“Swimming To Learn”

The Active Movement in Water Approach in New Zealand


Ally Todd M.A.

National Education Manager

Swimming New Zealand

presented at WABC2007 Oct. 24, 2007


pdf of Power Point Slides

Tena Koutou tena Koutou tenakoutoukatoa

Nau mai ki ta tatou hui i tenei wa


For those unfamiliar with the Moari Language of New Zealand I’ll give you a translation… J

Welcome to everyone to our gathering at this time.

It is a privilege to be presenting to you all today.

After the past few days I realise this is a very considered, experienced and highly knowledgeable group with regard to this specialist field.

Thanks to the WABC, Steve Graves for this opportunity to share with you al the recent developments Swimming New Zealand have been making in the area of Early Childhood aquatics

Our initiative is called Active Movement in Water Koringa Hihiko Wai

The philosophy is holistic, child focussed and I have chosen the title “Swimming to Learn” for this conference as over the past two years of research I have come to the realisation that Early Childhood aquatics is about developing fundamental aquatic skills but if these experiences are learned in an encouraging, child centred environment with appropriate language linked with activity, the amount of learning and brain development which occurs means that the aquatic skills almost become secondary bi-product of the enormous gains in child development achieved


We are going to begin with a window on the word from down under so you can see where I come from

This is a little window into my world down under with Early childhood aquatics


New Zealand is not where I grew up, but it is my home,

Welcome to my world


New Zealand is a country of abundance, beauty and a place with a passion for Early Childhood and Active Movement  in Water.

There are three aspects of the Active Movement in Water project I would Like to focus on today


                                        The Development Process


                                        The Philosophy and


                                        The Programmes Resources and a sample of activities



The early years of a child’s learning make a significant difference to the way they develop and go on to learn throughout their lives.  Getting it right at this vital stage will build the lifelong foundations of success, not only for our children, but also for New Zealand.


Pathways to the Future: Nga Huarahi Arataki A 10-year strategic plan for early childhood education 2002-2012

This quote comes from a major government level national document which guided the development of our early childhood curriculum in NZ


At the top of this more detailed model you can see we highlight the learning communities and underneath we match up the projects resources and activities available to meet the needs of that community

All courses has an athlete centered approach, LTAD philosophy and a clear No exceptions philosophy all areas also have elements to support the Drown prevention strategy

At The bottom the coaching communities are highlighted and again I have listed some of the qualifications an PD opportunities to meet their needs.


The brochures in your handout packs Swim Teaching starts here and swim coaching starts here this illustrates the pathways for teachers and coaches and highlights the benefits to those who have not yet been involved and makes the pathways and opportunities clear for those are already involved.



So that’s how Active Movement in Water has developed now we can focus on the Aquatic philosophy and the programmes and resources available.


This project is grounded clearly in robust research not only from New Zealand but equally critical information and support came from the Early years report 1999 out of Toronto in Canada



AMA is not teaching formal swimming strokes


Fundamental skills of water entry, buoyancy, balance and breath control combined with basic attitudes lack of fear ,sharing equipment, respect for water, listening to instruction and basic understanding of behavior in and around water, class procedure, language of instruction, games and activity rules and mechanics


Are all precursors to learning advanced formal strokes



The formal definition of active movement

Engaging in quality physical movement experiences, which develop and enhance the spiritual, emotional, social, cognitive and physiological growth of the children


Language and directionality– The more a child is talked to (or with), the more their language is enhanced. 

Talk about what you are doing, the more they will understand and connections will grow in their brain.

       Direction of their body parts – what is happening

       Understanding is 90% if the child does, and then talks about it.

       Language of direction – Over, under, through, left, behind

       Physically do the activity, and say it in different experiences

– top of head, top of toe – confusing unless they have many different experiences of that language.


Eye hand, eye foot coordination, fitness, locomotion – through Fundamental Movement Skills


Balance and body awareness –    Knows parts of their body, where they are, and what they can do

       Helps to keep their balance

       Know how they fit into space

       Stay still when sitting, standing or lying

       Develop eye movement and vision

Good balance is supported by having strong back and tummy muscles.  So infants and children need constant activities to develop these areas.


Vestibular – Child needs vestibular stimulation from birth.

Upside down time – from birth

Gentle slow rolling – from birth

Moving through space slowly

Tipping upside down on a ball

Wheel barrows – walking on hands

Office chair

Scooter board

Swings – hammock

Rolling up in a blanket

Merry go round

Hanging upside down on the bars

Forward roll

Handstands, cartwheels

       Swimming underwater

       Do activities little and often – 1 rotation for every 8 seconds.


Laterality – The ability to do something different with one side of the body while the other does something else, Midline has to be crossed in order for laterality to develop.

Dominance can be – right eyed, right eared, right footed, right handed or vice versa.

Mixed dominance may cause confusion in learning.

Dominant side of a child is usually established by 3 yrs – for girls.  Boys – this is usually established later.


Bi-Laterality – Neither side is dominant.

       Midline separates each side

       The brain uses the hand which is closest

       Use both side of the body until dominance has been established.

       Start crossing the midline anytime from 2 and a half years.

Don’t give chdn preferences – knife and fork, offering pen, food – give it to them in their midline.


Spatial awareness –         How big is my body and will I fit through a space?

       Has difficulty seeing space – sits in a space too small for them

       Is clumsy

       Is touchy/feely

       Talks with their face close to yours

       Touches others

       Touches things while moving round the room

       Plays next to or close to things


Body Rhythm – Internal awareness of timing

       Jump, skip

To develop motor skills – they need to have internal sense of body rhythm

       Music and movement is good for this

Language – requires body rhythm to remember things – Pizza Hutt – links with memory


Problem Solving – Don’t do that, you may hurt yourself – natural instinct to take risks. Still warn them – It looks tricky, how do you do that safely? Pause, Prompt, Praise



Language and Participation = Understanding

This is key to the philosophy


If you talk to young children about what they are doing when they are doing it this maximises the possible learning opportunities



Through Active Movement we want to maximise these windows of opportunity for development


The SPARC resources for land based activities…. Can all be down loaded from the SPARC website

Each booklet focussed on a specific area of development



In summary


·         Active movement stimulates the senses and helps develop a life-long interest in being physically active.

·         Helps develop fundamental movement skills.

·         Helps develop readiness for children to learn to swim.

·         Water plays a big part in our lifestyle in New Zealand so learning to swim is really important.

·         Safety around water



·         Provides a multi-sensory experience – wet, smooth, silent.

·         The sensation of water pressure and buoyancy different from the air – so it’s a different experience.

·         Different experiences ensure maximum stimulation of the brain which enhances the growth of mind, body and soul.

·         Water can be used for developing balance and stability – which are fundamental movement skills like kicking.  These skills make a big contribution to brain development as well as developing the skills we need to be able to do things like swim and to lead physically active lifestyles later in life.



Why is Active movement in Water Important?


Our society is changing RAPIDLY


Health is seen to be important as obesity sets in, Healthy eating healthy action, SKIP min social dev, Active movement Push Play, more people more active more often, towards the most active nation we need to keep the momentum and develop dispositions for healthy long lives for our Pre Schoolers Play gym



‘Peanuts’ always gives us food for thought


So here I am…


Other programmes include our pregnancy programme

This is a 3 session ‘course’


Each session is 2 hours1 hour get together and 1 hour activities

Session one is about MUM and access and barriers to water

Session two is about AMinW philosophy and resources

Session 3 is about when baby arrives being prepared and forward thinking, how will I bath..

Together separate/shower/baby bath

How will I get in the pool


The qualification for Swim teachers

What the NZCST Early Childhood in Water Course & Modules offers:


·         The NZCST course is a great opportunity for you or your staff to develop skills and understanding in aquatic education with a focus to developing fundamental movement skills and Foundation Aquatic Skills.

·         To promote an identifiable national qualification pathway for industry professionals.

·         To increase awareness of appropriate professional development opportunities, support and resources available through swimming New Zealand

·         To increase the standard of professionalism across the industry

·         To develop understanding, awareness and application of

·         Learning models

·         Active Movement philosophy

·         Brain development research

·         To increase understanding of the implications of key developmental milestones to Early Childhood in water

·         To increase understanding and application of the principles of movement in water in relation to Early Childhood.

·         To increase awareness and understanding of Health and Safety in employment (OSH) issues and requirements relating to Early Childhood in water

·         To introduce the principles, strands and goals of The National Curriculum for Early Childhood - Te Whāriki

·         Increase awareness and understanding of no exceptions philosophy



Today we are going to be involved with some activities following the key messages and themes from our poster series

Firstly developing a sence of belonging.

We know that children learn best when adults are active participants in their play

This is such a special sentence Active Participants  Active… moving, animated, present being there is just not enough

Participants… not leaders, cajolers' or planners and organisers, participating

In Their play… the play that they chose which interests them at the time not the play that suits us or is convenient in the limited time available, The choices they make stimulate their involvement and engagement in activity


Our language and attitudes can either stimulate and educate or not


Describing what they do, and how they are doing it, while they are doing things develops vocabulary, body awareness and speech this wil be a theme thoughout our activities


So lets get active


The senses are the doorway to the thinking brain

“Learning is experience. Everything else is just information”    Einstein

In ‘Smart Moves’ Carla Hanaford helps us to understand sensation as information…

What we know, feel, think and learn is shaped by HOW we know feel think and learn. How we do these things is in turn dependent on the sensory-motor systems through which all our experiences of the world and of ourselves in mediated.

Besides the 5 normal senses we think of Rivlin and Gravelle have discovered 14 other senses that we have known receptor sites for such as atmospheric pressure, and a sense of wet and dry, kinesthetic and balance. All of these sensations  give us images of ourselves and our world and provide us with the essential raw material from which knowledge, thought, creativity can emerge.

Lets explore the senses..


Lets imagine a trip out to sea who lives there

Baby sharks fine motor control mommy sharks (bi-laterality), daddy sharks (gross motor skills and laterality) grandma  sharks (for humor)  The language we use helps young children to see things in their head.

This develops their creativity.


Sipper bottles what can you hear? Is that the tap dripping, or maybe the drains after a big storm has finished

Pour… anyone for tea?

Splash “Who’s coming in the pool now?”

Pebbles a swoosh “We’re at the beach the waves are crashing”        Sea matterial

Crabs and sea shells


Gallop went the little green frog..


Feel the water with your fingers, elbows… face

Squeeze lemons… smell the water

Watch the water as it spashes waves and rebounds in patterns in the bucket


Let’s move on to get moving…



If you have bubbles blow some

If you have catchers catch them up high, donw low

Catch them on your elbows.. Catch them on your toes

The enjoyment of movement early in life increases the likelihood of a lifetime of activity

In paddle pools we can splash and stomp in the rain we can dodge and stretch and swirl


The fundamental movement skills of landing, springing, rotating, balance, swinging, locomotion and manipulation can be further developed with floating, gliding, sculling and undulating all unique to the water

The foundation Aquatic skills of entry movement, breath control, discovery buoyancy, and  flotation  can all be experienced in very small amounts of water


When children use their eye, hand or foot of one side of their body in the space of the other eye, hand or foot – we call it crossing the midline and this is essential for both hemispheres of the brain to be able to communicate with each other.


SPARC and Swimming New Zealand have produced some great resources for parents to give you ideas about getting children active in water ’Making Bath Time a Fun Time’

Swimming New Zealand has a large variety of resources through our website. www.swimmingnz.org.nz


The key message of confidence  brings us back to Belonging and the importance of this feeling to young children can not be over stated

With the primitive or safety brain quietened by the reassuring sense of comfort in the water messages can freely flow to the cortex where movement is co-ordinated and higher thinking and the far senses of sight hearing touch and taste are processed.

The stage of building confidence in the water are highlighted in the introduction pamphlet which highlight

The foundation aquatic skills of safe entries, movement, breath control, discovering buoyancy, submerging, floating.


Can you games

Wet your fingers

Wet your elbows

Can you wet your cheeks

Can you blow bubbles noisy and quiet..?


The key message of coordination and body awareness is covered in the hands eyes and feet poster


We are encouraging movement patterns to be developed along side the language for movement and language about our bodies


The following books and resources have been instrumental in developing our learning and support our philosophy


If you are ever “Down Under” or you’d like more information please contact me at ally@swimmingnz.org.nz

Or visit our web site  www.swimmingnz.org.nz