What can you really accomplish with an infant in a 10 minute swim lesson?
A common question (and frustration) we see expressed regarding ISR lessons is “Why only 10 minutes?” Many people can’t wrap their head around packing their infant or toddler up to drive to the pool and have them swim for a maximum ten-minute lesson. “What can you possibly get done in 10 minutes?’ they ask, or “Can’t you just do once a week for 50 minutes?”
There are a few reasons that ISR Lessons are so short and frequent.
A baby learns a motor skill by frequent, short duration practice. For example, when introducing tummy time to an infant, we don’t place him on his belly and set a timer for 30 minutes. We don’t cheer for the initial two minutes he has his head up, and then - for the sake of the clock - force him to lie struggling for the remaining 28 minutes. While it’s perfectly ok to allow a baby to work, it does nothing to keep him there when he’s too fatigued. It is a more effective approach to give him the opportunity to practice for a short amount of time, a few times throughout the day. Not only does this promote muscle strengthening and create the basis for future motor skills, like rolling over, but it also allows him to be successful - “If I lift my head up, I get to see that cool, bright toy that mommy’s holding up there.” Short, frequent practice is the way a child learns every motor skill - crawling, walking, etc. When initially learning to float or swim, it is more efficient to practice a few successful attempts than to stay in the water longer for the sake of time, and risk practicing with cold, fatigued muscles.
When looking at weekly 30+ minute lessons, the week off in between each lesson does not allow a child to process what he has learned and apply it quickly enough to retain it as “muscle memory.” Think of it this way. If you have a test coming up a week from today, and you cram one study session in today, do you expect to remember everything you studied after a week? For this reason, it is recommended that you study a little each day and build upon what you studied the previous day. ISR's daily lessons allow a child to take what they learned 24 hours prior, practice it soon after, and build on it day after day.
Children thrive on routine. Knowing that they will go to swim lessons every day, for the same amount of time, with the same instructor creates a consistent learning environment. As they go through lessons, they know what is expected of them, and eventually begin to see that it’s just part of their day, like brushing their teeth. Yes, sometimes they don’t want to, but there’s no surprise that they have to. They learn to trust their instructor to safely guide them through their learning process.
Another reason for stopping the clock after 10 minutes lies in the baby’s ability to regulate his body temperature. Although the pool is heated, it is still lower than the child’s body temperature. By nature, exercise uses energy, which causes body heat loss. While this is easy to overlook in the water because we don’t see sweat as an indicator, it is an important aspect to consider. Research shows that muscle force production decreases at lower temperatures, which makes it more difficult to move a constant force relative to the muscle’s capacity. (Journal of Experimental Biology https://jeb.biologists.org/content/220/11/2017). Not only is it inefficient to practice a skill with fatigued muscles, the water is not an environment that anyone should be remaining in while fatigued.
A child learning to swim is learning how to control his breath - breathing when above the surface, and holding his breath when submerged. Occasionally, a child can swallow air when learning to hold his breath, which combined with expressing his emotions by crying in the pool, can cause a buildup of air in the abdomen. ISR instructors are trained to monitor air buildup and allow a child to expel this air so that breath control is not compromised. The 10 minute lesson is another way to ensure this.
Finding time to schedule swim lessons while juggling everyday life is no small task, but if you look at it in terms of maximizing your time, ISR lessons are a clear win. We hear from many parents as the last week of their child’s lessons approach, “We are going to miss coming everyday. What are we going to do with our mornings now?”
Routine is a good thing when it means your child is in the routine of knowing how to save his own life!
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