Why Swimming Lessons?

When you read the headlines about toddlers drowning does it give you a feeling of helpless anger that things like this happen? Does your heart break for the parents? Do you blame the parents? Usually not. If you have been around small children you know that things can happen fast and often have cruel consequences to even vigilant supervisors.

Fences, alarms, locks and barriers, life jackets, and every precaution taken, add to a toddler's safety in and around water. All of these precautions combined are usually less valuable in an emergency situation than the skill of swimming. Once acquired the skill stays with you 24/7. Start teaching your baby to swim NOW. Swimming at ages 30 months and older is very attainable. After 10-20 lessons in Mr Fish's program a beginner is expected to show a reasonable ability to enter and exit deep water completely on their own. At age 5 and older, students should have the ability to jump, dive, tread water, and breath while swimming. These are the basic 24/7 survival tools.

We of all people should recognize the urgency. Our city is at sea level and we are virtually surrounded by almost every kind of water hazard (canals, lakes, rivers, bayous, drainage ditches, and a much higher than normal concentration of back yard pools).

All you have to do is show up at the pool. We'll make it happen!!

Naturally, no matter how well your child swims, or crosses the street, or knows not to go with strangers, a parent or guardian's responsibility to be visually in contact should never diminish. If that moment of lapse should ever occur and, God forbid, your child should be alone, his survival will depend on his wits and his skill. Teach your children.

Swimming is Good for the Brain

"...The use of motor stimulation, which only water can provide, affords parents and infants a possibility for contact and development based on the joys of motion and touch."
Lisa lot Diem
West German Child Development Researcher
Professor at the Sports University, Cologne, Germany.
"Early exposure to baby swim programs enhances the immune system of the developing infant, improving the illness rate up to 75%"
Dr. Alexander Geuterman
Head of Russian Baby Clinics, USSR

Recently, especially in the past 10 years, more and more research has been conducted in attempts to further establish a more direct correlation between early formal learning and higher formal learning assimilation capabilities of the brain. In other words, it is becoming evident that a part of your child's brain can develop from early formal education classes in a manner that it can not do so at any later time during development. Delay in starting formal education can never be regained. Swimming, gym and organized music seem to be the only educational endeavors that can be started at very early age's e.g. 12 months to age 36 months.

Our Unique System

Mr. Fish and his worldwide network of colleagues have been steadily increasing their own learning skills for over 40 years. The art of teaching infants is a new concept. Only in the past 50 years has organized infant swimming instruction programs even existed. This is now the age of "teach the baby." Mr Fish is proud to be counted as one of the real pioneers of infant and toddler swimming.

"We have had infants and babies in the water since we began teaching in 1963 and we are constantly amazed at how natural the process is and how much these babies enjoy being under the water as well as on top of it."
Mr Fish

The Bernos Factor®:

In 1970, Mr Fish felt a need to create and refine a new method of swimming instruction geared toward the main impediment of learning to swim..."fear." Tom Bernos and Dr. Lou Hicks, each professionals in the fields of child psychology and counseling, were brought into the pool five days a week to observe every detail of the teaching process. Their job was to determine which exercises produced fears and those which reduced fears. After isolating and defining these techniques, Mr Fish, the psychologists, and his staff created a lesson plan full of exercises and drills which would teach swimming in a positive and fear free environment. This system utilizes controlled and conditioned exercises blended with dramatic praise and positive reinforcement. This formula combined with meticulous supervision and time in the water has produced well over 40,000 happy and safe swimmers.

Unfortunately, a lot of swimming institutions view beginner swimming instruction in the same way as other athletic endeavors: a series of physical skills combined to equal a swimming technique. They neglect the existence of fear and intimidation, which often cause some students to appear dense or just not suited to acquire the skill. In reality, only when and if fear and intimidation are removed can any student’s athletic ability be evaluated. Fear is one of the great destroyers of fluid motion, which incidentally, is what great swimmers are all made of. Let Mr Fish take care of the mental adjustment and the basic life saving skills: swimming, jumping, diving, breathing, floating and treading water, all in deep water. After that then let Coach Guido have them.


When you read the headlines about toddlers drowning does it give you a feeling of helpless anger that things like this happen? Does your heart break for the parents? Do you blame the parents? Usually not. If you have been around small children you know that things can happen fast and often have cruel consequences to even vigilant supervisors.

Fences, alarms, locks and barriers, "floaties", life jackets, and every precaution taken, add to a toddler's safety in and around water. All of these precautions combined are usually less valuable in an emergency situation than the "skill of swimming." Once acquired the "skill’ stays with you 24/7.

Teaching Professionals

At this time our program runs 6 months of the year. Learning to swim, as with any other learned skill is an ongoing process. It needs to become a regular part of a child's physical and social development. Mr Fish Swimming School offers ongoing instruction designed to bring out the complete swimmer as well as the complete socially interactive child. Continuing lessons are a available throughout the school's 6 months per year schedule.


The road is... as important as the destination. Learning is a step-by-step process, not an immediate result. It takes place at the child's pace, not when the teacher says it, not when the parent wants it, but when the child is capable, ready and at ease. Create a positive learning environment, enjoy each session for its own worth.

Flowing with... the water. Smooth swimming, not thrashing, takes practice, patience and a great deal of time. At each level a foundation is being set. Each age group has new and more complex skills compatible with the developmental abilities of that group. It is best to introduce skills only when they can be acquired with ease and confidence. Every child gets there in the end, if you put the time in at the beginning.

Unity... parents, children and teachers are part of a much larger picture. It's about developing a parenting style in relation to your child's learning style; learning to encourage and support rather than demand and demean. Remember to praise, not push. Never compare your child with peers or siblings. Just as walking, potty training and reading all come at different age and rates of acquisition so too does swimming come. There is no deadline. Invariably, the slower we go, the faster they learn and the better the retention and technique of the learner. We must remember that while we teach the children to respect the water, we must never lose our respect for the children in the learning process.

Comfort is the key...

Before we explore what infants and toddlers can learn under the surface, it is important to have your child comfortable above the surface. Your baby needs to be relaxed in the swimming pool with you and feel at ease in the social setting of a group class. In order to help your child adjust to this new aquatic classroom, you will want to start at home in the bath. Slowly and gradually over days and weeks adjust them to water dripped over their forehead. Eventually, you can smoothly pour a small stream of water down their forehead across their face, on the count 1-2-3-pour (just several times a session). Keep it fun and playful, using toys, songs, a washcloth, etc. This will prepare your baby for the learned breath holding "cue" during their initial submersions. The ideal situation would be to initiate this facial water adjustment in the bath tub in the months prior to class (no shampoo and soap). By the time your child is ready to begin class they will have accomplished their first major hurdle in learning to swim like a "Diaper Dolphin", being adjusted to the water.

Brief Overview of Swimming Skills

The purpose of the following skill profile is to provide you with a broad idea of the potential that exists at various ages. This chart is intended to reflect the skills and abilities of children with long term swimming experience who swim with ease and confidence. Many factors weigh into a child's progress, such as comfort, experience, confidence, frequency of practice, motivation, innate abilities and the attitude of the parents. Beginners entering a program would need to start with water adjustment and gradually acquire new skills in a sequential learning progression, regardless of age. For example, a 3 year old new to swimming would start with the first level of skills.

Highlighted below is a sampling of skills that can be learned by experienced swimmers:

  1. Some relaxed infants as young as 6 mos. thru 10 mos. old with proper prerequisites and training can learn to hold their breath on cue when dipped underwater. For those who continue to practice, by 12 mos. of age some will be able to swim 5 seconds between two adults, swim to, reach for and grab onto the side of the pool, as well as, perform a sitting jump off the side. They will also begin to participate in songs, games and express their joy with smiles. For those families whose circumstances do not allow adequate practice time to reach the 5 second swim, familiarizing your child with the water at young ages sets a positive foundation for lessons when they are older.
  2. Some toddlers as young as 19 mos. thru 24 mos. once they have accomplished the above skills with proper prerequisites and training can begin to learn to jump off the side of the pool, turn around and swim back to the side. For those who continue to practice, by the age of 25 mos., a great spurt in endurance and kicking ability can occur.
  3. Some experienced toddlers by the age of 28 mos thru 36 mos. can begin to learn to recover up for a breath. However, teaching this skill too young can create vertical "water walkers." We wait until our swimmers begin to self-initiate this skill and have developed a strong flutter kick before we introduce it.
  4. Some seasoned 36 mos thru 4 yr. olds will begin to back float. As the 4th birthday approaches, more children will accept the back float. Our experienced 3 1/2 year olds will flip from front to back and vice versa. The vast majority of infants and toddlers are not comfortable on their backs until at least 3 years old. Children love swimming under the surface at this age.

A few year-round students will be able to accomplish the above skills with ease and confidence at earlier ages. However, the acquisition of such skills through forceful means, by an adult over a child, is inappropriate and distressing to the child. We will only introduce experienced and receptive babies to back float exercises. This process is presented through fun games and activities. It must be noted that making back float an imposed priority to unwilling infants and toddlers can have a devastating effect on the well-being of the child. The same holds true for forcing children underwater on their front before they are ready.

"A smiling teacher sensitive to you child's feelings during the class is desirable. Teachers are forever smiling and expressing joy in working with children. Realize that swimming skill and safety behavior around water grows along with your child. Plan to enroll them in a program yearly during early childhood. While there is variance as to the age a child becomes "water competent" the good news is that every child can "get it" – in time with your support. Swimming and water safety behavior are lifesaving and life maintaining skills (recreation, health and fitness) that are rightfully learned at an early age."
Steve Graves, President
World Aquatic Baby Congress

Our goal is to address the whole child, setting a strong foundation not only as a comfortable, relaxed swimmer, but foremost, creating an opportunity to help foster a well adjusted, happy human being.

Fearful and Distressed Students

Some students become fearful or distressed at the pool for the first time. Our system is prepared for this and employs a friendly technique to deal with it. About 75% of these distressed students become calm inside of the first 15 minutes of their initial class, and by the end of the first class are smiling and happy. The remaining few who will continue to be distressed must be temporarily removed from the pool if they continue to show signs of distress or excessive crying. Mr Fish’s program employs the "Last 15 minute" system to adjust distressed students. When a distressed student is removed from regular class and remanded to the last 15 minutes, that student continues on his or her same schedule, but enters their scheduled class for the last 15 minutes only. Lost class time is made up to the student by adding extra lessons at no charge. The student will return for the following class and will do better each class. Once they are calm and comfortable, they will continue through the program like everyone else. Although this may be inconvenient, it is necessary to insure CALMNESS IN THE POOL!