinating a big breath, a powerful push off the wall, and strong pulls from the arms to get down and stay down for an underwater swim is no joke. For these skills, we use rings and hula hoops to provide a bright and tangible target as we build up to the required distance. Hoops also help provide the proper entry angle not just for underwater swims, but for sit jumps and dives as well.
Head position can make or break a good swim – after all, the head is the body’s steering wheel! If the head is pointing too far forward or dipped too low, it can change the direction the swimmer is moving. We tell kids to keep their chin on their speed buttons for a lot of skills, and we use kickboards as needed to provide the extra tactile connection needed for ensuring a good head position.
The mirror is the unsung hero of fixing head position. Mirrors on the pool floor, or held below a swimmer for Up-Faces help kids quickly figure out where they should be looking, fixing their head position and, by default, fixing their body position allowing for more efficient swims.
Finally, the tools we use most: fins and, as needed, nose clips (or nose “huggers” as we call them). Fins do everything from help little toddler legs compensate for inefficient (but totally developmentally appropriate) movement to provide the propulsion needed for big-time strokes like Butterfly. Nose clips help reinforce the breath-holding part of the Balloon Face skill for beginners and can make advanced swims like Backstroke more comfortable.