Aqua Kids Challenge
By Einat Meiri Vatner, MA
Some say that an adult is a child who grows up; others, that a child is a small adult. In general, the difference between adults and children has been blurring in recent years thanks to the narrowing generational gaps.
The field of aquatic fitness is growing in Israel and around the world for a wider range of populations: pregnant women, adults, young people, athletes, and ... children. Many parents who experience this kind of workout, understand the benefits of aquatic fitness for their children, both physically and mentally.
Sometimes I take on the challenge of training children as a group or offer combined training with their parents (or the rest of the family). As before any workout, I like to plan the moves in advance. However, with children I know that this plan is going to be a suggestion only. With this wonderful audience called children, the best recommendation is to adopt this phrase, "People may make plans in their minds, but only the Lord can make them come true.” Or in this case, the Lord and the children.
I prepare the structure of the lesson in advance. I also prepare myself mentally for the possibility of changes, and of course for a different kind of responsibility. When it comes to children, all of the concepts of training and planning intensify.
I want to talk about two types of aquatic training for kids, characterize each workout, and give a few ideas for each.
- 1. Children as an organic group (only children participate in training). I often utilize this kind of workout around a particular holiday or summer vacation.
- 2. A combined lesson for parents and children, or for the entire family. This works well around special events. I have used it at Word-wide Aquathon Day, Family Day, end of summer, and more.
Children love the water. They need a certain framework on the one hand and on the other hand, they ask for softness, and tenderness. Exactly like the water. The water surrounds us, carries us, resists us, and caresses us in the same breath. Instructing children requires open-mindedness. They are an easy audience, who will value everything and enjoy everything without judgment. However, on the other hand, children need visual stimulation, movement changes, and high energy.
As their instructor, I want to allow a good atmosphere at the pool – feeling of freedom, lightness, flow, and freshness. On the other hand, a lesson is not a time for free play, although you can combine it into your plans. The plan should contain specific goals, like improving physical fitness components, enhancing good posture, and developing confidence.
What can be more amazing for children than balanced and healthy workouts for their bodies. I have some insights:
- Music. If the lesson takes place around a holiday, it is nice to adapt the music to the atmosphere. Remixing holiday songs can do the job well.
- Colorful and varied training. A lesson that combines games, equipment, and training tools ensures enjoyment and lightness. It is advisable that the equipment has low resistance, specific, of course, on the ages of the children. Exercises include diving can be combined (they tend to do so anyway), especially if the child can swim.
- The rhythm of change. Children value each gesture, but some may lose attention faster and therefore need more frequent stimuli and challenges. Encourage success for everyone. Exercises with a "dramatic" effect such as splashing and jumping can also produce an interest climax.
For the Family
I think that this kind of workout is like magic. Again, openness is the name of the game along with the willingness to understand a situation and needed adjustment. The class becomes a kind of happening; something that is beyond workout.
I do this kind of training at times like the end of the summer vacation, Family Day, and when there's a demand. After experiencing a workout with her daughter, someone told me, "My daughter was so excited about the training and looking forward to another session just like this soon!” She paused for a moment and then she added, "How many times do I get to spend one-on-one time with her, uninterrupted, with such pleasure and intimacy." Mother and daughter deserve all the credit in the world.
At least in this decade we're live in, entering the water with phones is not very common. I think that's going to change, unfortunately. As for now, aquatic workout allows us to focus on the body, mind and spirit. Even a mirror is not existing (like in a studio), so the only way of observation is to look forward and inside of one’s self. The water creates an island of sanity to that is invaluable.
Possible exercises for training:
- Children vs Parents. Exercises can be done in groups of children "against" parents. For example: running in front of each other, from both ends of the pool - stopping at a designated point and splashing towards each other, as strong as possible. Do not worry, usually such an exercise ends in hugs. (See photo). To add to the excitement, continued traveling across the pool can create a whirlpool challenge that must be overcome.
- Partner Training. Partner exercises sometimes require physical contact. This can cause discomfort when it comes to a random couple, but when it comes to family it is welcome and a lot of times, even necessary.
- Equipment - Called a Child. Depending of course on the size and weight of the child, the parent can hold onto the child while running, lift the child as resistance, and even pull the child through the water from side-to-side. Observing safety of course. Be aware, you are holding valuable equipment.
In this type of training, it is possible to perform exercises together, separately, in groups and individuals. As we are in real life, sometimes together in synergy, sometimes separately. Physical fitness in general and aquatic fitness in particular, give us a platform for personal development in many dimensions, connecting to ourselves, to our body, to others, and to our most important treasure – our children.
With your permission, I'm going to go give my kids a big kiss and send thanks – a thousand thanks – to this wonder called aquatic fitness.
Einat Meiri Vatner, MA, is an aquatic fitness instructor in Israel certified by AEA and BECO aqua college and the owner of Aqua Move Israel. She specializes and loves high-intensity workouts as well as exercises based on dance movements and rhythms, as if these two represent the two parts within herself. She instructs various populations including children, pregnant women, and athletes.