‘My legs are dancing!’

This was from a little boy of about four or five that I was teaching. His Mum is Irish and though he himself doesn’t have an Irish accent he has a kind of Irish inflexion sometimes in the way he speaks. He was nervous of the water and at first didn’t want me to let go of him even though he was using a noodle, a long tube of foam that we use as a buoyancy aid.

But then I think he suddenly felt the sense of weightlessness and freedom of his legs dancing in the water beneath him as he realised that neither the noodle nor the water were going to drop him.

One thing that all new swimmers have to learn is the unusual sensation of the small amount of resistance that the water offers to their limbs. It is more than air, about twelve times as much in fact, but not as much as a solid object. But it is not no resistance at all, it is just a little bit and to swim you have to learn to recognise and use this. It is this that is easier for children than adults. Most adults and children use jerky sudden movements in the water until they have learned the soft fluid, yet strong movements that are needed to propel yourself through the water.

I have learned not to say too much about what exactly one needs to do with the arms and legs as I find, especially with the children, too much instruction can interfere with the learning process. I prefer to let them find their own way then offer a little bit of direction. Some children are incredibly inventive and come up with ideas of their own. It is fascinating to try to understand the way they experience the water. One little boy said to me very seriously

‘The water never stops moving, even at night. ‘

Another one asked me

‘Why are there mountains in the water?’

I was confused at first until he showed me what he was looking at. There were quite a few people in the pool so the surface of the water was rippled and waved. From down at his level close to the surface of the water the waves looked just like a mountain range.

(This little boy also thinks my name is Dave, which is fine.)

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