Age Categories & Structure
Concern for the physical and emotional well-being of infants is at the heart of the program. To assure that AQUATOTS will be the safe and happy experience for infants and their participating parents or guardians that it is intended to be, management regulations and teaching procedures are strictly in accordance with the'Recommendations of the American Academy of Paediatrics for Aquatic Programmes for Infants and Young Children.'
Because the period of infancy (0-36 months) spans an age category with a greater variation in development than in any other period in the human life span, it makes for more effective teaching to group the infants according to four distinctive developmental stages referred to in the program as divisions. Infants join the program in the division appropriate to their age.
AQUATOTS Division 1
Division One (0-6 months) is for newborn infants.
The objective in division one is to maintain the newborn infant's natural affinity for water in preparation for the first official swimming lesson in a public pool. By joining the program in division one parents learn how to develop their infant's natural swimming ability from the time of their infant's first bath. Infants whose parents put to practise the knowledge they have gained from joining division one for infant aquatic education talks and demonstrations before or shortly after their birth, learn to swim in a shorter time regardless of the age they start formal lessons.
All practise sessions are done at home in the baby bath and later in the family bath. Infants should not be exposed to public pools until their immune system is mature enough to cope with common water-borne germs. This is usually not before the infants are about 5-6 months of age.
AQUATOTS division 2
Division Two (6-12 months) is for babies.
The objective in division two is to have babies waterborne before they are independently mobile. Babies can float before they can crawl. However, they will only be able to right themselves i.e. go onto their backs from the face down position in the water, when they are independently mobile in their natural environment (land). Babies who demonstrate this ability before they are mobile have undoubtedly acquired this response through the traumatic trial and error learning process which has them being put face down in the water repeatedly by an adult.
Traumatic teaching methods are not in keeping with the AQUATOTS philosophy. Infants are never subjected to traumatic learning procedures. Lessons are conducted so that by the time they can crawl they are able to respond in a life saving manner appropriate to their age. That is, they would be able to flip on their backs and stay afloat until help arrives or until they are picked up. The skill is developed in bits and pieces over a period of time until it becomes a behaviour response to an act initiated by the infants themselves.
Babies who have had division one exposure show the best results in division two. Babies who join the program in division two and who are not sitting up yet, also do better in division two than those who are already sitting up or those who can crawl or stand when they join the program. Ideally, everyone in division two should have joined the program in division one.
Babies who are already crawling or walking when they join division two, tend to put up a fuss when coaxed into adopting the back float. They tend to favour the front position (prone) to the back position. From a safety point of view, it is not beneficial to proceed with prone swimming at this stage. It would be months before they would master lifting their face to breathe. Infants are not developmentally capable of lifting their face out of the water when in this position until they are well into their second year of life, and then only if they get much more practise than just the two half hour lessons a week.
AQUATOTS division 3
Division Three (12-36 months) is for toddlers.
The objective in division three is to establish a safe routine for toddlers in and around water from day one. While the ultimate aim in division three is to have toddlers swimming, focus is primarily on safe behaviour. The approach is characteristically AQUATOTS toddler swimming (todswim).
Toddlers can take anywhere from several days to a couple of weeks, months or even years to learn to swim. It depends on the way they are being taught, their age and how much time they actually spend in swim-related activity.
When the focus of lessons is primarily on teaching actual swimming strokes, the learning period is greatly prolonged and toddlers may be put at an even greater risk of drowning in the process. The reason for this is that the method of teaching tends to foster a false sense of security.
The AQUATOTS approach takes advantage of a repertoire of behaviour patterns that toddlers have already acquired and that can easily be transformed into valuable life-saving skills when adapted to water. Toddlers have no trouble doing this. They delight in exploring the possibilities of these familiar behaviour patterns to the extent that they master them as effective life-saving skills in a comparatively short time. What's more, they actually learn to swim in the process.
Toddlers coming from division two will be at an advantage especially if they have already mastered such primary swimming skills as buoyancy, the backfloat and even submersion by then. These toddlers learn to adapt their new motor ability to water on a more sophisticated level than toddlers who do not have division two experience. Toddlers who are so advantaged master swimming ability much quicker and at a much younger age than toddlers who are new to the program and start lessons in division three at the todswim level.
AQUATOTS DIVISION 4
Division Four (AQUATOTS Club) for independent toddlers
The objective in division four is to maintain the level of skill toddlers have acquired from attending lessons up to this point and to extend this to increasingly more sophisticated levels at a pace in keeping with their development. It is particularly important to do this when there is no other possibility for the toddlers to practice their newly acquired skill.
Division four is not about learning to swim. It is about swimming for the sake of swimming. Toddlers swim for no other reason than for the sake of swimming. They play at swimming like they play at walking. Swimming is a means to an end in much the same way that walking has become a means to an end for toddlers who have recently learned to walk and discovered their independence.
Toddlers who have graduated to a level of swimming ability from which they cannot progress because of developmental limitations or constraints, stay in division four until they are developmentally ready to perform the movements required for style swimming. This is usually not before they are 4 to 5 years old. Well meaning parents who want their toddlers to go on to swim in the formal sense of the word before the toddlers are developmentally ready to do so should take heed. You would do better to acknowledge your toddler's achievement and allow them to revel in their newly acquired skill.
Enforcing formal style swimming on toddlers is to totally disregard a toddler's developmental capabilities. It is both disappointing and frustrating for toddlers not to be able to please their parents because they are pushed into performing skills of which they are not capable. You may them turn away from going into the water altogether. Improvement on swimming ability should be regarded as a natural developmental process which is somewhat accelerated through the repetition and the practice variability which toddlers get plenty of in division four under the guidance of a suitably trained instructor.