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Virginia Hunt Newman International Award

2014 Torill Hindmarch, M.A.


Torill Hindmarch first started with baby swimming in 1975 in Bristol England. She believes her most important work was done in Norway in the early 1980’s when she pioneered aquatic activities for babies and toddlers in the Oslo region. In 1982 Torill developed a teaching program for her local branch of the Norwegian Lifesavings Society (NLS) that moved away from “training” babies.


Since 1988 she has worked to promote and change the methodology in Norway away from the dive orientated methods that prevailed at that time. Torill was strongly influenced by Daniel Zylbeberg and his work in Paris after the conference in 1988. This led her to rethink the practice in Norway which created quite a stir at the time. She saw that not all babies were happy in classes and the approach was still too forceful for the more sensitive families. Torill was putting tools into the hands of inexperienced parents with little background in aquatic education. This lack of experience and understanding meant that parents were exceeding the limits of safe activity which resulted in negative reactions from babies and children with lasting consequences. She had to change their approach even if it alienated her from many swimming instructors at the time.


Torrill Hindmarch has a Master’s Degree in Early Years Education and has managed two preschool and child care centers in Norway, promoting Forest School methodology. Her passion and knowledge of the advantages of movement in water was instrumental in developing programs in these centers for weekly sessions at the pool for the preschoolers, and in particular, those children that were developmentally challenged. This pedagogical approach was effective and enhanced speech and motor skills development as well as social skills. This background has been a great advantage in developing a child centered approach in baby swimming.


Early Childhood Education has been an important part of Torill’s working life; her experiences gave her an appreciation of the importance of strong relationships between teacher and pupil. By listening to the pupil, the teacher becomes a more effective teacher. The advances in research into child development and learning have been central to the development of her teaching philosophy in aquatics for young children in Norway. From Vygotsky through Meltzoff, Kuhl and Gopnik to the work of Trevarthen, she found inspiration and wonder at the power of social interaction and the child’s desire to communicate. The tiniest baby is ready from birth to communicate with its closest careers and is ready to learn if only we take time to make that connection. This interactive communication is an important part of the aquatic learning process. This and the sheer joy of being at one with the aquatic environment is the cornerstone of her pedagogical approach.


Torill now works for the Norwegian Life Saving Society as an education consultant at the head office in Oslo with responsibility for education in water safety and drowning prevention (Section for families and children), curriculum development, instructor qualifications and teacher support.


Torill has a background in competitive swimming and lifesaving, and parallel to her work with babies, she has been educating swimming and lifesaving instructors for the NLS and the NSF since the 80’s. She helped establish sport lifesaving in Norway, serving two terms as chair of the sports committee and was the national coach for life saving for four years. She has also gained inspiration from several teachers in the field of antenatal aquatics, following programs from France and Australia that focus on preparing the mother for birth, breathing and relaxation exercises and encouraging the connection between mother and child at this early stage. Torill believes all this has helped her develop a holistic approach to teaching swimming, survival and water safety to young children and their parents

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