We recently had the pleasure of interviewing a Los Angeles Mom who has devoted her career to teaching little ones to swim and creating positive experiences with water for all. This Mom is Jennifer Golde. She is a certified swim instructor and the owner of Water Otters Swim School.
It was great connecting! Not only is she highly knowledgeable, she loves her work and is enthusiastic about cheerleading other entrepreneurial mothers. Meeting women like Jennifer is incredibly inspiring for us as we build our business. She had some awesome insight for parents who have questions about water safety and teaching their kids to swim. Here are some of the highlights from our chat:
1. Tell me a little bit about Water Otter Swim School? How did you get your start and develop you teaching style?
I started my swim company in 1999. I had experience being a preschool teacher which I absolutely loved. So I knew I enjoyed working with kids. When the summer rolled around it was so hot and I was miserable. I wanted to do something where I could get outside, keep cool and spend time with children. I started reading books about swim instruction and tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could. As far as developing a teaching style, I took the appropriate certification tests and all that of course. But what was more valuable was gaining experience working with children teaching them to swim. I learned so much from my students and developed my style from there. Then, three years ago when I had my son, it was perfect to be able to work from home and spend more time with him.
2. What makes your swim teaching style unique?
I believe in the concept of letting your child lead you. It’s all about respecting their needs and choices while presenting them with new experiences. This is more than learning to swim. I look at it as forming a relationship rather than learning a skill. This is a relationship they are forming with water that can open so many doors. For parents it’s an opportunity to watch their child interact with a new experience. When it comes to swimming as a new experience, for some it can be scary and for others it’s joy right off the bat. Some children learn quicker than others so I don’t put time limits on anything. I never give parents a schedule for learning beforehand. I will spend as much time with each individual child as they need to learn.
3. How old were you when you learned to swim?
I was a water baby and learned to swim when I was 6 months old. I loved it and believe it was because I had an instructor that used a gentle method. Her name is Virgina Hunt Newman. She is somewhat of a celebrity swim instructor now and inspires my swim teaching style to this day.
4. What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite thing is watching each child discover and go through their own process of learning. I get to see them go from maybe a student who had a not fun learning experience elsewhere, to swimming across the pool smiling. I get to watch them learn to trust themselves and the joy that comes from that. They try it and it works and they are thrilled!
5. How do you suggest parents go about introducing their baby to the water?
This is a great question for parents. Take advantage of familiar environments, a bathroom is perfect. Let your child explore things that you may not think are interesting. For example, how the water comes out of the spout. Let them figure out what is happening. If they don’t want water on their head, don’t put water on their head. Let your child explore and get there themselves. They are going to splash themselves by accident. Let that happen instead of you being the one that is forcing the experience. Over time, it will become a ritualistic thing that they anticipate as safe and fun.
6. What are your tips for water safety at home?
Don’t ever leave a child unattended near water. Remember even small bodies of water can be dangerous. For example, the dog water bowl poses a danger for small babies. If you are in the bath make sure the water isn’t too hot and there is a mat on the tub floor. Teach them the value of safety. My son does not like to take a bath without the mat. He says, “I don’t want to be slippery Mommy”.
7. Any precautions parents should take to keep their babies safe when they have a pool?
I teach what I call “layers of protection” when you have a swimming pool. First layer, put locks on all the doors. When they get older, change the locks so they can’t reach them. Then of course if they do get outside, be certain to have a fence and a childproof locking gate securing the pool from the rest of the yard. This is the second layer. Third layer, lock that gate! Then the fourth and last layer is teaching them to swim. You don’t look to that as the first layer. This is very important. Another thing you can do to stay safe is keep your phone by you by the pool so you can call someone in the case of an emergency.
8. What is your favorite beach?
The closest one is usually my favorite!
You can learn more about Jennifer’s swim school by visiting her website www.waterotters.com.