What I pictured when I first considered swimming lessons for newborn Ada:
- a chaotic pool-full of screaming babies;
- parents awkwardly holding on to their semi-buoyant, slippery mini-me, trying to keep their chubby little faces afloat;
- a pod of babies bobbing up and down in swim rings as their parents make swimming gestures beside them (after all, how else are you meant to teach a floppy-headed baby with little or no control over their extremities to swim?!).
Given the above thoughts swimming (pah-ha) around my head, I was a tad dubious when I approached a Water Babies stand at the Bump to Five show in Derby, and spoke to one of the team members about potentially signing Ada up for a block of lessons. Being only five weeks old at the time, I was worried she’d be too young. Apparently not! The very nice lady was quick to inform me that one of the youngest babies they had taught was only a few days old (the only way I’d have been pool-safe two days post-partum would have been if I’d have taken a leaf out of the babies’ book and worn a swim nappy and a neoprene ‘happy nappy’, and duct-taped them to my skin – but let’s not go there).
At home, I did some research and soon convinced myself (and my husband) that it’d be worth signing up for the first term. If we didn’t like it, or Ada wasn’t benefiting from it, we just wouldn’t sign up for the next one. I called Water Babies, registered Ada, and paid the £150 fee (yup – that was my face too: £150! To take a baby swimming?! Am I mad?!) for a block of ten lessons: ‘Chapter One’ (Water Babies lasts for the first four years of your child’s life, and is divided into lots of different, skill-building chapters).
Once Ada was registered, I got to choose a convenient location and time for our lessons, and the lovely team sent us a handy pack with all the details about our first swimming chapter. We also got a few free gifts in the pack (and who doesn’t love a free gift?!). One part of the information pack is a sticker book which sees your child through their four years of lessons, and allows you to document their milestones. I also keep Ada’s swimming badges in there (sewing them onto a towel makes me want to clench everything, and – yes – she gets swimming badges: super cute!). Part of Chapter One involves a ‘Digi-Swim’ – a professional underwater photo shoot for your baby. The pictures look pretty awesome, but we opted out of this as we didn’t want to pay out for photos on top of the hefty lesson fees.
So, that was that. Eight-week old Ada started her swimming lessons.
Anyway, let’s fast-forward. We’re currently two chapters-deep into Ada’s swimming journey, and it’s worth every penny (sorry, bank balance). We both love our Friday lessons, and it’s one of the highlights of our week. Here’s why:
- Our instructor, Lisa, is the best – cool, calm, yet assertive. She knows all the babies’ names and recognises their little personalities;
- The lesson is half an hour long, which is perfect. Swimming is knackering when your a teeny, tiny human!
- Each lesson is well structured and baby-friendly with lots of splashing, songs and routines. Every lesson builds on the skills of previous lessons and repetition helps teach the babies vital skills;
- The babies learn from very early on how to swim underwater. With a simple command, Ada will close her eyes and hold her breath – pretty impressive, and it’s pretty awesome to know that this is one of the first things she’s ever learned. Even daddy was impressed when we showed him her skills in a public swimming pool;
- You are in the pool with your baby, experiencing all these new skills with them, which means that you are being taught to teach your baby to swim. In the holidays, Ada and I (and some of the other mummies from our group) went swimming at the local public pool, and continued to give our babies some mini-lessons: fab for our confidence as well as the babies’!
- The other mummies and daddies are fab! There’s no awkwardness – just friendly, happy parents enjoying the lesson and each others’ company (and sometimes a coffee and a cake afterwards);
- Ada has so much fun every lesson. I get smiles and giggles for the full half hour, and she’s always tired enough to have a long nap afterwards (bliss);
- If your baby isn’t happy during the lesson – that’s fine! The other parents totally get it, and the instructor will do anything they can to help you and your baby relax and enjoy the session;
- The pool is a deliciously warm hydro-pool to keep those tiny little babies nice and cosy during their lesson;
- The classes are a nice size – there are around eight babies in my group, meaning that Lisa, our instructor, can help each and every one of them progress;
- Ada is already confident in the water – she doesn’t care if water goes on her face, in her ears or in her eyes; she’ll splash and be splashed; she can go underwater and be ‘swam’ along underwater, and come up smiling;
- Already, Ada is learning vital water safety skills, like holding on to a rail if she falls in to the pool;
- Spectators are welcome, so you can bring friends or family to watch your baby swim.
The only negatives about Water Babies are more to do with the location than the swimming lessons: parking is tricky, it’s a busy location, so spaces are limited. Also, the changing rooms are very warm with little privacy (but because my group is so delightful, this really isn’t a problem, and we’ll happily help each other out on the mission to get both ourselves and the babies changed).
So, yes – it’s not cheap, BUT, Water Babies lessons are worth the money: I know that Ada will have learned to be confident and safe in water, as well as being able to swim and enjoy it, all before she starts school. Brilliant.
(P.S. My baby doesn’t permanently swim dressed as a pirate – these photos were taken on the ‘princess and pirate’ themed Splashathon day.)