Regular readers will know that Amy has been learning to swim with Puddle Ducks for almost two years now. Our Monday morning swimming lessons are a highlight of our week, a special time for the two of us where we can bond, laugh and learn together. But what happens when we go swimming outside of the structure of our normal Puddle Ducks sessions? Well this isn’t something that happens very often. In fact, to my shame, the last time we went swimming as a family was actually at Splash Landings this time last year. Until the middle of last year it was actually fairly difficult for Dave and I to take our little brood swimming without extra support as we just didn’t have the ratios that many places require of 1:1 for under fives.
Before the Easter holiday Amy’s confidence in her Puddle Ducks lessons just exploded and, I’m pleased to say, has continued to grow ever since. She swims independently on one or two woggles, she can swim on her back with no more support than just my hand under her head, she jumps in from the side of the pool with great gusto (as long as she thinks I’m not too far away!) and almost every week she manages at least one underwater swim. Of course Amy is still completely in control of this and if she doesn’t want to go under, it doesn’t happen. Claire, her Puddle Ducks teacher, is a star and knows all the tricks for coaxing Amy into doing things she thinks she doesn’t want to do and Amy loves to please her. They find each other thoroughly entertaining which always makes for a fun Monday morning.
Now, as I said earlier, swimming “for fun” doesn’t happen very often in our family – we always plan to go for a “play swim” as Ben calls it but then things get in the way. Because all three children have weekly swimming lessons, I guess swimming for the sake of it doesn’t end up very high up on our list of priorities which means that they rarely get chance to just enjoy being in the water for pleasure. Swimming with three kids can be hard work – not least just getting everyone undressed and into the pool or sorted afterwards. (I hate getting myself dressed after swimming never mind anyone else!) But the biggest difficulty for us when swimming at the moment is that all three children are at such different stages. Ben is now a pretty confident swimmer, Amy obviously can’t swim by herself at all and Chloe is somewhere in between. With all this in mind, I was really looking forward to spending some time in the pool together when we went to Center Parcs last weekend!
In an ideal an world I wouldn’t have used any swimming aids for Amy at all however, as I’ve mentioned, trying to keep an eye on all three kids in the pool was never going to be easy so for my own peace of mind Amy wore a Konfidence Jacket (I chose this over her Konfidence floatsuit as it meant I could take it on and off easily during the course of our swimming session).
At the start of each swim session I took Amy into the pool without any swimming aids and did a couple of exercises from our Puddle Ducks lessons with her – partly to show off to Daddy how far she’d come but also because I thought it would help her to make the connection with her normal swimming lesson and transfer her skills if that makes sense? We did some “monkey walking” down the wall, turns from the wall onto my back and even an underwater swim or two. This was in fact the first time I’d properly put Amy under the water myself so I was pretty proud of both of us! She took a bit of convincing as it’s still not her favourite thing to do but she wanted to be able to tell Claire that she’d done it on holiday!
Over the course of our three day break at Center Parcs we spent a grand total of around six hours in the pool – my fingers are wrinkling again at the mere thought of it! The pools were pretty busy but there was a great range of things to do – a baby pool with two slides, a larger pool with waves and a variety of slides. Amy really enjoyed pottering around the baby pool which, at it’s deepest, came up to her waist. She was quite happy filling up watering cans and pouring them out again. The baby pool at Whinfell has two slides and I had been so sure that Amy would basically spend the entire time up and down them however on the first day Amy refused to get on one of the slides because, even though she’d seen kids coming off the bottom and knew she wouldn’t go under water, she couldn’t bring herself to get into the tunnel when she couldn’t see the bottom. I kept suggesting it to her, Ben and Chloe took her to the top and offered to take her down on their knees, I promised to wait at the bottom and catch her . . . we tried everything we could think of but she just wouldn’t do it! In the end, on the last morning, I took her up to the top of the slide and popped her on it myself – well what do you know? She flipping loved it didn’t she! I knew she would love it once she got over that initial first go!
Amy’s absolute favourite thing was the wave machine which went off every half hour. She loved to be right in the middle of the waves bobbing about and jumping them whilst I held her but what really surprised me was how much she loved to be in the shallow bit of the pool where the waves were breaking. Now you’d think that this would mean they were really gentle but they were breaking with enough force to push me over from a sitting position – and Amy thought this was hilarious. My little girl who for such a long time didn’t even want to get her face wet? She was choosing to get splashed in the face and knocked over by the waves! There were a few moments where it got a bit much for her, if she got a good old mouthful of water or she was caught off guard – but it didn’t stop her, she still wanted to be in the same place the next time the wave machine went off!
Monday morning, our longest swim of all, was significantly quieter in the pool as so many families had already left. This was a real bonus for us and meant that it was much easier to keep an eye on everyone. Both girls suddenly got a bit braver and not only did they both try (and love) slides which they had refused to go on the rest of the weekend but Amy even had a go on some of the much bigger, faster slides sitting on her Daddy’s knee. These slides were straight down into a splash pool and the risk of her going underwater was pretty big but she did it anyway – the first time he managed to keep her above water, the second time she went under and got a bit of a shock but, and this is a big but . . . she went straight back on for a third go! I only wish that Claire could have been there to watch her!
Thanks to the hard work of Claire and her colleagues over the last two years – Amy has discovered that swimming is FUN!
*Amy swims with Puddle Ducks free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*