Ah, the children’s swim lesson. It’s an adorable rite of passage for babies and toddlers and little ones, and also the perfect cool-weather activity: The kids get some play time, some exercise, some new skills … and you get some adorable photo ops. Here, a helpful round-up of some of the city’s and suburb’s most popular spots for lessons. In many cases, new sessions of group lessons tend to start every 8 to 10 weeks or so; you can call or go online to see when the registration begins.
IN THE CITY
Christian Street Y, Graduate Hospital
The program: The Christian Street YMCA has a comprehensive swim program, and a large, clean and bright indoor pool. There are group lessons for babies and caretakers starting at 6 months, and group lessons (sans parents) for preschoolers ages 3 to 5, and it goes up from there with more serious instruction and participation on the swim team. (Private and semi-private lessons are also available.)
The sessions: The programs run about seven weeks; classes are 30 minutes long.
Signing up: To take swim lessons, you have to be at least a program member, and then you pay for the classes on top of that membership. There are several other levels of membership you can explore, as well, and more extensive membership plans mean discounts on classes, as well as the perks of fuller membership. You can check out the deal with memberships here.
Columbia Street Y, North Philly
The program: The YMCA on North Broad offers the same basic deal as the Christian Street Y, although the schedule and pricing differs a bit. Private lessons are available, too.
The sessions: Like the Christian Street outpost, this YMCA has loads of days/times for each class.
Signing up: Like the other Y, you have to have a membership, although here, it’s a teeny bit less expensive than at the Christian Street outpost. Again, cost of memberships vary; it’s worth stopping by or calling to figure out the most advantageous plan for your family.
Bruce Holly, Fitness Works, South Philly
The program: Bruce is a less high-profile but no less beloved independent swim teacher who has been teaching for years: One fan referred to him as the “swim whisperer.” He teaches all ages at the pool at South Philly’s Fitness Works gym, but seems to be exceptionally gifted with preschool aged kids. Says another devotee: “My daughter took lessons with him when she was four. He had her swimming underwater in just a few weeks! His approach is sort of no-nonsense, but he’s calm and gentle and his technique really worked for her. He really helps kids be comfortable in the water.”
The sessions: Lessons are private, and scheduled at your convenience. They run 30 to 45 minutes.
Signing up: You set lessons up with Bruce personally at 215-748-4240, or through Fitness Works. If you call the gym to book a lesson with him, be sure ask specifically for him.You needn’t be a member at Fitness Works to take a lesson; lessons prices include a $10 pool fee for Fitness Works.
Fitness Alive Swim Academy, Fitness Works, South Philly
The program: The popular fitness trainer Holly Waters has developed quite the following in the aquatics arena with her Fitness Alive swim program, working with everyone from babies to seniors to pregnant mamas. Waters and her team of instructors offer both private and small-group lessons for little ones, as well as the popular infant-to-three-year-old one-hour drop-in class called Baby Bubbles for parents and kids. (FYI: Waters posts all updates about that and about the F.A. schedule on the Fitness Alive Facebook page.) Fitness Alive also just added a $10 drop-in Friday night family swim — not lessons so much as a fun time to hang out in the pool with the crew — the first Friday of every month. Finally: Fitness Alive does run a lot of classes at Fitness Works, but teachers also travel to virtually any pool a client may have access to.
The sessions: There are a handful of different types of lessons available from Fitness Alive, and they’re offered in 30- or 60-minute timeframes. Check the site for details.
Signing up: The Baby Bubbles drop-in required no registration. For any other class, you can contact Fitness Alive to discuss your needs and sign up.
Kids on 12th, Midtown Village and South Philly
The program: Kids on 12th offers private lessons for all ages at a couple of places: The first is the 12th Street Gym in Midtown Village, which has a great basement level pool; the second is at the aforementioned Fitness Works. (Yes, everyone swims at Fitness Works!) There are also group sessions at the 12th Street Gym for beginners and advanced swimmers. (Note: The 12th Street Gym pool will be closed for repairs from November to January 2017, so Judy will do all lessons at Fitness Works during that time.)
The sessions: Group sessions at 12th Street are eight weeks long, and run about 45 minutes each. Private sessions run 45 minutes.
Signing up: You don’t have to be a member of the 12th Street Gym or Fitness Works to partake in lessons — there’s a $10 fee paid at the door for access to both spots. (You can see the Kids on 12th group and/or private swim lesson prices here.) You can call Fitness Works or 12th Street Gym to set up lessons, though instructor Judy Hershman (a genial, popular, longtime instructor in the city) says the easiest way to arrange group or private lessons is to contact her by email at email@example.com.
Sweat, Center City
The program: The Broad & Arch branch of this locally owned gym chain has a popular series of swim classes in their big, bright basement pool. There are Saturday morning Mommy/Daddy classes for babies six months and up, and regular lessons for older kids. Instructors spend time with each little charge, getting them comfortable with being in the water, kicking and blowing bubbles — plus they also lead group songs and games, and have lots of pool toys on hand. Private lessons are also available.
The sessions: In 2016, sessions have been about 10 weeks (and classes generally run 30 to 40 minutes); the final session of the year has already begun for kids, but you can still get in on the action, for a prorated price. (Call for details.) And more classes will be available in the new year.
Signing up: You don’t have to be a Sweat member to take a class, though members do get a reduction on classes.
The Salvation Army Kroc Center, Wissahickon Avenue, near Tioga
The program: This gorgeous fitness and community center offers weekly kids’ swimming lessons. Generally, class size is between four and six kids, and range from the parent/baby classes (6 months to 3 years) to preschool beginner classes (3 to 5 years) to preschool intermediate (also 3 to 5 years) to school age beginners (6 to 9 years), and goes on up though preteens, teens and adults. There’s also private lesson options available if the group lessons don’t appeal. Bonus: The water is the heated pool is bathwater warm, and these are known as some of the most affordable swim lessons in the area.
The session: Sessions run six weeks long; classes are 30 minutes.
Signing up: You needn’t be a member to get an in on swim lessons, though members pay a bit less than non-members. Warning: Classes fill up super fast once registration opens.
Swim America of Greater Philadelphia, East Falls
The program: This program — taught at William Penn Charter and run by a former national-level swimmer with loads of experience and credentials teaches small groups of kids (no more than 6) the basics of smart swimming techniques. Parents who’ve enrolled their kids rave over it. There are also private lessons.
The sessions: Class times and days vary, as do the types of classes (for babies and parents and beginner toddlers on up to older kids; etc.): sessions run between six and eight weeks, depending on the season, and classes run about 30 minutes.
Signing up: Open to anyone and everyone, and if you happen to miss out on the session you want, you can put your name on a waitlist for the next session, a service many places don’t offer.
Germantown Life Enrichment Center, Germantown
The program: The Germantown Life Enrichment Center (formerly the Germantown Y) is a great facility with a reputation for warm, effective instruction in the pool — and also affordable prices. They offer private, semi-private and group lessons; group lessons are available for babies, preschoolers and older kids.
The sessions: Group classes meet weekly for six weeks; semi-private lessons can be arranged in six-lesson packages, and private lessons can be arranged by lesson or in a 6-lesson pack.
Signing up: You needn’t be a member to take lessons, though members pay less for lessons than non-members.
IN THE ‘BURBS
Krozer Keystone Healthplex, Springfield
The program: This mega gym is connected to the Springfield Hospital — a fact that is rather reassuring to parents of first-time swimmers. The swim program here is robust — there are two heated indoor pools housed in a spacious room. There are an array of classes offered, from private and semi private lessons to parent-and-tot classes and an official swim team.
The sessions: The “Parent Tot” lessons are drop-in classes for kids aged six months to three years; you’ll be in the water while beginning skills are taught and a bond with the water is formed. (They also teach parents how to teach.) For older kids, private and semi-privates are also held. Semi-private lessons are great if you’ve got more than one kid. During the winter (October through February) there’s an in-house, non-competitive swim team that focuses on conditioning.
Signing up: Members and nonmembers are invited to participate. Members pay less, although it’s well-priced for everyone. The parent-tot classes (which again, are drop-in) are sold in a series of six and ongoing throughout the year.
Club La Masion, Wayne
The program: With an outdoor and heated indoor pool, swim lessons run all year at this 38,000-square foot Main Line gym. There are lessons for all ages and swim levels and each new family gets a free “swim assessment” to help the teachers determine which method is the best fit.
The sessions: Babies and parents (infants to age two) can get in the water during the “Aqua Tots” classes, which run in eight week sessions. From there, kids can take either private or semi-private lessons.
Signing up: You don’t have to be a member to get in the water here, but members do pay less. The more lessons you buy, the more you save. Fill out the free assessment form on the club’s website or email the director with any questions.
YMCAs in Rocky Run and Upper Main Line
The program: YMCAs are respected for their top-notch facilities and realistic prices.These two (in Media and Berwyn, respectively) get especially high marks from local parents for getting kids comfortable in the water. Kids aged three and up can work their way through the program, moving onto the next level and class once skills have been mastered. Babies and parents also have plenty of opportunities to spend time together. Semi and private lessons are also available.
The sessions: Classes run often, on many days of the week, and in six or so week sessions throughout the fall and winter.
Signing up: Members and non-members can get in the pool, and despite the fact that nonmember prices are almost double that of members, it’s still reasonable.
Infant Swimming Resource, various locations
The program: These self-rescue survival swim classes teach tiny ones skills designed to save their lives should they find themselves in a dangerous situation. ISR, which was founded in 1966, is a nationally run program with teachers in Philly burbs and South Jersey. Babies from 6 months to 1 year learn how to flip themselves from face-down to face-up in the pool (they even practice doing that in their shoes and diapers, to simulate real-life situations); older ones (1 to 6 years) learn a technique called float-to-swim that involves alternately floating on the back to get air and then flipping to swim toward safety, and then floating, then swimming, and so on. (You should really watch the videos on the site. It’s pretty amazing stuff.)
The sessions: The program involves a decent level of commitment; lessons are taught one-on-one in 10-minute increments for five days a week, for six weeks.
Signing up: Here is a list of local teachers/locations in PA and SoJer for ISR.
Goldfish Swim School, Fort Washington and Mount Laurel
The program: Stepping into Goldfish will make your tot giddy before they even dip a toe in the pool. Both area facilities are built for the little guppies, so think 90-degree waters, bright and happy art on the walls and smaller-sized furniture. Classes — which range from parent/infant classes, to toddler and kid sessions — are all 30 minutes in length and limited to just a few kids, so everyone gets the attention they need.
The sessions: The two locations of Goldfish operate a bit differently. Fort Washington has “perpetual” lessons, that you can basically do all year round — and work with your schedule — for a set fee. Mount Laurel has class schedules and membership options, plus semi-private and private lessons and drop-ins.
Signing up: Online registration is easy for both locations.
Making Waves Swim School, various locations
The program: This swim school operates out of hotel pools in Mount Laurel, Doylestown, Langhorne, Warrington and Travose and runs private lessons only for kids aged three and up. The program owners feel that the one-on-one attention is critical when it comes to swimming success.
The sessions: The classes are mostly 30 minutes in length and are usually for one or two kids. They offer sibling lessons, which is also helpful.
Signing up: Enrollment is open, so you can join anytime. The website makes registering easy and also lists open class sessions so you can see what time works best with your schedule. Sessions run for about three months and vary in cost, and are well-priced for the one-on-one experience.
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