Parents often have lots of questions about swimming with their little ones. We’ve tried to answer some of the most common questions we get here, but if you still need help or advice, please contact your local office where someone will be able to answer all your questions.
Swimming with babies and children
Can my child wear armbands so they’re not as scared?
Your child, no matter how young or how new to swimming they are, will never wear armbands in a Puddle Ducks lesson. We want to teach your child to swim independently and how to be safe in the water. There are compelling reasons why we don’t use armbands:
- If your child fell into water when on holiday or even just on a riverside walk with the family, they probably won’t have armbands on. Their experience in their swimming lessons needs to be as realistic as possible. Water safety is a core building block in our lesson plans and everything your child learns will, unbeknown to them, be teaching them vital life-saving skills.
- We teach our Puddle Ducks to swim beautifully. Technique is ingrained at every level and wearing armbands hinders this. Your child will learn to swim on the surface of the water, gracefully and efficiently. If they wear armbands, they will not be aligned in the water. Their top half will be bobbing above the water, forcing their bottom half to dip down, making the alignment required for independent swimming all but impossible.
Non-fitted buoyancy aids (such as floats or woggles) allow children to push away from them when they are ready to be independent whereas fitted aids (arm bands) require an adult to deflate them. We would never recommend the use of inflatables or buoyancy seats – these can flip toddlers over into the water and even land on top of them, making it difficult for them to surface.
My baby really isn’t happy in the water he/she mustn’t like it and I don’t want them upset should I stop bringing him/her?
Understandably, some parents worry that if their baby cries a lot that it is doing more harm than good.
This is not the case. Removing your baby from swimming classes because they don’t seem to enjoy it initially (or maybe they were fine to start with and now are a bit unsure) is more likely to instil a fear or dislike of water than working through it with them.
Our teachers are trained in dealing with cases of this and will work with you and your child so that we find activities they enjoy and move it on from there.
What if my child has a genuine fear of the water? Will they be able to overcome it & learn to swim?
Yes – with care, nurturing and reassurance. It is important never to rush because children develop at different stages on land and it's the same in the water.
The main thing is to stay relaxed and have fun – if you start to force an activity on a child when they are nervous, they will respond with resistance, develop further nerves and the lesson will not be enjoyable. Allow them to watch others and to just be in the pool.
We find that children who also swim with their family outside of structured lessons progress from being nervous much quicker than others so go and have fun and allow your child to lead. Never force.
What if my child disrupts the class or misbehaves?
Please don’t worry, we have dealt with tens of thousands of children over the past 15 years and we can deal with yours! In our Baby & Pre-school classes, if your child were to become upset or start misbehaving, we suggest that you move to one side for a moment to speak with your child, however, the teacher will happily speak to your child too if you feel it is appropriate/necessary.
We usually find that after a minute or two they want to join back in with the lesson – we can always provide one of our toys to help calm them down and wait until we are doing an activity we know they enjoy.
If your child is in Swim Academy and therefore you are not in the water, you will see that our teachers are very good at controlling a class of up to 8 children. If a child repeatedly causes disruption in a class, they are asked to take time out and sit on the side of the pool.
The teacher will then come and speak to them to see if they are ready to re-join the group. Think of our disciplinary measures being just like your child’s teacher would carry out at school. We have never had an instance of having to exclude a child from classes – an important part of our teachers’ training is to learn to deal with all kinds of personalities.
I didn’t take my child swimming from when they were tiny. Have I left it too late and should I wait until they learn at school?
It is never too late to learn to swim. Swimming is an essential life skill and something we should encourage our children to learn to do at any age – the younger the better. Here are some of the reasons why you should start now, whatever age your child:
- Water-safety and eventually life-saving skills are built into every Puddle Ducks lesson. It is never too late or too early to equip your child with these skills.
- Family holidays are so much more fun and relaxing when your children can happily and confidently play either in the pool or the sea. Swimming lessons play a vital role in making your holidays more enjoyable for the whole family.
- The government have made it policy for all children to be able to swim 25m, unaided by the time they leave primary school. Most of our little Puddle Ducks can do this by the time they turn 6 years’ old. Give your child the head start they deserve and instil a love of swimming in them for life. Children who are just learning to swim when they are around 7 are often put off because they feel as though they are already behind their peers.
Will my child ever learn to swim? / What if they can’t do something?
Every child has the potential to learn to swim. First and foremost, we will only progress a child at their own pace. If they can’t do a certain activity, we will work on progressive stages of that activity with your child until they can master it. This applies across our Baby & Pre-school and Swim Academy programmes.
Our Baby & Pre-school programmes are only ability-based once your child hits 2 years old and at this stage the children are placed in classes with other children of similar ability in order to work the necessary aspects of their swimming before joining our Swim Academy around the time they turn 4.
You may find that in the early days of our Swim Academy classes, your child is working on blowing bubbles, learning how to maintain alignment with the surface of the water and the basic strokes amongst other techniques and of course life-saving skills. We run distance swims in our lesson plans where your child will get the chance to work on their stamina, maintaining their alignment and breathing over a distance and ultimately gaining their distance awards however it is important to note that distance swimming is not the focus of all our lessons. It is important to focus on technique over shorter distances rather than pounding up and down the pool with a poor stroke. Because of the ground work we put in to your child’s technique and efficiency in the water, some parents find progression is slow to begin with but then it all comes together and usually quite quickly, you see your child starting to swim confidently and with efficient and eventually beautiful technique.
A recent testimonial from a parent related to their child starting swimming with school, which usually happens around the age of 7. The class was assessed by the swimming teacher and placed into two groups. The higher ability group consisted of two children, both Puddle Ducks customers.
How soon will my child be able to swim? Will they be able to swim before we go on holiday in 4 weeks?
Whilst every child learns to swim at their own pace, some are naturals and take to swimming like a fish to water! However, this isn’t the norm and 4 weeks is not enough time to teach most children to swim and be safe in and around water.
The Puddle Ducks programme is a sustained approach and whilst 4 weeks of classes would be better than nothing before a holiday, please don’t book our lessons looking for a quick fix.
Why won't they blow bubbles in the pool when they do in the bath?
It is important to remember that there is a lot to take in when children are in a swimming lesson – the environment, the other children, the activities etc.
Sometimes it can be sensory overload for some children and they take longer to process instructions as they are focussing on other things. Many children don’t seem to listen but then do everything at home.
This is still a positive response to the lessons and it is important, if your child does this, not to force them to listen or watch in lessons as the information is obviously going in and they are happy to practice in their own environment for now. This will soon transfer to the pool so please don’t worry.
Should my toddler wear goggles?
At Puddle Ducks, we find that as the children get older, more of them are inclined to wear goggles as they spend greater parts of their lesson with their faces in the water. However, we have very specific guidelines which may help you decide whether to give your toddler or pre-schooler goggles when you are swimming with them away from your Puddle Ducks lessons:
- Encourage head down swimming without goggles first. Goggles should be a last resort.
- Don’t allow young children to jump in with goggles on:
- They could slip and hurt your child’s face if not fitted properly which is often difficult with young children.
- They should regularly resurface and swim without goggles on.
- Take goggles off occasionally to “practise personal survival skills”.
- Make sure the goggles are well-fitting.
- Don’t allow a child to wear goggles if they cannot keep them on!
In addition to the questions and answers below, our Technical Director, Ali Beckman, has written a great blog about settling parents' fears.
I have read about submersions and I know some swim schools insist on these very early on - it scares me a bit! What is Puddle Ducks' approach?
Puddle Ducks is all about nurturing water confidence through listening to the individual needs of each child, ensuring that the experience is positive and fun.
Submersions (going underwater) is an important step in learning to swim, but at Puddle Ducks we NEVER force submersions - it is incredibly important to us to build up confidence with learning signals and taking small steps first, then when we feel baby is ready we will only ever submerge them when they 'signal' back that they are ready.
We never submerge a baby who is unhappy - instead gently offering an alternative until they are relaxed enough to take that next big step.
We handle all sorts of concerns; will my baby choke? Can they breathe? What if I can’t go underwater with them? What will you do if they don’t want to put their face in the water?
My baby was coughing after the submersions could he/she have secondary drowning and how will we know if he/she has?
Taking babies swimming should be an enjoyable experience but with so much information on the internet about hyponatremia and secondary drowning, it is important to understand the facts so you are informed. This article, written by our Technical Director, Ali Beckman should answer all your questions and settle any fears you have about taking your baby swimming.
It is important to understand that there are no reported cases of secondary drowning from supervised swimming sessions in the UK. Secondary drowning can only occur if a child/adult is put into a situation where they are underwater for a considerable amount of time and the oxygen in their blood has depleted which results in the need to inhale under water. This should not ever be an issue in swimming lessons even if the children are in the water without their parents as teachers are highly trained to recognise any distress a child is in when swimming independently.
Is he/she supposed to have their eyes open underwater?
It is impossible to keep your eyes open as you submerge – try it! The really important reflexes that we have force our eyes to close as they hit the water but as soon as we are under, our eyes will open again. Some children may feel more comfortable keeping them closed but many children will open their eyes and explore the environment around them.
Why do you submerge them for up to 3 seconds?
There are guidelines on how long a child can be safely under water for. At Puddle Ducks we firmly believe that these guidelines are too high, so we have reduced this considerably to ensure that babies are safe and happy. Once they start to initiate their own swims and are happy to put their head down, this time can increase but whilst they are learning to hold their breath or exhale, we keep this time to a minimum.
Finding / booking a class
When can I start bringing my child to Puddle Ducks
Parents can bring their newborn as soon as they feel ready - our youngest Puddle Duck was just over a week old! We advise to allow the umbilical cord to have healed over to avoid infection, but you don't need to wait until your baby has had their jabs.
We find that babies - as they have spent 9 months in their own watery world - have a natural affinity in our carefully selected, warm pools. You can also sign up to classes at any point in the term, subject to availability, so don't worry about having to wait until the next term starts.
Does my baby need to have injections before I take him/her swimming?
According to the NHS, you can take your newborn baby swimming regardless of whether they have been vaccinated. Although, if your child has had a vaccination that day, they probably won’t feel up to swimming on the same day.
My toddler hasn't been to swimming classes before, can he come to your lessons?
Absolutely! In fact your child can come to Puddle Ducks at any age between 0-10 - we have Baby & Pre-school classes for 0-4 and our Swim Academy for primary school aged children.
Each of the programmes focuses on nurturing confidence - our teachers know that children develop and learn at different rates, so will adjust each activity to get the best out of each child and encourage positive progression.
How many lessons do we have to book/pay for in one go?
Our lessons are booked and paid for in 8 lesson blocks although this is not for an 8 week course of lessons (a handful of our franchises work on 10 week blocks or monthly payments, check with your local team).
Our programme is a continuous learning journey that runs throughout the year with the exception of most school holidays (see the pool timetables for details of weeks when we don’t swim). Payment, either your initial payment or subsequently payment by your payment due date, is required to secure your child’s place in their class.
Read our Frequently Asked Questions about Recurring Payments, the easy way to pay for your Puddle Ducks lessons.
My child has special needs, can I still bring her to class?
Our teachers all undergo training by the Swimming Teachers' Association (STA) that teaches them how to teach and care for children with certain special needs.
We currently teach several children who have physical or mental disabilities, so please do call us and we'll talk through your requirements with you - we will absolutely be inclusive in our lessons where we can. In addition, we have some parents who have special needs themselves and have worked with them to ensure they can bring their child swimming.
However, there are also a number of medical conditions/disabilities which are not covered by our swimming training and therefore our insurance does not permit us to teach in these circumstances.
Please do call us and we'll help where possible.
I am very nervous in water - should I still bring my baby?
Yes - we have many parents who bring their babies to our classes just for that reason: they want to make sure their child is confident in the water. You can rest assured that our pools are chosen so that you are always able to stand in the water and our teachers will be able to reassure you, as well as your baby.
Just let them know when you start (and throughout the term) of any concerns and they will be happy to support you and provide any advice you need. While we encourage parents to lead by example by blowing bubbles in the water, going underwater etc. you won't be made to do anything you aren't comfortable with and we know that many parents also wear contact lenses, so it's not always practical anyway.
I have twins - can I bring them both swimming?
Absolutely. If it's with our Baby & Pre-school lessons, each child will need to be accompanied in the water by an adult though (i.e. one parent cannot bring both children alone). For Swim Academy, parents watch from poolside, so you are more than welcome to bring both then. You could even take advantage of our Sibling Discount!
I'm interested in your Aquanatal classes - when can I start?
Mummies-to-be can join our Aquanatal classes from as early as 14 weeks into their pregnancy, although many join later on too. Once your new bundle of joy arrives, our Aquanatal mums are offered a 20% discount off their first Floaties term (the first level in our Baby & Pre-school swimming programme).
How can I find out more about Recurring Payments?
You can click here to view our Recurring Payments FAQs document.
Attending a lesson
What should I bring to a swimming lesson?
If your child is attending our Floaties, Splashers or Kickers classes or is not yet fully toilet trained they must comply with our 'Double Nappy' policy. Please wear one of our specialist Puddle Ducks neoprene swim nappies or one of our range of Happy Nappies over a disposable swim nappy or one of our environmentally friendly NappyWraps & Liners.
The design of our Puddle Ducks swim nappy and range of Happy Nappies (stretchy neoprene with snug fitting deep waistband and leg cuffs) ensures that all ‘little accidents’ stay inside the nappy with the NappyWrap or disposable swim nappy underneath providing an extra layer of protection (and making any ‘accidents’ so much easier to get rid of!). Alternative neoprene swim over-nappies of a similar design can be worn after approval from your local Puddle Ducks office.
TIP: A neoprene swim nappy needs to be snug around the legs and waist to do its job properly (but not too tight!)
- It is only when your child is in Little Dippers and is fully toilet trained that our 'Double Nappy' policy no longer applies. Then we recommend cropped lycra shorts for boys (as Bermuda style shorts cause drag) and one-piece swim suits for girls.
- At least one towel or hooded towel for your youngster. These can be taken to the poolside.
- A neoprene baby wrap, baby wetsuit or thermal top if your child is likely to get cold in the water. A great selection can be found in our online shop.
- If your child is attending Dabblers we recommend a Puddle Ducks swim hat for those children with long hair plus goggles are optional.
- If your child is attending any of our Swim Academy classes they MUST wear a Swim Academy swim hat (a silicone one will be provided. You can purchase a fabric one on our Shop). Goggles are optional.
- Some milk for your baby or a healthy snack for your toddler/child (please leave these in the car as for health and safety reasons we cannot allow food in the changing rooms or at poolside).
- If needed, a wipeable changing mat that can be placed on the changing room floor for you to change your baby on.
- Your own swimwear and towel if you are going in the pool with your child.
For all your swimwear and swim accessories just pop to our shop!
Will I be in the water with my baby/child?
If your child is in Floaties, Splashers, Kickers, Little Dippers, Dippers or Dabblers in our Baby & Pre-school programme then yes, you will be in the water with them throughout the lesson, these sessions provide a fabulous bonding experience between you and your child and is all about building their water confidence.
If your child is in any of our Swim Academy classes (i.e. they are in primary school) they will be in the water on their own, with two teachers in the water and a ratio of 1 teacher:4 children. If the pool allows spectators, you will be able to watch from poolside.
Can parents alternate attending the classes?
Of course, either parent or even a grandparent can attend the lessons, either in the water for our Baby & Pre-school classes or poolside for Swim Academy. We do not allow the adult in the water to swap with another adult during the class as this can be disruptive for the other customers as well as your child.
What are the arrangements for spectators? Will I or another family member or friend be able to watch the class?
This is completely dependent on the pool. We hire our pools from all kinds of providers; private gyms, hotels, private residences, schools etc. Each of these providers will have a different policy/facility regarding spectators. Some will allow spectators poolside and have seating to accommodate, others will have a viewing area from which you can watch the class, possibly behind glass or from a balcony, others will not allow spectators at all. We often have no control over this. We take it into account when we are looking for new pools as we know how much parents value being able to watch a class but we can't guarantee it.
If your child is in Swim Academy and it is a pool where no spectators are allowed, where possible, we will create a rota for 'parent spotters' where one parent per week is allowed poolside to act as a spotter and be on hand to grab the relevant parent if an emergency toilet trip is needed (and of course they get to watch the class too)!
What are our changing room arrangements?
We’ve chosen all of our pools because they are safe, clean and warm, with good changing facilities. Here’s how you can do your bit:
- Aim to arrive no more than 15 minutes before your lesson and try to leave by 15 minutes after your class to help avoid changing room congestion.
- For the same reason, please don’t bring buggies or car seats into the building.
- Please either remove outdoor shoes or wear the plastic over-shoes often provided by the venue before entering the changing rooms and/or poolside, and ask any guests who are coming to watch the lesson to do the same.
- Please take your used nappies home.
- Most parents find it easiest to wrap their child in a hooded towel or robe and dress themselves before dressing their little one (but if it is very cold in winter, dress your little one first).
- No snacks in the changing room please.
- Please wring out your costumes at a drainage point rather than onto the changing room floor.
What if my baby is tired or hungry?
If your baby is tired or hungry then they are unlikely to enjoy their swimming lesson. For breast or bottle-fed babies there is no problem feeding them immediately before or after the class (or even withdrawing for a few minutes during the class).
For older babies on solids it’s best to leave a little time before the class starts to prevent regurgitation in the water.
I have two children at different ages - can I bring the other along to watch the classes?
Usually yes, although it depends on the spectator policy of the pool - just let the Puddle Ducks office know when you book (or the day before the lesson) and we’ll make any necessary enquiries.
If you have a baby, many of our pools have pool-side cots where they can be safely left. For older siblings, they may be able to sit and watch from the side. For both, we do advise that you bring another adult along with you where you can, as (depending on class level) we don't always have a poolside assistant on duty.
What should I do if my child is ill? Will they miss out?
- Firstly, if you know that you won't be able to attend a class at least 24 hours before the class takes place, you can let us know via your My Puddle Ducks account on both your Overview page and also your My Children page by clicking on ‘Let us know you can’t attend a lesson’ and following the instructions. This will generate a Courtesy Class for you to then use against any lesson where there is space in the next 6 months (provided you are currently in paid-for lessons). Read more in our Courtesy Classes FAQs.
- If your child has a chest, ear or eye infection they shouldn’t swim until it has completely cleared.
- Please don’t bring your child to the pool during, or for two weeks after, suffering from diarrhoea.
- Going swimming is unlikely to worsen a mild cold and will not increase the likelihood of an ear infection unless your baby has a perforated eardrum.
- Please do not bring your child to a swimming class with anything that could be infectious, such as chickenpox, which is considered infectious until all the blisters have dried up.
- It’s worth remembering that children are often exhausted after an illness and need some time to recuperate before returning to their swimming lessons.
- Unfortunately, we can't offer a refund but where possible, we offer goodwill Courtesy Classes so that you won't miss out.
How will I learn the words to all the songs?!
The same way you learn the words to any song – repetition! Our mums and dads often worry about this and they are all singing along by the second or third week!
NB Only the doll we use for demonstrating our activities/how to signal to your child is called Evangeline – when signalling your child, call them by their own name :-)
Please note that any mention of ‘Puddle Ducks’ in this policy covers both Puddle Ducks branded classes and Swim Academy branded classes. ‘Team Members’ refers to anyone working for Puddle Ducks, either as paid employee/partner or volunteer.
Puddle Ducks will ensure that:
- Enhanced DBS checks will be obtained for all Team Members who are in a position where they have regular contact with/access to children and young people up to the age of 18 years.
- All Team Members who are in a position where they have regular contact with/access to children and young people up to the age 18 of years will have received training in Safeguarding, either from the Swimming Teacher’s Association or an organisation approved by the Swimming Teacher’s Association.
- All Team Members will adopt and abide by the STA Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults policy https://www.sta.co.uk/policies/safeguarding-policy/
- Any welfare concerns should be addressed to the local franchise office. All suspicions and allegations of abuse will be taken seriously and responded to swiftly and appropriately.
If customers are not happy with the support provided by the local franchise office, they are advised to either contact the NSPCC or their local safeguarding board.
I’m interested in franchising opportunities with Puddle Ducks, where can I find out more information?
If you’d like to find out about franchising with Puddle Ducks, visit our franchising pages where you’ll find a host of information about becoming a Puddle Ducks franchisee.
Finally, if you need more help or advice, please contact your local office where someone will be able to answer all your questions for you in as much detail as possible.