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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Survival Swim - Tiny Bubbles

The house my parents lived in when I was born had a pool in the backyard. From an early age I've been in the water and I love to swim!!! Mom had private lessons at our house and I took them from a mega young age (like I have pictures of Mom and I in the pool together when I was under a year old having lessons). One day I fell in our pool. I think I was around 18 months old. Of course my parents were right there and jumped in to get me but Mom said that I had my little eyes opened, knew to hold my breath, and knew to float to the top. I understand the value of such skills and knew when we decided to get a pool that I wanted some type of lessons like those.

Robyn told me about Tiny Bubbles and, at first, I was very skeptical. It's NOT cheap. In fact, it's easy to say it's a "rip-off." You can get "lessons" much cheaper at the YMCA or from other instructors here in town. But after completing the survival swim program I am a BELIEVER! I think after you read this post (especially if you take the time to watch the videos) that you will be too. I now believe it's money well spent and that any parent would gladly pay the money to have the results you'll get after doing it!

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children 1-4 years of age. It ranks second only to automobile accidents as the most prominent cause of accidental death at any age. It is a SILENT killer.

Once we moved away from Florida, we would visit often and I remember staying at a hotel on one of our trips and seeing a little boy swimming in the pool near me. I don't remember much else after that except when we left the hotel we saw an ambulance there and later read in the paper that the boy had been airlifted to an Orlando hospital and had died from drowning. This was at a CROWDED hotel pool!!! When you think of drowning you think of a child sneaking into the backyard on their own and falling into the pool, but the reality is a child can drown with you sitting right in the pool too. Once they fall in you may only hear a splash, if anything at all.

Zach and I had a LOT of discussion about how to make our pool safe for our children. We know that many people put safety fences up around the borders of their pools but we really don't like the look of them. I know they are safer and I know that Kye isn't "drown proof" after these lessons, but I feel that with his newly learned skills, our always locked exterior doors, loud door chimes when doors are opened and my watchful eye that we have the bases pretty well covered. We decided to do survival swim over the fence as I'm all about teaching skills rather than just prevention, ya know?

The program was 5 weeks long, 4 days a week, 10 min a day. When I first heard it was only 10 min I was like "ummm are you kidding???" But trust me 10 min of one-on-one lessons with a 2 year old is more than enough time. The kid was worn out every lesson!

I've heard from many parents that it's emotionally difficult to watch their children go through these lessons. Ms. Margie doesn't play games and I LOVE that. Being a decently hardcore mom myself, I appreciate that she gets things done and has age appropriate expectations of her students. She pushed Kye hard enough, but never too hard. I never really had a tough emotional time watching Kye do his lessons. I knew he may not enjoy it at the time, but that it was the best thing for him. Here's a breakdown of his progress each week as well as videos to go with them!

Day 1: Kye was pumped to get to go swimming. I knew that smile wouldn't be lasting forever but I enjoyed seeing him so excited!!! Here's the video from Day 1. You can see the emphasis on kicking and the beginning of some of the survival technique. You can also tell Kye wasn't over joyed but that Margie doesn't give in!
 She did a lot of kicking with him and practicing that. He got tired of it pretty fast and I realized 10 min was longer than I had ever thought :)
Margie teaches the kids to hold their breath by doing a humming sound. She would always warn Kye before "dunking" him and would tell him to make that sound and hold his breath. He caught onto this very quickly!
 She is also a great encourager, congratulating him over and over again.
"kick kick kick!" Children under the age of 4 can't do both the kicking motion and the pumping arm motion required to swim...so until he's old enough for stroke, Kye will be swimming by only using his legs.
 These little fish were by the end of the pool so Kye could show them how to kick like a big boy
Day 4: By the last day of the first week, Kye realized it was a daily thing and he wasn't too pumped about it. I told him it was time for swim and you can see how he quickly hid ;) He would fuss in the car on the way there and say "no swim ms margie yet" over and over again. She has suckers for the kids after their lesson and we all know I'm not a candy type mom. However, it works beautifully for such a reward (when you don't give your kid candy it makes it SUPER special!). He would perk right up when I'd tell him that he was going to get a sucker! Here's the video from day 4, the last day of week 1. Big difference in 4 days huh? Margie said from the beginning that it's VERY important to be your child's biggest cheerleader so you'll hear me loud and clear cheering him on in all the videos ;)
These flippers help train his leg muscles to propel himself in the water. He didn't wear them very often but they helped when his feet wouldn't be high enough in the water. The motto at Tiny Bubbles is swim-float-swim and that's exactly what she taught Kye to do! When he enters the water he is trained to swim to a target (someones hands, the steps, etc). If that target is not there (or if he falls in the pool unexpectedly) then he is trained to float to the top of the water and do his "starfish." Then he will turn back over and swim to the target once prompted.

Starfish (chin high, arms behind head - or out at sides, legs still)
 swimming to the target!
Day 5: By week 2 I learned something new about Kye...he is very influenced by those around him (he's compassionate!). Josh was a little boy who had his lesson right before Kye's. He is only a couple months older than Kye and the boys had never met and never played together once they did meet. They literally only saw each other in passing from the lessons. We'd get to Kye's lesson at least 10 min early and we would usually watch Josh in his lesson. When Josh had a good day, Kye had a good day. When Josh had a bad day (crying etc), Kye had a bad day. It was very funny! Kye would talk about Josh all the time at home and whenever I told him we were going to swim he'd say "Josh do it!" He would feel very proud whenever I would tell him he was a big boy like Josh. 

Here's the video from Day 5. It shows some great shots of him doing his starfish. He had little phrases he'd often say throughout lessons. She'd tell him what was next and he'd say "no ma'am" over and over (while still doing whatever she said to do). He'd also say "see Mommy" and "go to the steps" quite often.
 big starfish!
Day 8: This was the last day of week 2. One of the days that week I had to actually leave the lesson. He was crying pretty hard and wouldn't stop begging for me and asking to see me so she had me go inside. I could still see everything but I was standing behind glass where he couldn't see me. Man did that work great! I never had to leave a lesson again! Here's the video from Day 7 (pics are from Day 8). It's the only lesson Zach was able to come to but it helped him see Kye's progress and I think Kye enjoyed having an extra cheerleader!
At this point in the lessons, Kye was ahead of the game. He came in pretty strong in the water because we've always made water a positive experience for him and it helped his comfort level with it. I enjoyed watching him do so well and felt that he was doing just as good as Josh was at each lesson (Josh being a couple months older, I thought it was a fair comparison). I felt he was reaching his potential in the water and felt confident that by the end of the course he'd be swimming!
 You can tell he's proud of himself right out of the water!
Day 9 and 10: This was a not-so-great parenting decision but one where I had to put my husband first, and my son second (which is the way it should be!). Zach had something very cool going on in Columbus (I'm DYING to share but waiting for official word so I can) and I needed to be with him those days. That means I missed swim. Kye still went and Mrs. Charlotte took him for me. It is no one's fault, I don't blame her at all, but after those days we had some struggles at swim. I heard that on Day 9 Josh's grandma happened to come too and that both of them (meaning the grandmas...but the kids did too!) had a tough time with it so, like I said earlier, seeing Josh upset also upset Kye. I KNOW Mrs. Charlotte was being a cheerleader but I also know it was probably very difficult for her to see him in the water practicing. I'm sure, on some level, he could sense that and I feel very guilty for putting her in that uncomfortable position and putting him in a spot where he wasn't able to do his personal best. 

I heard from Mrs. Charlotte, Margie, and Josh's Mom that neither day went well and Margie told Mrs. Charlotte to have me put Kye in jeans and shoes for Day 11. I guess during those two days he started kicking pretty heavily while doing his starfish. It's something that he honestly would have probably started to do anyway but it set us WAY back with the lessons. Kicking during starfish is not a good thing because it will tire him out (which would not be good in an accidental fall in type situation) and it splashes water in his face, causing him to not be able to float above the water. 

It was difficult for me to watch him struggle that week and I didn't take any video. I should have, but I was a little embarrassed and felt guilt like it was my fault that he was having a tough time. I did have one moment where I was a typical "omg-save-my-child" type mom. To try to break him of the kicking habit, Margie straight up dunked him in the water. He wasn't doing it right so she put him under, hoping it would make him realize that if he kicked during starfish - he'd sink. She tried everything to get him to stop kicking. He wore jeans and shoes every day up until the last 3 days of his lessons. She tried putting a ring around his ankles. She tried just letting him float and float and float until he'd calm down his legs. Something she did worked, he still kicks but not nearly as bad or as much and he will relax when reminded. At that point in the game, Josh FAR surpassed Kye on his skills. In no way do I consider it any type of competition but I knew Kye was capable of the same things Josh was since they are so close in age and have parents who are very comfortable with the water (and with watching the lessons). It was a rough patch for SURE!

Day 15: Here's a video from that days lesson. You can tell that he was still kicking during his starfish but that it wasn't bad enough to where he was getting water in his face. At this point he was also teething very badly and had a constant runny nose, low appetite, and more lethargic. I think it also played a role in his swimming because he was SO tired during it. Bad timing huh?

Swimming with jeans on
 starfishing non-stop!
Day 17: I told Margie when we started the class that Kye would have to graduate 2 days early because we were leaving for Bermuda and I didn't want to miss his graduation. For the first two weeks of his lesson, I felt great about it. Once he started to struggle with the starfish, I worried that he wouldn't be ready in time to graduate. The day before his graduation she had me bring him fully clothed. It's SO important for children to be able to do the survival techniques when they are fully clothed as clothes are heavy and typically when kids fall in they aren't wearing just a bathing suit. Plus, if your kid can float with heavy clothes on - you KNOW they can do it in a suit! Here's a video of him doing his starfish that day with jeans, socks, shoes, shirt, and jacket on. Here is another video from that same day. It shows Margie literally dunking him in the water to make sure he can get to the floating position no matter how he falls into the water. It also shows her teaching him what to do if he falls off the steps. Most drownings happen right at the stairs because kids play there, fall off, and panic because they don't know how to get back to the steps.

Day 18: Graduation Day! I didn't take any pictures but instead video taped the ENTIRE thing. I know it's 11 minutes long but I encourage you to watch it. I am AMAZED when going back and seeing his first day video to seeing his 18th day video. You can view it all here. I was VERY proud of graduation day and very impressed with Tiny Bubbles and the whole process. However, I left feeling like we weren't finished. I felt like Kye hadn't lived up to his potential and I wanted him to be able to play and enjoy the water the way Josh had by the end of lessons (when we graduated Josh was not only doing survival but he was WANTING to jump in and swim and asking to do it!). I talked to Margie and decided when we got back from Bermuda that we would come to a couple Mommy and Me classes where she'd be teaching me the techniques to practice at home.

I ended up attending two of the classes (30 min each) and WOW the difference that made! I feel like that time period caught us up from the 2 days he missed and the time we had to spend correcting his starfish. I learned how to practice swimming and doing starfish in the pool and Kye's changes have been DRASTIC. We go swimming a minimum of three times a week for an hour or so each time. During the time of his lessons we never practiced at home as it's best for Margie to be "the bad guy." All Kye ever wanted to do at home was play at the steps. SOOOO boring for us and we were hoping the lessons would help him get passed that. After graduation he was still the same way, but after those two Mommy and Me classes he's been amazing. 

We swim right when we get in the pool, before he's allowed to get out his toys, and then we swim more before we clean up the toys to go in. I only have him practice the starfish a couple times, he'll typically do it on his own a couple times per swim session when he misses the step or misses my hands when swimming to me. He LOVES swimming and will not want to stop swimming to me then swimming back to the steps. Over and over and over. Here is a video of us doing swim at the house to me then to the steps. He now also loves jumping in from the side of the pool and swimming to me. Here is a video of that (sorry for 2 things in these videos: 1. the dumb float the keeps getting in the way 2. the view of me in a bathing suit...yikes!). Once we get going with it he would swim all day and I LOVE it. It makes me so happy to see him enjoying it so much and it makes me so proud that he can do so well in the water at such a young age. It also gives me a sense of relief. I've never been overly worried about Kye falling into the pool b/c he's an only child and my eyes are on him pretty much every second that he's awake. However, with baby #2 on the way I am more nervous b/c my eyes will have to be on two babies and a younger child needs more attention than an older one. There will be times where I can't have a constant eye on Kye and now I'm not as worried about him sneaking off into the pool when he's out of my sight.

I feel like Tiny Bubbles swim lessons can be compared to Babywise. It is very hardcore, all about consistency, and it's tough. It isn't "fun" or "easy" but the reward is SO huge. I work my butt off to follow Babywise in all the areas I possibly can and look at the results...it works! Margie worked hard with Kye and I've worked hard to continue her hard work and I see the results each time we enter a pool. It's seriously amazing. I always give Babywise the credit for Kye's good behavior, great sleeping, obedience, etc. and I give Tiny Bubbles 100% of the credit for his love of the water, swimming abilities, and survival skills. When we first graduated Zach asked me if I felt confident with Kye if he fell in the pool and I said that I did but that I also knew he needed more (i felt he was a strong floater but not a strong swimmer). Now I can say that I do feel confident (duh, I'm not gonna EVER take my eyes off of him, but I feel sure that if he were to fall in he'd know what to do) and even more than that I feel excited when we swim! 

Our plan is to swim as much as possible in the summer and keep up the practicing then in the fall we'll go back to Tiny Bubbles once or twice a month just to practice and keep up what he's learned as well as learn new age-appropriate swimming techniques. Then we'll swim at home all summer and continue the cycle from there! I am a HUGE believer and advocate for survival swim lessons and will GLADLY answer any questions anyone may have about it. I got to see a tiny baby do the survival swim and it was awesome to watch. My plan with Blitzen is not to do it next summer (Margie typically starts them at 9 months and Blitzen will only be 6) but to most likely start the survival lessons that following summer (when he or she is 18 months). 

If you have a pool in your backyard then this type of course is a MUST (and if you live local, this is the ONLY certified survival swim course around!) and it's worth it even if you don't have a pool. Kye can swim in ANY type of water and knows how to float if he ever fell in at a hotel, a friend's house, etc. It's a skill you must be taught in order to learn and I'm so glad we were able to give Kye this gift at such a young age! 
Tips for Your Child: I actually called Tiny Bubbles when we started building our house and asked for tips to prepare Kye for his lessons. Here's some helpful hints!
  • From birth, don't make a big deal about the water. Children don't know to be afraid of the water, we put those fears in them by our reactions to it.
  • Avoid flotation devices if possible. Obviously, prior to lessons something is necessary to contain your child, but floaties train your kid to be upright in the water and they have to re-learn proper swimming positioning.
  • Many kids have issue with putting their face under the water. When in the tub, don't wipe their faces right away after rinsing their hair. Just pour the water over their heads and it will help them to adjust to the feeling of water on their face.
  • Don't teach your child to blow bubbles in the water...it's much more effective to teach them to keep their mouths closed and hum instead. 
  • Encourage kicking in the water whenever possible to get those leg muscles moving!
Tiny Bubbles offers classes year-round (we did ours in April so we finished up in early May and were able to get right in the pool) and they also have swim birthday parties that I've heard are wonderful! They start at any age (9 months and up) and I HIGHLY recommend it. You can call them at: 229-333-9600 If you mention me I get a discount on my future lessons (which we know I'll be spending some DOUGH there with so many babies we want to have!) so I'd appreciate it! A HUGE thank you again to Robyn for referring me, Tiny Bubbles, and especially Ms. Margie for being so patient, stern, and a great teacher!

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