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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

British Swim School- A Focus on Safety First

In exchange for an honest review on this blog, British Swim School of Central MD has provided my family with free swim lessons. All opinions and thoughts are my own. See below for an enrollment special!

One of the reasons I was so drawn to British Swim School over other swim classes, was their attention to safety. As I researched other swim classes, and talked with other moms that had experience with them, I only found one company that had a true focus on safety- and that was British Swim School.

County programs through the rec centers were super affordable, but they seemed to be more of a mommy and me playdate at the young ages- something I wasn't really wanting to pay for. And other programs just didn't have the safety first approach.

British Swim School is unique in their approach to the water. From the youngest of ages on up, they require a mastery of safety skills before any further progress can be achieved. I love this. Having a respect for the water is so important. Even the best of swimmers can drown in unfortunate circumstances. Swimming uses energy. Floating is the key to saving your life. This is what British Swim School focuses on at an early age, as a result. 

Their initial focuses are on water acclimation and learning how to float. They work with children on being comfortable in the water, and being submerged, while also teaching a respect for the water. We don't want children to panic if they are submerged. Being in a panicked state could cause someone to drown. Rather, we want them calm, comfortable, and knowing what to do. 

So, British Swim School has their students going under the water from their very first class at the Tadpole level. Instructors work with students at individual paces, and make sure they are comfortable and calm. The back float (or starfish) is also introduced immediately. Swim strokes are not taught until a child is comfortable and able to float on their own.

This balance of comfort and respect for the water is something I really appreciate as a mom.

They took it a step further, recently, and I have to say I was very impressed. Twice now, we've had swim classes that solely focus on being prepared in an emergency. During these classes, emergency situations are acted out with the children. What better way to prepare for a water emergency, than to have a safe simulation in the pool!? Just as with anything we teach to our children, acting out scenarios can really help our children to understand how to respond in emergencies. 

We teach stop, drop, and roll, from an early age. So why not act out water safety?

We were asked to have our children stay in their normal clothes (with swimsuits underneath). Why? Well, in an emergency, it's likely that it happens in normal clothes. Perhaps a child is running around outside, and slips into the pool. Perhaps, their toy fell in the water, and they decided to reach for it, and fell in. It's quite possible those things could happen in normal clothes. 

Wearing a swimsuit in the water, feels MUCH different than wearing a shirt and pants. Our regular clothes are heavier and harder to move in. I thought it was genius to have our children in their normal clothes, so they could know what this feels like and be prepared if something like this ever happened to them. 

During these safety simulation classes, they have the students help one another. One child gets into the water and rolls over to do their starfish (back float) that they've been practicing since they started at BSS. The instructor asks them to yell for help. 

The other students in the class are asked to find a floating device. They use the life rings during every class and are very comfortable with them. They have them stand up on the pool deck, grab a ring, and throw it to their classmate in the water. 

The child in the water, is then shown how to hold on to the ring, and kick to the edge of the pool. 

Each child gets to do all parts of the simulation in class. They talk about the lifeguard's role at the pool, and to always get an adult to help as well. They talk about never getting into a pool alone, never reaching into the water for a toy. They talk about getting to the edge of the pool. They talk about how the safest position in the pool is on your back and floating, and that they need to YELL fpr help if something ever happens.

The class is great.

Caroline has been at the Seahorse level now since August. She'll be here for a little while longer until she's ready to move up to the Minnow level. She is not yet 100% on her starfish (back float) being independent, and she is not fully comfortable with her submersions yet. She's close, but needs more time. And guess what? This Mama is totally fine not teaching her anything else in the water, until she masters those skills!

She is having fun, getting tons of practice in the water on a weekly basis, and getting more and more comfortable every week. Until I know she has mastered the safety skills, there is no reason to be teaching swim strokes. I can't reiterate enough how pleased I've been with this program.

My daughter is learning such valuable skills right now, and there's no rush. I really appreciate that about BSS. They challenge Caroline, but they don't push her too hard that she becomes frightened of the water. They have high expectations, yet they make it fun all at the same time. It's been a great company to work with!


Enrollment Special 20% off

If you live in Montgomery County or Frederick County, Maryland, and are interested in signing up with BSS, I am really excited to announce that you can receive 20% off your first 4 lessons when you call to enroll and use the code #MAMAS18. The information for our central Maryland British Swim Schools can all be found at this link. And not to worry if you live elsewhere, there are British Swim Schools ALL over the US!

Other Posts of Interest:

British Swim School- Tadpole class (level 1)

British Swim School- Swimboree  (level 2)

British Swim School- Seahorse (level 3)

These books were provided to us free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions are my own.
We are also running a giveaway!
You could win 2 of these books to try out. See below for details.

I am always on the lookout for new activities for Caroline to do. As a former engineer, and chemistry teacher, I just love when the activities promote problem solving and creativity, along with other technical and physical skills. 

A new product was recently sent to me for a blog review, and I was very excited to accept this review. I have to say, I pass up a lot of reviews because the products just aren't things we are interested in. This, however, caught my attention immediately:

Play to Learn...With Bricks (Activity Books)

These activity books have step by step instructions on how to build with Legos! I loved the idea of having an instruction book. Obviously, there is tons of creative play to be had with Legos and just seeing what you can build on your own without instructions, but there are also a lot of valuable skills being learned when you have a book teaching you how to build as well.


Following written instructions is a skill that is very much needed in life. Whether we are putting together Ikea furniture, applying for a job, or filing taxes, written instructions are useful to be able to follow and follow well. 

Sometimes seeing the possibilities of what can be done (building a penguin out of Legos), opens up a whole world of creative thought that hadn't been accessed in our minds previously. Perhaps the bin of Legos was intimidating to start with... and only simple towers and buildings had been built.

Now, a child sees that they can create a penguin, and the next thing you know they are making a whole zoo of animals on their own, and reaching for the stars. Seeing one outcome can inspire many more!

So before I get to our review and experience with these books, I wanted to quote the website directly so you can get an idea of what these books have to offer. View more about these books at

"The concept of our books is simple. Using the directions provided, parents and caretakers can help their children take on imaginative projects that will help your entire family bond as your child has fun and absorbs a number of important developmental concepts. Incorporate learning into playtime and get fantastic results!

We promote activities that will teach your children:

• problem solving,
• fine motor skills,
• colors,
• shapes,
• counting,
• written numbers,
• simple positioning concepts,
• simple directions, and
• grouping objects."

Our Experience


You guys, I can't love these books more!

I wasn't quite sure if Caroline would be ready for these books and this type of structured activity (she just turned 3 two months ago). I was so wrong. She excelled and it was so much fun to watch.

We were given several books to look at, and they were all wonderful.

Here's what we loved so much:

1. Material list
Each activity starts by showing each color of blocks needed, the size and shape, and number of each block. This allows the correct blocks to be found prior to starting the activity. The colors are shown visually and the names written out.

2. Step by step instructions
The instructions are very easy to follow. My just turned 3 year old (2 months ago), was able to tell me exactly what we needed for each step (the size of the blocks, the color, and the number that we needed of each). She could follow the pictures and tell me which blocks to put on the bottom, middle, top, etc.

3. Visual instructions
Each step has great visual instructions. The materials list is pictured for each step, along with the final product for each step. The steps are small enough that my 3 year old could tackle them with minimal help, but not too easy that she wasn't being challenged.

4. Sorting and Grouping
These instructions promote having a focused plan. Sorting blocks by size and color is promoted in the material list step, along with each sub step afterwards. The sorting and grouping was a fantastic activity in and of itself.

5. Counting
In the materials section, along with in each step, the number of blocks needed is listed out in number form. Caroline got great practice identifying numbers, and then counting the correct number of blocks needed.

6. Colors
Color practice is everywhere. The books are in color, so the visuals are very easy to follow. The color names are listed out in the main materials section. Great practice for identifying colors and following instructions using the correct colors.

7. Positioning Concepts
Positioning the Legos is probably the hardest part of building these objects. The pictures help so much with each step. Again, my just turned 3 year old, could look at the pictures and figure out how the blocks should be positioned. She preferred to have me build the penguin that we were working on, because these tiny Legos are still a bit to difficult for her to put together on her own.

As you'll see in the video below, however, she was the one telling me what to do and following the instructions. As we got further into building the penguin, she really had to start being super specific with her verbal instructions to me.

I'd challenge her to not just say to "place the yellow blocks on the bottom", but rather to "place the yellow blocks on the bottom, with the slopes on the outside", etc. If she gave me vague instructions, I'd purposefully do the step incorrectly, and she'd have to refine her instructions to help me get the step correct. It was amazing to watch her brain come up with better verbal instructions to help me do the step correctly!

8. Fine motor skills
Normal sized Legos are hard to put together. My 3 year old can't do it yet. Her little fingers just aren't strong enough. So, that's the only limitation right now from having her do this on her own. We don't have any regular sized Legos yet (other than the samples we were sent), but now that we have these books we are planning on purchasing some. She'll get used to putting them together and probably soon be able to be successful in doing so. These books are really going to get a lot of use for a long while! The recommended age is 4+. This is so true! I think by age 4 Caroline will be doing these on her own, and at age 33 I still had fun with it! ;)

9. Positive Reinforcement and Immediate Feedback
Each step has a visual of what the object should look like when the step is complete. In this way, the child has instant feedback as to how they are doing, and they know if they are building the object correctly, simply by matching their object to each visual step. I love the instant feedback, and that they can know how they are doing as they build. At the end of each page are some positive words "Yay! Great Work!", "Woohoo!", etc. 

10. Varying levels of difficulty
The books have activities with different levels of difficulty. Each activity lists the difficulty: easy, medium, or hard. I love that there are varying levels and different types of challenges.

11. Book Familiarity
The book starts with a little introduction for the parents. It then has a Table of Contents! Love this! Children can learn how to use books and find things within a book using the table of contents and page numbers. They also get number practice in this way. Even the table of contents is visual in nature, showing the final object that will be made.

Instructions are left to right, top to bottom. Again, this is just more great book and reading familiarity that our children are getting exposed to. 

12. Fun
These books are so much fun. Yes, it's a focused activity, and yes it's also a lot of fun! The animals in the Zoo book are all named "Polly Panda", "Penny Penguin", etc. The colors can be switched up for some added creativity, and the book really inspires children to think of and make even more items. I love the fun that can and will be had with using these!

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Today we have a guest post from Christine Keys. She is a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network, and I love her take on discipline. These are 4 very important things to remember when it comes to disciplining toddlers!

You'll find my guest post over at Rogers Party of 5. Today I'm writing about tactics to use when your toddler is delaying bedtime!

Disciplining. Ugh. It is the part of parenting that I like the least. However, it is so vitally important. So many behaviours are learnt, and therefore it is imperative that parents teach their children what is, and what is not acceptable. This is a service both to the child and to the rest of society. Today I want to touch on four things that you need to know about disciplining toddlers.

It Isn't Fun

If you discipline your child and feel awful while doing it, you're not alone! It isn't fun. At all. I hurt when my child hurts. I don't like it when they're upset or having a difficult time. However, I would rather my child learnt an important life lesson at age 2 where the consequences are fairly tame than to have to learn it at age 22 when there are some really important things at stake.

It Is Essential To Follow Through

Kids are smart. Even smarter than we give them credit. If you warn them about a potential consequence and then fail to follow through, they WILL remember that. Not only does this make your job more difficult, but it creates a real sense of insecurity for the child.

If you come through one time but don't on another, your child is for sure going to be upset and confused. And if they think you aren't going to follow through then you can bet on the fact that they will push even harder to see how far they can get before you decide enough is enough.

I know discipline is hard work, but it is so important to follow through and set those clear boundaries for your child.

Consistency Counts

This point was kind of touched on above. Consistency goes a long way in helping your child with both feeling secure and having a clear understanding of real consequences. It will also help your child to learn faster and make discipline less frequent in the long run.

Don't Expect Instant Results

This one can be difficult to swallow. You try disciplining for a certain behaviour a couple times and there's no positive result. Your child's behaviour remains the same and you throw your hands in the air and declare that disciplining doesn't work.

Well, just wait a minute because some of the best advice I got was from a fellow mama who cautioned me that just because you don't get instant results doesn't mean it isn't working. Children are not robots. There is no clear-cut formula to get them to behave in a certain way.

Remember how important I said consistency was? Well, there you go. You have to be consistent AND patient with a lot of areas as far as discipline goes.

To summarise. Discipline is difficult, for both parent and child.

However, in the words of my friend Val:

"Just because something is hard to do, doesn't mean it is the wrong thing to do."

Most of the important things in life are challenging. Those challenges are what create character and integrity. It is our job as parents to put aside our personal feelings of discomfort in order to do what is right and good for our children.

Christine is mother to two. She blogs over at You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.

This post was written when Caroline was 2.5 years old and I totally forgot to publish it. So, here it is!

"Will you hold me in the chair?"

"Can I have one more snuggle?"

"3 more kisses please."

"I have to go potty"

"I have to poop"

"Can we read one more book?"

Boy oh boy do toddlers know how to say just the right things to get us to doubt our instincts just enough to keep delaying bedtime. Right!? I know you've heard questions like the above over and over and over and over. Before you know it, it's after 8 or 9 pm before your toddler is actually laying down for their 7 o'clock bedtime.

At first it's sweet. Extra snuggles!? I'd love to! Hold you in the chair, why certainly (it's been ages since you let me hold you)!

And then there are the moments of doubt. My toddler just potty trained... maybe she does have to go potty... again. Maybe she thinks she has to poop...

Then you realize what's happening... you have a smart, very smart toddler on your hands. They know JUST what to say to get out of  bed. They know just what to do to pull at your heart strings to get you to say yes.

My husband and I did sleep training with our daughter when she was 4 months old. It was brutally hard, yet also one of the most wonderful things we've done. Sleep training has nothing, however, compared to a toddler at bedtime!

I've always been very big on using routines. If I had to pick one, I'd pick routines over schedules. Routines are super important in the lives of our babies and toddlers. Routine indicates to them what is about to happen- what is happening. They can anticipate and know what's about to be expected of them. Routines help prime situations, and help avoid power struggles.

The bedtime routine is one of the most important routines you'll build for you and your child (we started a bedtime routine from day 1 at home with our newborn). The routine has evolved over time and now looks slightly different for our toddler. And once you realize that your toddler is a master at manipulating those routines to their liking...there are ways to get back the bedtime routine you once had in place. 

Never fear, Toddlerwise is here! That's right, the Toddlerwise book is in the Babywise series, and it has some fabulous suggestions on what to incorporate into your routine, and how to get back on track if you lose your direction (as we did recently). Before we get into the Toddlerwise suggestions, let me outline our bedtime routine and rules in case you're interested.

Our Bedtime Routine

  • Clock turns blue 
  • Clean up time 
  • Floss and brush teeth, and brush hair 
  • Pick and read 2 books 
  • Snuggle time 
  • Go potty and get changed 
  • Lights out, sound on, curtains closed 
  • Kisses, hugs, and "boo"

Notice we DO NOT incorporate bath/shower time. We keep this separate from the bedtime routine in an effort to keep the routine short and simple, and to not have a reliance on bath to relax. We do not bathe her every day. 

Our Bedtime Rules

  • When the clock turns blue, bedtime routine starts. 
  • Once in bed- Sleep, read or talk quietly. And by quietly we mean "whisper". 
  • Stay in bed until the clock turns yellow (in the morning). 
  • If something's needed, call Mama or Daddy, nicely. Do not get out of bed. 
  • We will not respond to crying or screaming other than reminders to ask nicely.

Other Tips/Tricks We've Incorporated

  • Only 3 stuffed animals allowed in bed. 
  • Only 3 books allowed on bedside table. 
  • We read books and do snuggles on Mama and Daddy's bed so there is a defining moment when bedtime starts (when we enter Caroline's room). 
  • Potty is the last thing before entering Caroline's room. 
  • Consequences for not listening or lying are immediate, as are rewards. 
    • If she refuses to brush teeth, a story gets taken away. 
    • If she listens very well when getting ready, she gets an extra book.
    • If she lies about having to go potty after lights are out, an item gets taken away from her bed (stuffed animal or book). 
  • She's getting stickers for whispering and staying quiet after we leave the room (stickers are given the next morning).
We got off track recently. Off track meaning Caroline was taking full advantage of asking for "more, more, more". She was delaying bedtime, frustrating us, and things just weren't going as smoothly as we would have liked.

We were trusting her requests instead of our parental instincts,
and as a result she was taking advantage...more every day. So, we made a BIG change.

The big change that I made, I totally blamed on the baby in Mama's belly. I told Caroline that we needed to practice being extra quiet for when the baby arrives. We took storytime and moved it OUT of Caroline's room and into Mama and Daddy's room in our efforts to "stay quiet for the baby". 

We also started doing snuggles in Mama and Daddy's bed. We didn't want to remove the snuggles, because we enjoy them, but when we were doing them in Caroline's bed, there was no end, no defining moment of when it was officially time to be done and stop asking for more.

These big changes made a big change in the outcome. Caroline is now back to going to sleep quietly and efficiently when we tell her to do so. There is no more delaying bedtime, as everything is very clearly defined and consequences are put into place immediately.

Now if only I'd consulted with the Toddlerwise book, I'd have been doing this "big change" from the start. Here are 9 ideas that the Toddlerwise book recommends for establishing a bedtime routine:  (Toddlerwise, Ezzos, pg 55)

  1. Set a consistent bedtime

    We have all of our bedtimes listed for each specific age on the schedules page. At 2.5 years old, we have the ok to wake clock turn blue at 7 pm. This starts our bedtime routine above of clean up time. We let her finish what she was doing as long as it is a reasonable amount of time.    
  2. Avoid TV, roughhousing, and wrestling so your child has an easier time winding down.

    I think a good rule of thumb is that the last 30 minutes leading up to bedtime should be low key if at all possible. That works well for us.    
  3. Avoid conflict prior to bedtime. Do not ask if your child is ready to go to bed allowing them to say "no". Tell them it is time and assist them.

    We have never run into power struggles with it being time for bed, thanks to the ok to wake clock that we use. It is a clear indication of bedtime. Now, when it comes to brushing teeth, that can be a different story. We just enforce consequences immediately if she's refusing to do any part of the routine, and that often leads to privileges and/or items being taken away.   
  4. Keep your child's bedtime consistent (hire babysitters if you'll be out late).

    I think it is so important to be home for bedtime. We prioritize sleep around here. Now that being said, we make sure to enjoy the moments as well, and the occasional deviation from schedule is not the end of the world- as long as it's the exception.    
  5. Do not allow too many liquids after dinner for potty-trained children.

    Sips and tiny sips only after dinner. The very last thing we do in our routine is go potty. I'd caution to be careful with a newly potty trained or potty training toddler not to get frustrated if they ask to go potty. You want to reward for your child recognizing that they have to go and asking. This is a fine line, however, because they quickly learn that it gets them out of bed. Just be very in tune to your child, and if you feel like they are starting to take advantage, you are right... get firm and consistent with your expectations.   
  6. Consider doing your storytime out on the couch or somewhere not in the child's bed. This way, when storytime is over, there is a place to go (bed). This will help avoid the delaying bedtime tactics of asking for more. "If you keep storytime in the bedroom, you never finish because the child has no place else to go" (page 56)

    This was our BIG CHANGE recently, and it has made a HUGE difference. Caroline was asking for snuggles, and more snuggles, and to be held, and one more kiss, and boo, and snug as a bug, and, and, and. It was getting out of control. So, we relocated to Mama and Daddy's bed for storytime and snuggles. That way, we got to keep our special snuggle time, but there is an end. Caroline now knows that going into her room is the real deal and it is bedtime, not time to ask for more.    
  7. Allow your child to fall asleep on their own. Offer a stuffed animal or blanket and then leave the room.

    This one is huge. We did sleep training at 4 months old and will always be thankful that we did. Caroline has put herself to sleep ever since and does not rely on us to help her. This helps if and when she wakes in the middle of the night, in that she doesn't need our assistance to go back to sleep.    
  8. Make a rule that the child is not to get out of bed unless there is an emergency. Be clear on what an emergency is.

    As soon as we transitioned Caroline to a twin bed, we put this rule into place. The ok to wake clock helped tremendously on giving her a visual as to when it would be ok to get out of bed. We've taught her to call for us and she's taken to it very well. Many people have asked what we do for using the potty. We just have her call, and we take her. We don't keep a small potty in the room. She wouldn't be able to pull her underwear down and wipe all on her own anyway (this was written when she was 2.5 years old and not yet doing this), so we just take her to the bathroom once she calls and help her out.   
  9. If your bedtime routine gets rushed or happens late, consider playing soft music to help your child wind down.

    This is another change we've been considering making, and I believe the ok to wake clock we use has an easy way to do this right on the clock! 
These are 9 fabulous things to keep in mind whether you are just starting to use routines, or needing to revamp your current routine. The Babywise series has so much information beyond just establishing a schedule with your baby and doing eat, wake, sleep cycles. In the Toddlerwise book alone, there's great information on things like mealtime guidelines, potty training, giving instructions, handling conflict, and more!