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Play-Based Swimming Lessons for Infants, Toddlers, and Younger Students

The Noodies Swim School uses play-based learning for infants, toddlers, and younger students.

A play-based program is built on the child’s natural motivation to play. As compared to traditional teaching methods that uses rote learning, play is used not only to remember how to float or stay put in a pool. Instead, play supports and broadens the child’s imagination, creativity, and ability to make connections of what they see, feel, hear, touch, smell, and even taste! Play-based learning stimulates children’s curiosity that allows them to learn from meaningful experiences, which they may even describe as adventures.

What is play-based learning:

The goal for play-based swimming lessons is water acclimation. In other words, the fundamental lesson among young students is to be confident and comfortable in the water. Skipping this and gambling the child’s own confidence for the sake of attaining “perfect strokes” in the least amount of time is not sustainable. There are two reasons for this: 1) Many youngsters are not yet ready for “formal” instruction; and 2) it may even backfire, causing children to “get sick” of swimming and seek for fun elsewhere (since swimming had become more like a burden than a joy).

Play-based learning is like exploring a new terrain. It is, to the child’s curious mind, an adventure. The Noodies Swim School uses music, movements, and games that complement the child’s natural motivation to play, thereby making each swimming session purposeful. Among many examples:

• Colorful dive sticks that stand upright underwater are placed at the bottom of a shallow pool. The swimming teacher will then instruct the youngster in goggles to pick up a specific-colored dive stick. Another alternative are dive sticks with numbers, so students are challenged to pick up the ones with the correct number instead of colors.

• Another example is using a foam noodle or a foam mat to aid youngsters in kicking from one end of the pool to another in his/her brave attempt to retrieve a colorful rubber toy.

• Play-based learning also encourages singing that helps children remember relevant lessons and values, which they can apply in their everyday lives. Moreover, combining music with the thrilling pit-a-pat of the water’s gentle ripples also has a way of encouraging children to complete challenges that they find difficult. Music soothes, motivates, relieves, and amuses!

Benefits of play-based learning:

“Research shows play-based programs for young children can provide a strong basis for later success at school. They support the development of socially competent learners, able to face challenges and create solutions.” (Robertson, Morrissey, and Rouse, 2018)

If you would compare play-based learning from rote learning, you would find that the former focuses on supporting and guiding the child’s curious mind while the latter focuses on instructing the child for memorization and information-accumulation. These teaching methods are not foreign in the realm of swimming lessons. Indeed a swim teacher can be narrowly focused on teaching proper form and kicks to young students, while another can be more explorative. Although both methods has its own benefits, the one that gives importance to play also greatly considers the young child’s current capacities—it’s from there where learning starts. When children play, they use their imagination and do experiments that would uncover facts. They learn from first-hand experience; they remember based on trial and error. They make mistakes then find solutions; they figure things out on their own yet still with the purposeful guidance of the swim teacher.

Ultimately, play-based learning is a holistic teaching method that benefits the child both in and out of the water. In addition to learning facts about swimming, floating, and kicking, it also builds self-confidence, trust, and the ability to find solutions when there are challenges to face. All these are helpful in the overall development of the child.

“…children can also learn a lot by just playing in the water. When your kid spends time in the pool with their friends (and significant parent supervision), they’ll make even more progress. They’ll mimic other kids, unknowingly practice skills they learned in their lessons, and inevitably trying new things. A child who refuses to put their face in may get splashed, only to realize it isn’t that bad. Another little one gets so caught up in play that their feet slip, but they stand back up, learning by doing. Preschools around the country are modeled on play- based learning. Why should swimming be any different?” (Cathleen Pruden)

What is the Noodies Teaching Method?

The Noodies Swim School values the uniqueness of each individual. Lessons are catered and centered on the students, all with the goal of teaching them to swim independently and correctly.

For infants, toddlers, and younger students, we use play-based methods, allowing the children to enjoy and be safe while learning to be in the water. These are done through music and movement as well as games both with and without their parents or guardians.

For older children and adults, we aim to incorporate more formal methods of learning as the students begin to work on their competitive strokes, making sure that stroke technique and form is given top priority.

For those with special needs, our lessons are geared toward the holistic development of the students, aligned with the goals of the family, school, doctors and/or therapists.

We believe that though the goal of learning to swim is consistent throughout any age group, there is no one learning style and method of teaching, and learning to swim should always be fun.



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