Thinking about swimming lessons for your child? Here’s why 1-to-1 lessons with Little Swimming Co. will give them way more than a killer front crawl
Based in Cramlington, this bespoke learn-to-swim provider is a family-run business centred around equality and powered by love. We caught up with co-founder Danielle Dickinson to find out more
As most parents will have perhaps learned the hard way, it does no good to compare our children.
Whether Ella isn’t talking as clearly as Oscar, or Billy doesn’t like football as much as the other boys in his class, as President Theodore Roosevelt so aptly put it, comparison is the thief of joy.
But more than that, assuming that what works for one child will work for every other can be a dangerous concept that increases the likelihood of children experiencing feelings of failure, threatening their confidence, social skills and resilience. Apply this to a life skill like swimming and, in extreme cases, such negativity can cause them to develop phobias of the water, which may rob them of years of positive experiences in the future – holidays abroad, New Year’s Day dips, even taking their own children swimming.
Not that you get any of that one-size-fits-all approach at Little Swimming Co. This family-run learn-to-swim provider recognises that each and every child is different and learns in different ways and at different speeds. They also recognise that every child – and we mean every child – deserves to be able to learn to swim and enjoy the water. That’s why their approach to teaching is entirely about providing bespoke, individualised lessons.
Pretty ace, right? We caught up with co-founder Danielle Dickinson to find out a little more…
Why did you want to set up as a bespoke learn-to-swim provider?
My fiancé has been in the industry teaching for all his adult life and thought there was room in the market for a 1-to-1 facility in the local area. With so many children taking part in swimming activities, an increase in holidays abroad, and with school lessons providing an absolute minimum of swimming knowledge to children because of budget restrictions and austerity, lots of parents really want their children to learn how to swim privately.
For many children, learning in a group class at a leisure centre just isn’t conducive to their learning style. We have four of our own children and are really passionate about providing quality activities and opportunities for them. I have a background in Childhood Development and SEND too, so, combined, we knew that turning Ben’s lifelong career into a business would not only provide an opportunity to control how we were able to increase bespoke lesson availability for the area, but would also ensure equal opportunities for learners who just needed that 1-to-1 support.
How did you turn your dream into a reality?
Ben worked around the clock to source the best materials, location and team. He had the support of his ex wife – who is an architect – to ensure space conceptualisation was optimum for his goals. He self-built Little Swimming Co. with contractors and project managed the entire build.
Anyone who works in leisure understands that the challenges are enormous. It’s an alchemy of ensuring the safest water standards, combined with ensuring everyone is met with a smile. We’re human and our end goal is always to make children feel happy and safe. Even six years in, we still meet obstacles that we endeavour to endure and conquer as best we can.
How is the service at Little Swimming Co. different to what you’d experience in other swimming lessons?
We’d like to hope that all providers have the same goals for their lessons. We’re very much against the idea of competing to be the best. The industry is very small and, in a post-Covid world, we’ve learned that the most crippling of times require the most community spirit.
We love our customers. We genuinely love and care about the families and the children we work with. That feeling is hopefully entwined in everything that we do. Those relationships are so special. We want to hear what the children have been doing each week, we want them to thrive in the water. We know not everyone will become Michael Phelps and we cover all bases, from infant swimming to aspiring competitors.
Each child is a unique entity and our approach to each needs to reflect that individuality. That is what I hope we convey to our customer base. We put 100% effort into those relationships with the aim that our customers and their children feel secure that the best interests of the children’s learn-to -swim journey are always paramount in what we do.
What health and wellbeing benefits does learning to swim give to children?
Swimming is not only a life skill, but an activity that has seen a dramatic reduction as a leisure pastime. We hope that in what we offer, children leave not only being able to swim safely, but also have a healthy interest in swimming which remains with them throughout their lives.
Benefits begin from infant swimming. When you start infant swimming, you’re taking part in an incredibly sensory activity: enhancing bonding with skin-to-skin contact, working all the core muscle groups to aid development, cognition, enhancing coordination, working those fine motor skills, aiding balance and engaging the vestibular system. Mentally, you’re also aiding your child’s happy hormones, confidence and social skills.
Swimming in general is a fantastic sport. For older children, it helps build muscles, enhance circulation, and it’s accessible for individuals who may struggle with on-land impact activities. We also know that it improves mental health by reducing feelings of stress and boosting mood.
How do the crash courses compare with swimming lessons over an extended period of time?
Crash courses are a great introduction or top-up to lessons, or as a refresher for a swimmer who hasn’t swam in a little while. They’re an intensive week of sessions with individualised goals. Everyone succeeds and that’s what’s fantastic. There are no failures in a crash course.
As small group lessons, crash courses are a cost-effective solution to ensuring safe swimming. They’re a great deal cheaper than 1-to-1 tuition, as in any taught disciplines. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so it would be irresponsible to say in one week your child will be able to swim. They will, however, undoubtedly improve upon their existing skills, top up their knowledge of strokes, gain water confidence and earn an achievement in a shorter period of time.
They aren’t always suitable for children who really need 1-to-1 support to learn how to swim safely. That being said, many SEND swimmers have joined us in these crash courses and have thrived.
If parents reading this are wanting to book swimming lessons for their children, from what age would you recommend they start?
There’s no wrong time to start. There is no ‘too young’ or ‘too old’. We have had swimmers one week of age and swimmers start at 12. As everything is completely tailored to where they are in their own development, picking it up at any time that is suitable for your family is always something we can work with.
Are children with additional needs able to learn to swim at Little Swimming Co.?
A large percentage of our cohort have additional needs. We have a disabled child of our own and we understand just how challenging it can be to access tuition for activities where individuals not only understand additional needs, but work to ensure that those additional needs are not obstacles to learning.
We ask parents to complete a SEND questionnaire before their children start, which enables us to learn the most we can about these swimmers to ensure common challenges faced can be managed and avoided to ensure their learn-to-swim pathways are unencumbered.
What should parents know before bringing their child to their first swim lesson?
Confidence is key! If you feel secure and are promoting swimming and positivity, your child will feel this too. If they’re feeling apprehensive watching a lesson, reading books about swimming and playing together in the water is always really helpful. It really starts at birth with positive bath times. Of course, water aversion is something we do see regularly and can always help with. Kids who are exposed to their faces wet or popping their heads under the shower often thrive with this sensory aspect of the lessons.
What are your ambitions for the business?
We hope to grow organically, sustainably and to never lose sight of the care we have for the customers. We would also love to expand and offer more to our local communities.
We hope to offer scholarships and with a bigger facility would help us offer further opportunities like these. With more space, we could offer quality, affordable group lessons in addition to our 1-to-1 lessons. Finding the right investment is paramount to ensure that we don’t lose the integrity behind our business.