I used to really enjoy going to the swimming pool when I was a kid. I remember that my dad, brother and I used to go to a local pool on a Sunday to burn off a bit of steam, whilst my mum cracked on with cooking Sunday dinner.
I was never a great swimmer or particularly confident in the water – I couldn’t swim particularly far and didn’t like going underwater. But, it was always fun doing something with just the blokes in the family, even if this was pretend fighting in the water, seeing how long we could hold our breath underwater or going down the slides.
Since becoming a dad, I’ve been keen to get Baby L used to the water from an early age so that she can not only have fun in the pool, but also have more confidence than I did. The missus and I had taken the sprog swimming a few times at our local pool, but truth be told, we didn’t really know what we were doing or how best to introduce her to the water. Still, we gave it a go and the little one didn’t seem to mind too much in between the screams and cries.
We were therefore chuffed when baby swimming experts Water Babies got in touch to see whether we wanted to review their baby swimming lessons. We’d heard great things about their classes and the quality of instruction on offer, so were happy to be booked onto Chapter 1 of the Water Babies journey at a nearby Holiday Inn at Hemel Hempstead. Below you’ll find my review of Baby L’s swimming lessons with Water Babies:
At Water Babies your little one will be able to journey seamlessly from our baby programme, which they can join from birth. Little ones have a natural affinity with water, and they possess amazing natural reflexes in water; we work with these to develop your child’s confidence and skills in the pool.
You can begin your Water Babies journey at the start of any term — and the earlier, the better! In their first year, a baby’s brain grows more rapidly than at any other time, so it makes sense to start early and maximise their exposure to learning experiences in a variety of environments.
Our Water Babies progress seamlessly through our programme, having great fun while all the time building their confidence and independence in the water. Most of our toddlers can swim short distances by around the age of 2, and have mastered vital skills including how to turn around and hold on and, where possible, how to clamber out. All of this is a great source of pride for you and them, and offers fantastic safety skills should they ever fall into water.
We joined the Water Babies lessons half way through Chapter 1, then continued until the end of Chapter 2. In total, we have done fifteen of the classes and are pretty excited about Chapter 3 starting in September. We’ve seen a massive development in Baby L since we started the classes – she’s gone from being a really clingy baby who would often cry when in the water, to one that now loves being in the pool and isn’t phased by anything.
One of the best things we’ve found about Water Babies is that everything is progressive, by which I mean that each lesson builds on previous ones. What you do in your first class is used as a building block for your second, third, fourth, twentieth class etc, which means that your sprog is continually developing and never standing still (technically they can’t stand on the water, but you get what I mean).
Each lesson consists of a similar structure, but introduces new concepts. This means both baby and parent feel comfortable with what they’re doing, but also allows for the development that I mentioned. Each lesson lasts for half an hour and usually has no more than ten parents with their babies in the pool – as everyone is signed up to the same classes, you soon get to know other parents too.
Obviously, before starting the lessons, you need to have the right equipment. To avoid any floaters in the pool, you need to have an approved double nappy system – we’ve been using the Konfidence AquaNappy and NeoNappy to ensure no leaks, as well as a Konfidence Babywarma Wetsuit to make sure she’s nice and toasty. As a parent, you also need to have swimming shorts / costume yourself – I’ve learnt the hard way that skinny dipping in a public swimming pool is a big no-no.
Let me describe a typical lesson. You start with a couple of minutes warm up, which involves singing and moving in a group circle, in order to get your baby (and you!) used to being in the water. After your first lesson, the song “splish, splash, splish, splash, around in a circle and up in the air” will forever be engrained in your head. Be warned!
At this point, you also put water onto your sprog’s head. This is done by using the phrase “Baby L. Ready. Go!”, which is also used whenever your little one goes underwater. I guess this is a kind of Pavlov’s dogs technique to prepare them for submersion through conditioning. Some proper Derren Brown stuff!
After this warm up, the lesson starts. What you do is obviously dependant on how far you are through the Chapter, but typically it involves three separate underwater swims, pool toys, floatation devices, stuff at the side of the pool and plenty of singing.
The underwater swims are probably the coolest, but scariest, part of the lessons. It didn’t really bother me submerging Baby L, but some of the other parents were a bit wary. There’s really no need to worry though as a baby instinctively holds its breath to avoid inhaling water – this is a reflex learnt when living in fluid in the womb.
Like everything else in the lessons, the underwater swims build on previous ones. So, you start by supporting your little one when they are underwater, before letting go of them in later lessons. You also start to do different swims too – so things like going underwater with your baby, letting them swim to you whilst letting go, and most impressively, getting them to swim through a hoop. I shit you not!
There’s plenty of activities to do when not putting your baby under the water. This has included chasing a rubber duck to teach your sprog how to reach out in front of them, laying them on your stomach as you do backstroke using a pool noodle, singing “twinkle, twinkle” whilst looking into a mirror, singing “Humpty Dumpty” as your baby jumps in from the pool edge, showing your sprog how to blow bubbles using a floating spaceship and getting them to surf using a swim float. Each activity incorporates a song and is designed to be fun, however also has a logical skill / development point behind it.
One of the craziest things (in a good way) is the “hold on” activity in which you teach the little one to hold on to the side of the pool. The point being that if the sprog falls in the water, they know what to do, i.e. make their way to the edge of the pool and hold on. When we first started this, obviously Baby L didn’t know what was happening and didn’t like her hands being held down on the pool edge.
However, fast forward a few lessons, and she’s now at the point where she actively reaches out for the edge of the pool and grasps it when you say “hold on”. She can even stay holding onto the side of the pool when you let her go completely, which is incredible to see for a baby less than a year old. Again, this just goes to show how quickly a baby can learn a new skill and how well thought out the Chapters are to reinforce skills learnt in previous lessons.
One of the bonus things included as part of the Water Babies classes is the underwater photoshoot. These are held at the end of Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 to capture your little one when submerged in the pool. I’ve recently reviewed Baby L’s experience, which you can read about in this separate post about the underwater photoshoot. Needless to say, it was a great experience and we loved the photos of the sprog in her watery surroundings.
The cost of Water Babies can vary depending on where you are in the country, however for our local classes in Hemel Hempstead, the cost is £152. This is for an entire term, which consists of 10 lessons all of which are 30 minutes in duration. If you start during Chapter 1 or Chapter 2, this price also includes the underwater photoshoot.
We’d considered paying for Water Babies prior to being offered the opportunity to review the classes for free, and truth be told, we decided against it due to the cost. For us, the best part of £150 for 10 classes felt quite pricey. This basically equated to £15 per lesson when other non-swimming baby classes cost £5. At the time, we chose to spend our money on a range of different baby classes rather than just putting it all into swimming classes.
In hindsight though, and having done the classes (and signed up for Chapter 3 with our own cash this time!), I think Water Babies is well worth the money. Yes, it is more expensive than other swimming classes – Water Babies even acknowledge this point in their literature – but I’ve seen a huge improvement in the little one’s confidence, attitude and ability when it comes to water each and every week.
We have loved our Water Babies classes. It says it all that a tight wad like me has dipped into his own pocket to enrol on the next set of lessons (Chapter 3). That is surely the highest of endorsements! Despite the lessons being on the expensive side, I think they are massively worth it and would recommend them to everyone and anyone who cares to listen.
Not only have the classes been great for bonding with the sprog and building trust between us, but they are like nothing else we’ve done. There’s only so many times you can shake a rattle or watch a puppet show at a baby class before it gets a little tedious for both parent and baby.
This isn’t the case with Water Babies though – each week you are doing something different and can see your sprog consistently developing during each lesson, which is truly incredible. I never thought a baby less than a year old would be holding on to the edge of the pool, reaching out for objects in front of her in the water or swimming underwater through hoops. However, Baby L has done all of this and more.
We attempted to take Baby L swimming ourselves at our local pool, however we lacked the confidence and knowledge to know how best to introduce her to water. Doing these lessons has meant that we’ve learnt from a great instructor and now have the skills to take her swimming ourselves, safe in the knowledge that we can make it fun and danger-free.
I really can’t recommend the baby swimming lessons highly enough and we are looking forward to continuing our Water Babies journey in September.
The DADventurer Star Rating
5 out of 5 stars
Edit: We have continued Water Babies swimming lessons. Here’s a more recent review of Chapter 4.
Like this? Then you may also like other swimming-related content such as overcoming water wobbles, 4 mistakes to avoid when swimming with a toddler, baby swimming versus toddler swimming and 4 things I’ve learnt from baby swimming lessons.
N.B. This review was written by me (Dave) and represents my honest opinion. The swimming classes were provided to us for free by Water Babies in exchange for writing an honest review of our experiences.