So last weekend, we headed off to Thomas’ first swimming lesson with Puddle Ducks and it was an absolute blast…
Although I’ve taken Thomas swimming at my gym, he has not had the months of ‘baby’ swimming that Katie had. This isn’t even a 2nd child thing – I did take him for a term. It’s just he had two reactions – both totally extreme. He either clung on round my neck like a little limpet… or just fell asleep. That’s not to say I think he was comfortable in the water – I think he just wanted to shut the whole thing out. After a few more recent successful swims at the gym – I thought it was about time we tried again.
As a two year-old, Thomas joined in with a ‘Kickers’ class at Puddle Ducks designed for children between 15 and 30 months. Lisa, our teacher, offered a HUGE amount of reassurance from the start. Explaining that she would demonstrate everything we were doing with a doll first, and that if Thomas didn’t want to do anything – that was fine too!
After being shown how to get in the pool correctly, Thomas’ immediate reaction was to try and get out. After failing to do so he then opted to hold on to me for dear life. It was at this point I was slightly in despair… but things changed very quickly.
Lisa was very clear that Thomas did not need to go under water in his first lesson or do anything he didn’t want to but explained there were a few things we could do to increase his confidence that we could then practice at home. She taught us a simple command for putting water over his face and gave us some bowls to play with in the pool. Thomas really began to become much more comfortable at this point as he was very keen to play. Thankfully, he began to loosen his grip and began to have fun.
I was so surprised that he was actually happy to lay across my arm and even started kicking round the pool. I found Lisa’s demonstrations with ‘Evangeline’ the doll really helpful – and actually Thomas’ knew what to expect too! He loved being lifted out of the water and the various songs and rhymes we began to learn.
When the woggles (straw float things) came out I was pretty certain we’d be back to clinging on. But Lisa helped Thomas feel secure with them under his arms and then provided LOADS of toys to distract him. Soon he was reaching out for rubber ducks and balls to play with, happily trying to throw them across the pool. For a boy who started off clinging on for dear life it was amazing to see him playing and having fun like this.
We then practiced jumping in correctly from a float ensuring Thomas belly hit the water first so he would be less lightly to sink immediately – and not hit his head on the way in. Thomas really liked this game – although slightly struggled waiting for the jump command!
Next we practiced reaching for the side of the pool and pushing off from the side – all key things for early swimming! After a final song time with the puddle ducks puppet, we were then allowed free time to just splash and play together. Thomas of course, grabbed as many toys as possible and just continued to have a ball!
I think a number of things really helped Thomas to settle:
Firstly Lisa, our teacher, was very calm and friendly. Thomas LOVES music and Lisa could sing very well. There were tunes that Thomas could recognise but equally, I think he was quite comforted just by someone singing to him!
The poolside was really warm whilst we were waiting for the class and the water (whilst not bath-like) was easily warm enough for Thomas to be comfortable. He didn’t need a wetsuit and simply wore his rash vest as we’ve just always put him in one!
There was a small number of children in the class so it wasn’t very busy or noisy. He was distracted by the ‘right’ things i.e. the toys and therefore could really follow what was happening. In our ‘free-time’ he did actually end up blowing bubbles and was putting his face in the water himself. I don’t think this would’ve happened if he was at all uncomfortable!
After the class, it was helpful that Mike was there to get him changed (he had been taking photos) but the changing rooms were spacious and actually – the water pressure in the shower was incredible.
My only mistake was to not pack a snack for Thomas. As an afternoon class, he had already had a nap so wasn’t tired but really was hungry after the class. Our drive home was only about 10/15 minutes but he could shout CAKE a lot in those minutes!
I wasn’t sure if we had missed the boat with baby or rather toddler swimming. On the one hand, we could try and wait until he’s three but the real risk is that he would be petrified. On the other, whilst I’m quite sure he’s not about to be independently swimming in the next few weeks – it was brilliant to see him increasingly in confidence so quickly.
I have no doubt that swimming from an early age benefitted Katie. At the age of 4, she really is a good little swimmer. I’m happy now, that Puddle Ducks have proven the ship has not sailed for Thomas!
P.S. Puddle Ducks lessons are available for a variety of age groups and take place at various times and venues across Edinburgh. Just check out the Puddle Ducks site for more details!
P.P.S. This post has been sponsored by Puddle Ducks and Thomas attended the class free of charge for the purposes of this view. All thoughts and opinions are my own – Thomas comments can be measured by the size of his smile.