Do swim classes seem like playtime? That’s on purpose.

Does it ever seem like maybe your young child is having TOO much fun in swim class? While we certainly enjoy the giggles, laughter and smiles of the kids we teach, they are actually a very serious component of the teaching approach at Foss Swim School.

The games we play with students all serve a purpose, and each teaches or reinforces a concept or skill that is critical to teaching a child to swim. While it would be possible to teach some skills in a more mechanical way – simply instructing children to put their faces in the water, for example – our experience is that lessons framed as games make learning easier and more fruitful.

Laughter, then learning

Since our founding in 1993, FOSS has had a mantra: Laughter, then learning, then confidence, then mastery. Especially for young children new to the water, laughter is a critical component. Parents intuitively know that children learn through play, and that extends to swimming as well.

As co-founder Susan Foss says, “Laughter indicates the environment for learning is ready.” Even before we start to teach, we want to set the stage with fun and laughter and work it into lessons. If we see a student who is crying or apprehensive, we won’t force them to do the thing that is worrying them. Instead, we work first to get them to a place of happiness.

Here are some of the reasons we encourage laughter and silliness when teaching:

  • Positive associations:

    If a child learns that being in the water and following direction is fun, they will be motivated to do it again and again.

  • Bonding between teachers and students:

    Play encourages interaction and builds trust. The games allow children to work with teachers to solve problems and trust their teachers to help. Students will bond with each other as well, and seeing their peers enjoy an activity makes a child more likely to want to join in.

  • Reduce fear:

    Laughter has been shown to release endorphins that make people feel good, relax muscles and reduce stress. For a child experiencing new things, this can help reduce fear about new activities.

There’s a benefit for parents as well. If the pool becomes a place a child associates with play and fun, you will find it is much easier to get them ready and out the door for class!

Points where laughter is especially useful

Learning to swim really is hard work. Children need to become comfortable with new and unfamiliar sensations and learn to use their bodies in new ways. For babies, toddlers and young children, laughter is a critical component of:

  • Learning new sensations:

    Water on the face and in the ears can be stressful, so we sing songs and make games when introducing and repeating these experiences. Same goes for submerging, humming bubbles out underwater and opening eyes underwater.

  • Overcoming water resistance:

    Arms and legs experience resistance in water and new muscles are used. Games involving underwater motions and strengthening muscles are important.

  • Floating and body control:

    The experience of floating and having your body moved by waves is also new, so games like magic carpet rides help here. We also help them learn to control buoyancy through breathing and movement.

  • Form and muscle memory:

    Later in the Learn-to-Swim progression, we start to introduce motions that are components of the strokes we teach. More physical games that teach kicking, reaching and paddling water become part of the curriculum, and we repeat them a lot so proper form becomes second nature.

Far from a sign that we don’t take lessons seriously, a swim class that looks and sounds like a playground is actually a testament to how good our teachers are at making learning fun! Even the simplest, silliest games are designed to teach valuable lessons. So sit back and enjoy the sound of laughter and learning, and we’ll see you at the pool!

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