Afghan Cookies and Swimming Lessons

For some reason I started swimming lessons for Archie and Arabella when they were just babies.  By the time they were five and six they had progressed from the baby pool at a private swim centre to a swim school held at the local council pool.

We loved the lessons at the baby pool and had no issues during our time there but the new place was very different.  It was big business, very impersonal and we felt like a number.  Living in a big city, that was all very understandable and I felt if the lessons were of a good standard it didn’t really matter that there were no personal touches.

Afghan Biscuits

Archie and Arabella were assessed and put into Seal and Tadpole levels.  The lessons were strictly half an hour.  Right on cue they had to jump into the cold water.  The classes were crowded with too many in each group and the allocated space, minimal.

Arabella adjusted quickly to her new lessons but Archie (being Archie), was a different story.

There were six to eight swimmers in his group in a space less than a lane-width wide and just half the length of a 25mtr pool.  The swimmers had to stand at one end of the pool and the teacher would set them a task then one by one she would send them off to demonstrate what she had just explained.  For the swimmers this meant a lot of waiting around for their turn to swim.

Walnut topped biscuits

Waiting around with nothing to do wasn’t easy for Archie so he would find things to do.  There would be milk crates at the ends of the lanes filled with flotation devices and pool toys and swimming aids and Archie was curious and while waiting for his turn he would jump up and rifle through the crates.  That wasn’t appreciated.  He would talk to the others in his group and start up a friendship but this would distract them from what they were supposed to be doing.  That wasn’t tolerated.  He also used to like holding his breath and sitting on the bottom of the pool and would do this to amuse himself and occasionally he would still be on the bottom of the pool when it would be his turn to swim.  That wasn’t appreciated.

The teacher had no patience and couldn’t understand why Archie wouldn’t stand still in the cold water and just wait his turn like everyone else and she used to become enraged, especially if she called his name and he was on the bottom of the pool unable to hear her.

When he finally needed to take a breath and come to the surface the teacher would be livid and yell at him to get out of the pool.  Archie would be confused because he just couldn’t work out what it was he had done wrong.  She would make him sit on a milk crate on the side of the pool and he’d be there for 10 minutes, dripping wet with cold air whipping around him causing him to visibly shiver, before he was allowed back in the pool.

Rows and rows of Afghans

This went on week after week until half a term had passed and I was not only feeling sorry for Archie who was humiliated every time he had to sit on a milk crate with everyone staring at him but because I was paying for lessons where my son didn’t swim but shivered on the side of the pool while sitting on a milk crate.

I went to see the swim school’s manager and acknowledged that Archie’s behaviour wasn’t the best but that perhaps if the lessons weren’t so crowded and perhaps if they did more swimming instead of standing around with nothing to do, then perhaps he wouldn’t have time to be bored and therefore wouldn’t do things he ought not to be doing.  Well the swim school manager looked at me like I was barking mad and became very defensive about the instructor’s teaching methods and said it was perfectly reasonable to give children who were not co-operating some time out of the pool on a milk crate.

I told her that as I was the person paying for the lessons I didn’t appreciate him spending one-third of each lesson on a milk crate and another third of the lesson standing around waiting for his turn to swim and that I thought ‘swimming’ meant actually ‘swimming’.

It all escalated from there with her criticising Archie and saying he was unmanageable and that I would have to accept the teaching methods given by the teachers and by the way, it’s now time to pay for next term so would I like to settle the account now.

Ahhh, let me think.  That would be, ‘No, no I do not want to settle the account.  We won’t be back next term’.

And I found a new swim centre where the owner of the pool realised Archie was not the type of child to be left idle and she had him moving and moving quickly through all of his lessons.  And he wasn’t a problem.  Not once.

I used to pack treats to take to swimming that Archie and Arabella could have as soon as they had finished their lessons.  These Afghan biscuits originate from New Zealand and are the perfect after-swimming treat.  No one knows how the biscuits came to be called Afghans but it is thought they resemble the Afghan male – the biscuit resembles the colour of their skin, the icing the colour of their hair and the walnut the colour of their hat.  Who knows if there’s any truth to that tale!

Try stopping at just one


Makes:  24

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  Next to nothing

  • 200g (7 oz) butter
  • 75g (3 oz) sugar
  • 175g (6 oz) flour
  • 25g (1 oz) cocoa
  • 50g (2 oz) cornflakes

Pre-heat oven to 180C (375F)

Soften butter, add sugar and beat to a cream; add flour, cocoa and lastly cornflakes.  Put spoonfuls on an oven tray lined with baking paper and bake for around 15 minutes.  When cold, ice with chocolate icing and put walnuts on top.


  • 200g dark cooking chocolate
  • 30g butter
  • 24 walnut halves

Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (don’t let the water touch the bowl).  Stir until melted then when cool and slightly thickened, spoon over biscuits and top with a walnut.

This recipe has been adapted from the Edmonds Cookery Book.

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  1. Interesting name for these treats! I HATED swim lessons as a kid – I remember standing around a whole lot too… maybe that’s why I’m not a great swimmer!

  2. Bam's Kitchen says:

    I do not think I could stop at just one… These sound like a great after swimming treat. I remember being on the swim team in my youth and was so hungry I almost ate the dashboard of the car on the way home.

  3. Luckily I always had fabulous swim instructors for my kids. Feel sorry for Archie, poor kid. Those biscuits look so good.

  4. Poor Archie! I hate it when teachers or anyone are so judgemental and DEFENSIVE they clearly did NOT pay enough attention to their students and like what you said…Archie was only swimming 1/3 of the time that’s not good enough!

    I’m totally loving all your sweet, easy and delicious recipes 🙂 and best of all i have ALL these ingredients at home! It’s the best feeling 😀 xox

  5. No, Charlie. I will not, shall not, can not stop at just one. No amount of willpower I muster would be strong enough for that. These babies look so delectable! I’d definitely love to make these for Christmas as treats to serve when I have people over. Not sure if it’s a “fitting” occasion for it but I’m sure others would enjoy. Thanks — am bookmarking this recipe! Any treats with cornflakes gets a huge tick in my books. And LOL I used to attend swimming lessons from a young age up till I was 12. Fun times!

  6. niasunset says:

    I agree with you about this swimming lesson… you did the right thing by changing the school. Your chocolate recipe is amazing… amazing. I want to try once… I hope I can make as you. Thank you dear Charlie, love, nia

  7. Poor Archie. I’m glad you found someplace that was more amenable to his personality type! These biscuits are so cute! Especially when you explained why they might be named that way.

  8. Minnesota Prairie Roots says:

    I had bad experiences with swimming lessons, too, like, “If you don’t jump in the deep end, I’ll push you in.” To this day I cannot swim. Some people are not meant to be teachers.

  9. We used to take our grandchildren for swim lessons and they all swam, back and forth til they got it right. I can’t imagine the standing for most of the lesson. I am sure that was part of the “bored” problem. Kids need to be busy, or they find something to keep them so. Loved the look of the cookies, or biscuits.

  10. oh, dear, how do you remember all these stories!!?! As soon as you mentioned tadpoles, it all came back to me! I think my kids fried my detailed memories of long ago! I enjoy reading your posts and recipes…you can bet it would be hard for me to eat just one of those!

  11. these treats look absolutely gorgeous and far tastier than the raw jelly cubes typically given after swimming lessons over here

  12. you have the most entertaining stories about your children than anybody I read out there. And these treats are just the thing Im hankering to bake, something sweet and oh simple! Thanks!

  13. yummychunklet says:

    I have fond memories of taking summer swimming lessons by the American Red Cross. They were so fun!

  14. Lovely story and lovely treats. You know what I would do (when I was a child)? I would pick all the walnuts from those treats: I didn’t eat anything sweet from when I was 3 years old… 🙂

  15. I had forgotten how much I love your stories and your recipes!!! I went to swimming lessons but I just hated to much so I ended up quitting!

  16. I had a similar experience with my son and swimming lessons! I don’t know how adults can teach children and know absolutely nothing about child development. You certainly did give your children some magnificent treats! These Afghans are just beautiful and make such a presence. I can’t wait to make them myself, Charlie.

  17. Oh I’m terrified about all those “teachers” that my son will have to face on his way to adulthood..
    I didnt know about this biscuits, I love them!

  18. Victoria at Flavors of the Sun says:

    Archie sounds like such a character–and I have a real soft spot for “characters.” They make life so much more interesting.
    Love the Afghans. Easy and beautiful as well.

  19. Too bad there wasn’t Yelp in those days, you could have placed a scathing review! I would be surprised if places like that would survive in today’s easily accessed reviewing platforms! That woman sounds like a chump!
    I’m relieved you explained how these cookies resembled Afghans because my imagination was going a bit crazy trying to figure it out (some ideas, not so nice!). This cookie looks like something I would rather enjoy.

  20. Mandy - The Complete Cook Book says:

    I will start swimming lessons just to have some of these delicious little treats.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  21. Jennifer Cullen says:

    Yum! I would swim if I knew I could have these after.

  22. Mom made a similar treat years ago and I’ve not seen nor thought of them in ages. Wow! What a flashback! I’m glad you found a school more suited to Archie’s needs. I bet the other went out of business long ago — or completely changed it’s methodology.

  23. Poor Archie having to go through such an experience! That is one swimschool not worth it!
    I bet these biscuits made home feel very much better 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  24. Poor Archie, I’m glad you’ve found a better more attentive swim school. Sometimes the people in charge get such a power trip! These treats look wonderful!

  25. Glamorous Glutton says:

    I can quite understand why Archie was bored. All sport especially when kids are learning should be fun. It’s possible to teach swimming and make it enjoyable. Glad it worked out in the end. Love the Afghans, definitely got to make those. GG

  26. These sounds just like Mr. N’s summer swim lessons. Fortunately as the summer went on there were fewer kids, so it meant more swim time. We’ll see how our fall lessons go at the new place. I’ve never heard of Afghans before – very cute!

  27. When I took Dario to the pool for lessons, he saw all the other children standing around shivering in the water and refused to get in and that was that. Off we went. Somehow, he is a perfectly capable swimmer now and he never had lessons. I guess he taught himself.
    I love the sound of Archie – he is my kind of child.
    There is a reason I homeschooled Dario and it was teachers and institutions like that swimming school.

  28. says:

    Poor Archie. I was yelling at my screen ….. no dont pay go somewhere else!. My Mum was a swimming teacher and she used to spend a lot of time working out what was best for the kids and how to streamline this for them

  29. Tina @ bitemeshowme says:

    Poor Archie – glad you didn’t contine him there and found a new place. I wouldn’t be very happy myself if I were paying for my kids to swim but weren’t spending much time swimming.

  30. Claire @ Claire K Creations says:

    I got lucky with swimming lessons when I was little. My friend’s mum was a teacher and used to teach us all in her backyard pool. It was like a pool party every week!

    Oh you know how I feel about afghans. Yum yum yum!

  31. Jackie Brown says:

    Love reading your blog so much, it really makes my day – and can so relate to the swimming lessons, Chris my son who has aspergers/tourettes/ocd etc had the same issues with him. Glad you found someone who understood 🙂

  32. Nic@diningwithastud says:

    Poor Archie 🙁 I bet he felt better after one of these biscuits though! They look great 😀

  33. I loved our swim class and took to water like a duck. (Get it?) My sister on the other hand sank….

  34. Charlie if you had offerd those cookies to the teacher and director I’m sure you could have avoided all that unpleasantness and Archie would have had private lessons for free. Really, you are your own worst enemy 🙂

  35. Oh heavens I hated swimming lessons. I almost stuck it out so that I could reach the “Dolphins”, but ultimately the 8am Sunday morning misery got the better of me.

  36. I got so traumatized with swimming lessons that until now I refuse to place my face in the water when swimming…I never forget when the instructor made me jump and water was going through my nose…awful experience!
    On the other hand your cookies look great…
    Hope you are having a wonderful week Charlie 🙂

  37. I’m glad you moved him. The thought of him being labeled like that for something that’s their own fault is wacky. Yes, some of the boring kids could stand there shivering and not be bothered but kids with active minds need stimulation.

    I would stand REALLY still if you’d give me one of those cookies.

  38. As a recipient of these goodies today, I can attest that there is NO just stopping at one, Charlie! Thank you for the treats. Sounds like Archie just needed a swimming teacher that could recognise the different beat of his drum AND appreciate it too.

  39. Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake says:

    Oh no! That must have been terrible and cold for Archie…I understand boys who can’t be left idle, my brother was like that as well and it’s quite normal for young boys. I’m glad you found a new school that was good!

    Those Afghans looks fantastic..and I really don’t think I could stop at just one. 😉

  40. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    I had to read this twice, not because it wasn’t interesting but because I completely adore Afghan biscuits and these were looking at me in a completely come hither come eat me sort of way! Poor Archie! I had hideous swimming lessons and almost drowned. Now I can barely swim 🙁

  41. Good for you to speak your mind. And these little afghans look irriestable I have never come across them before. A must try!

  42. Stupid swimming teacher! I’m glad you pulled them out, Charlie!

  43. Oh, poor Archie. What an awful place! The cold of swimming lessons (no pools were heated back then, at least where I was) meant there was a certain amount of trauma even if the swimming was good, so sitting on a milk crate would reduce things to a very unpleasant level indeed. I’m glad you just had the one term!

  44. Sometimes I dont understand teachers. Arent they suppose to be educated to know, how to handle any child? I mean come on! You paid for the lessons.

    Anyway… Love your choco Afghans, they looks just perfect as they are.

    Thanks for the share. 😉

  45. My Inner Chick says:

    The swimming teacher is an ASS…
    ….but the biscuits– I totally LOOOOVE.
    Where are you from? I don’t know those measurments!!! Xx

  46. justonecookbook says:

    OMG… I thought I was reading about my son Charlie. I moved him to a private lesson ($60/45 min lesson) so that he would be continuously swimming. That was very expensive and did that for a year last year… this year he could focus better and his group lesson teacher told me yesterday that he makes sure my son keeps swimming so he gets less trouble doing something he’s not supposed to do. I thought I was reading my own journal. What a delicious snack! 🙂

  47. ChristinaSweet Pea's Kitchen says:

    I hate to hear about the terrible experience with the swim teacher! 🙁 BTW, these Afghans look absolutely delicious! 🙂

  48. Frank @ Kraemers Culinary Blog says:

    I had the same experience with my son, but it was with baseball. We just have to stay involved with our kids and advocate for them. These chocolate covered goodies look delicious!

  49. Not being able to reach out and grab one of these biscuits is torture! You’re such a good parent, Charlie. Alas, it seems like there are more bad teachers out there than really good ones, but your kids are so lucky to have such an involved mom who cares so much.


  1. […] Charlie’s swim lesson adventures from her blog Hotly Spiced made me revisit an incident that happened when my younger son was about […]

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