Ah, the baby/toddler/little kid swim lesson: It’s both an adorable rite of passage and a pain to hunt for and research, if you don’t know where to start. But hey — look here, we started for you with this solid little snapshot of some of the city’s most popular spots for lessons, so you can get that kid in the water ASAP and get right to the bubble-blowing and dog-paddling.
Christian Street Y
What: The Christian Street YMCA in Graduate Hospital has a very 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 programs run about seven weeks, and each class is 30 minutes long. For the newbies, instructors work on getting the little kids comfortable in the water, building up to floating, breathing, kicking and proper strokes.
When: Sessions change with the seasons, but as you see in the fall program, there are many sessions for each age group throughout the week, including Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Cost and Membership: To take swim lessons, you have to be at least a program member, which is $100 a year — and then you pay for lessons on top of that. If you have a full monthly membership (and prices for memberships vary depending on the level you choose), then the session costs $50; if they don’t, you’ll pay that $100 yearly fee for program membership, and then $100 for the session. Full members also get to register before program members. (And registration for fall is coming up SOON — like, in days.)
Columbia Street Y
What: 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.
When: Here is the fall 2016 schedule of classes. Like the Christian Street outpost, this YMCA has loads of days/times for each class.
Cost and Membership: The price of a class here is a little lower than Christian Street: Non-members pay $90 (plus the yearly fee) and members pay $45. Again, cost of memberships vary; it’s worth stopping by or calling to figure out the most advantageous plan for your family.
What: Bruce is a less high-profile but no less beloved independent swim teacher who has been teaching for years, and who has been called the “swim whisperer” by at least a couple parents we know. 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 one pal: “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.”
When: Lessons are private, so you set them up with Bruce personally at 215-748-4240, or through Fitness Works, who will hook you up. If you call the gym to book a lesson with him, be sure ask specifically for him.
Cost and Membership: You needn’t be a member at Fitness Works to take a lesson. Bruce’s 30-45 minute lessons are $35 (that includes the $10 fee to Fitness Works).
Kids on 12th
What: Kids in 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. There are also group sessions at the 12th Street Gym; those are eight weeks long, and run about 45 minutes each.
When: Kids’ group lessons at the 12th Street Gym are Tuesdays at 4 p.m. and Saturdays at 1 p.m. — that’s for advanced swimmers. The beginner lessons are on Tuesdays at 4:45 p.m. and Saturdays at 1:45 p.m. Though instructor Judy Hershman says the best way to arrange group or private lessons is to contact her by email at email@example.com.
Cost and Membership: You don’t have to be a member of the 12th Street Gym or Fitness Works to partake in lessons — Kids on 12th group swim lessons are $96 for an eight week session, or $35 for a 45-minute private session, with a $10 fee paid at the door of both spots. (You can also call Fitness Works to set up lessons, too.)
Sweat, Center City
What: The Arch & Broad branch of this locally owned gym chain has a popular series of swim classes in their big, clean basement pool. There are Saturday morning Mommy/Daddy classes for babies and regular lessons for older kids. Instructors spend time with each baby, 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.
When: Mostly Saturday mornings, but especially if you have older ones, you’ll need to call for specific dates and times.
Cost and Membership: You don’t have to be a Sweat member to take a class. The eight-week sessions (classes are about 30-40 minutes) are $250 for members, and up to $300 for non-members.
What: The popular fitness trainer Holly Waters has developed quite the following in the aquatics arena, having worked with everyone from babies to seniors to pregnant mamas. (People LOVE her classes — when we wrote about Holly a while back, she blew up the site!) Waters really likes teaching little ones the basics in the pool, and offers both private and occasional group lessons for little ones. She teaches at Fitness Works in South Philly, or really any pool that you have access to.
When: On Sundays, Holly does an infant swim drop-in class at Fitness Works called Baby Bubbles — she posts all updates about that and about her schedule on her Fitness Alive Facebook page. You can also follow her on Instagram @fitnessalivephilly. (“Be on the lookout for a meet-and-greet at Cloth in South Philly where we’ll promote more sign-up session-type classes for the infants!” she says.) And you can also always contact Holly for all details about setting up sessions and/or lessons.
Cost and Membership: Contact Holly.
The Salvation Army Kroc Center
What: This gorgeous fitness and community center on Wissahickon Avenue offers weekly half-hour kids’ swimming lessons for 6-week stints. 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. We took lessons here — they were incredibly low-pressure, kid-friendly and fun. (And the water is sooo warm!)
When: Classes run on several days of the week, and vary by age group. Check the schedule for the current session.
Cost and Membership: $60 for members; $80 for non-members for the 6-week session. Classes fill up super fast. PS. I’ve written of my love before for the pool at the Kroc Center, which is all on its own worth the membership.
Swim America of Greater Philadelphia
What: This program–taught at William Penn Charter and run by a former national-level swimmer with loads of experience and credentials— runs in eight-week sessions (summer sessions are six weeks), teaching small groups of kids (no more than 6) in half-hour classes the basics of smart swimming techniques. Parents who’ve enrolled their kids rave over it.
When: Class times and days vary, as do the types of classes (for babies and parents and beginner toddlers on up to older kids; etc.). If you miss out on the next session, you can put your name on a wait list. There are also private lessons.
Cost and Membership: $115 to $125, depending on what class you’re looking at.
PS: They’re not in the city, but the lessons from the Infant Swimming Resource of Philadelphia are another pretty amazing option, if you can swing the time- and geographic commitment. Check it out!