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Dive Training Blogs

Diving and Children: Are they ready?

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In her first blog for Scubaverse, PADI MSDT and Dive School Operator Maryse Dare, shares some of her first-hand knowledge about teaching children to dive.

Incorporating a range of skills and experiences, Scuba Diving is an excellent activity for children. There are, however, different aspects to consider. In this blog we will be exploring some of the challenges to think through when a child starts on their diving journey.

The Assessment

Children develop at different rates. Although the youngest age for a Bubblemaker experience is 8, there are some children who may not be ready to start diving. At our dive school, we start children with a one to one session, and only book for one session, rather than encouraging parents to sign up for a full course. Children will be taken through a Bubblemaker and we can then start to assess how they respond to directions and how comfortable they are underwater. Only then can we start to make an honest evaluation of how long they will need to reach the Seal Team performance criteria.

What do you look for?

The children will range from being anxious to declaring they’re ready to dive the Titanic. Some will be happy to walk away from Mum and Dad, others may be a bit clingy. This is one sign to keep an eye on as there will have to be a separation when they are underwater. In one Bubblemaker a participant would not go underwater unless their Dad was with them. Although he still enjoyed the experience, we knew that he would need a lot more one to one time before he could dive and participate in the Seal Team programme independently.

Hints and Tips

Teaching children is a skill in itself and many Instructor courses will not prepare you for teaching with children specifically, but the skills are transferable. Think about the language that is used: short words, short sentences and key information only. I tend to talk a little bit and then give the bullet point information. For example, I’ll explain the BCD and finish with getting them to inflate as I say “in”, and deflate as I say “out”, using the hand signals at the same time. A nice gentle tone and lots of encouragement is always useful. Where children are excited, it keeps them calm; where children are a little nervous, then it can instill confidence.

Ratios are important. After assessing the children you will have an idea of how much support each diver will need. We have some children who have had to maintain a one to one for several months; we’ve had others who are ready to join the main group halfway through the first session.

Including the parents in their child’s progress is important. We have a range of children and it’s important that each diver is allowed to progress at their own rate. We focus on mastering the skills but as children’s attention span differs, we may progress to another skill once one has been completed a few times, but then return at later dates to ensure mastery. This has the added bonus of refreshing the skills for everyone.

Being honest at the start is also important. The parents who sign their child up for a Seal Team programme need to understand that (as with any course) you’re paying for tuition – not for a certification. We evolved the idea of a monthly club to get round this issue. Whilst parents are advised of average times to complete a course we also advise it can be longer, or indeed shorter. We have had children who have taken twelve sessions to complete the Seal Team before progressing to Master Seal Team; we have had others who have been able to complete their Aquamissions in three sessions and progress.

Integrating a bit of theory into each session is important too, although we’ll discuss this in a later blog. By learning slowly and gently, the children will acquire not only the knowledge required but also the understanding behind the theory. We cover only the basics in the first session but the debrief is just as important to reflect on what has been experienced in the sessions.

Introducing children to diving is a privilege and if done correctly, the children can continue their journey with you to develop their diving for many years ahead. Taking a bit of extra time at the start of their experience with diving, and ensuring it is tailored to the individual, will create great ambassadors for our community; naturally displaying good diving techniques and attitudes, as well as being  genuinely committed to protecting the environment in which we dive.


You can follow Maryse and her Dive Club / School at www.oceandiver.co.uk and www.facebook.com/OceanDiver.co.uk.

PADI MSDT Maryse runs Ocean Diver, a dive club and school on the borders of South London and Surrey. After many years of warm water diving, she is now a committed UK diver and particularly enjoys introducing people to the delights of the UK! Find out more at www.oceandiver.co.uk.

Dive Training Blogs

Tips for… Navigation

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Not the most fun of topics we guess, but pretty important for any diver! Now we are sure that there are some of you out there that steer away from the navigation side and are quite happy to follow along at the back. But if you are one of those divers and the reason is because you think that it is ridiculously hard.. we want to give you a few basic tips to help you!

Now using a compass may look scary but actually there is not much to it. First rule to remember… North is North under the water as well as on land… it doesn’t change! So, with that in mind we can use that pretty easily under the water to at least give us a point of reference whilst we are diving, even if you are not leading it. Knowing the direction that you are going and how deep you are is a good reference and will help you to become more confident. Get into the habit of taking a ‘bearing’ – fancy word for direction – on the surface before going under and check the bearing as you are diving.

Knowing which way is left and right – well, when going right, the numbers increase, and when going left, the numbers decrease… easy! Starting off with turning left and right 90 degrees will start to get you into the habit of making turns. Try not to use complicated numbers when you first start off, nobody likes maths at the best of times, let alone trying to add 273 to 32 under the water! Keep it basic.

Last but not least, navigating is not all about using a compass. If you are not a fan of it and want to keep your dives simple, there is nothing wrong with natural navigation. There are some amazing sites around our coastline that are perfect for this – harbour walls, piers, open sea coves, all allow the point of reference to be followed on one side of your body on the way out and the opposite on the way back. You can also check that you are going the right way on your return as the depth will start to decrease. This is a great way to start building your confidence with navigating if you are new to it, and what is even better, lots of marine life love to congress around these rocky areas!

Other aspects to consider to throw into your natural navigation bag are picking some land marks during your dives. If there is something notable that doesn’t move (fish are not highly recommended!) take a note of this and use it as a reference and pick another. On the return journey, you can use these ‘markers’ to find your way back to the starting point. A nice and simple way to find where you are going.

So, give it a go in a nice shallow bay area and see how you get on… practice makes perfect!


Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com

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Dive Training Blogs

Jump into… Behind the scenes of a dive centre

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Ah yes, the glamorous dive instructor. Just as you see in the adverts walking around in swimwear coming out of the sea… and as you guys see us, walking into the centre to meet you at 10am and having done two dives, finishing at 2pm and heading home…

Or not. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the job as a dive instructor, more than I could ever tell you. But, it does not come without the negative side as I am sure with any job. 

So first off, let’s get these 10am starts out of our heads. A lot of our dives do meet at 10am, to be honest, that is mainly to give you the time to get to us and avoid the traffic! We are there longggg before this, setting up the boat, making sure everything is working correctly, checking the equipment, paperwork and loading everything up to have a smooth, well planned day when you get here. Oh, and as for the 2pm finish. I wish! Over the summer months you will usually find us here until late at night, if we aren’t out doing late afternoon dives, we will be there cleaning the equipment from the day… filling tanks… and making sure everything is ready for the following day.

Next. What else do you not see us doing on the PADI adverts? Cleaning? The centres aren’t exactly small and take a lot of work for us all to maintain… you know what it is like when you are on holiday and get sand in your shoes and it takes ages to finally get rid of it all? Well times that by 100 and you have an idea! 

But it’s not just about the cleaning and preparation parts of the job. There is also a lot of training. From risk assessment training, to scenario days with the staff, we plan monthly training sessions to make sure everyone is up to date with policies and procedures, any training updates and run emergency scenarios to make sure everyone is safe and prepared. 

Last but not least, the actual courses and guiding that you see us doing. The fun part… and what we all live for. Taking you all into the water whether it is to take your first breaths or to learn how to become an instructor. This is what we do all of the rest of the work for. And, I most definitely would not change this for the world. 

So, all jobs have negatives, and in the grand scheme of things, I can cope with filling some cylinders late at night for a career of exploration and seeing the most amazing sites I could ever wish to see. What are the positives and negatives of your job? If they’re nothing like this… why not become a dive instructor?! 


Clare began Duttons Divers at just 19 years old and a short while later became one of the world’s youngest PADI Course Directors. Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com

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