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How Ice Cream Can Teach You to Swim

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My campers, aged 6 to 13, did not want to feel like they were at school on their summer vacation, so it was my job make my swim lessons instructive but also enjoyable. Children have incredibly vivid imaginations, so ice cream was a great visual to explain different strokes. What kid (and adult) doesn’t love ice cream?

Dive in!
Dive in! Photo by Catherine Lamb

I kept things silly, asking each kid what their flavor of ice cream was: The connection between their precious cookie dough or strawberry ice cream and the water helped them care about different swimming strokes.


So, what’s your favorite ice cream? We’re going to have a swim lesson:

For freestyle:

Imagine the lake is made up of ice cream, not water, and your hands are scoops. You need to cup your hands because if they’re separated, the ice cream would slip through (and nobody wants that).


Picture a bowl in front of you: It’s your job to fill the bowl with ice cream. “Scoop” by bending their elbow and pulling your arm back. Then, lift your arm out of the water, reaching out in front to put the ice cream into the bowl.

Do the breastroke.
Do the breastroke. Photo by Catherine Lamb

For breaststroke:

Make a big circle with your arms. That circle represents the size of the bowl of ice cream in front of you (THE DREAM). Unfortunately, you forgot your spoon (oh no!) and need to use your hands to eat the ice cream. Again, keep your hands cupped like scoops, then reach your arms out in front of you with your palms facing out. Making a circular motion, collect the ice cream around the edge of the bowl and bring your hands together in front of your chest near your chin (so that you can gobble up the ice cream). From there, stick your arms back out for another bite.

The campers in my swim class are now old enough to be lifeguards teaching their own lessons. I can only hope that they are helping a new generation of kid fill their bowls with ice cream.