In addition to teaching all levels and ages, including beginning to advanced, one of the most common age groups we teach at Farnsworth Swim School are advanced beginners, ages 4-7. This group is unique because children at this age are able to learn and make progress very quickly! Most children at this age are swimming within our goldfish level, being advanced/ strong beginners. During this stage, they gain the important skills that allow them to become truly water safe. Here’s an inside look into some of the techniques that you will see during a lesson with an advanced beginner, and the reasons behind them.
Our advanced beginners will spend most of their time learning to swim freestyle, and there are key techniques that we teach to help them become more efficient. When practicing freestyle arm strokes, we emphasize big, reaching arms. Young children are able to reach their arms out of the water while swimming, and we make sure that their arms stretch all the way in front of them and pull all the way down to their legs. We often will practice while standing on the steps or in the shallow end, having the child reach for the sun and then put it in their pocket. The bigger their arm stroke, the more water they will pull, and the more efficient their stroke will be. When practicing freestyle kicks, we focus on having straight legs and pointed toes. Many beginners tend to bend their knees while kicking, but it’s much more effective to straighten their legs and think about making small, quick kicks through their toes. The freestyle kick (flutter) originates from the hips. Learning to straighten and relax the legs is an art and takes a lot of practice.
Another essential skill that young children need to learn is the ability to float on their back independently. When practicing this, we teach the student to push their belly up to the sky while tilting their head back. It’s very natural for a swimmer’s bottom to start sinking while floating on their back, so these techniques help to correct this. Students often feel uncomfortable tipping their head back, so we help them by placing our hand under their chin and upper back by pushing them up to the sky. Another method we utilize is having students imagine that their belly is a balloon and pretending that they are inflating it with air, which helps their body become more buoyant.
One of the most important skills that our goldfish students learn is how to take a breath while swimming. This is key to water safety, and it can be difficult to master. In this case, our advanced beginners are learning how to breathe while swimming freestyle. Before they can learn to breathe to the side, they must master the ability to breathe by lifting up their head. This is a much simpler approach, and requires a lot less coordination, fine and gross motor skills, and muscle memory than side breathing.
When we first teach a student to breathe, we tell them to lift their head up out of the water and to look up at the sky. After they take a quick, deep inhale, they will return their face to the water, looking down at the bottom and continuing to kick and stroke. One way we help our students become more comfortable with this process is by having them kick with a kickboard, putting their face in and out of the water to practice breathing in and out while bubbling. We also teach them to do knee dives (and eventually standing dives), tread water and feel comfortable in the deep-end. These are some of the key powerful skills that our advanced beginners will learn. Young children are such quick learners, and they truly are a joy to teach! They also tend to excel fast in our program!