I must confess, straight off, that I have spent most of my adult life avoiding swimming pools. Some lucky folk seem as happy in the water as they are on land. Others, like me, start feeling slightly panicky at the sight of a large puddle. However, after the arrival of my son James, almost three years ago, I had to up my game. It’s natural that we don’t want our children to inherit our fears, and baby swimming lessons were high on my to-do list soon after James was born. But where to begin?
Fortunately, living in Perth means that we have great swimming facilities right on our doorstep, in the shape of Perth Leisure Pool. Located just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre, Perth Leisure Pool is much more than it says on the tin. It boasts a wide range of health and leisure amenities: a leisure pool, training pool with lane swimming, outdoor pool, flumes, gym, health suite, and a host of swimming classes. Our own local swimming champion Stephen Milne started out here! Classes are inexpensive, last thirty minutes, and until age three you can just drop in with no need to book.
I took James along for his first swim at just twelve weeks old. You can start your baby at a Live Active swimming class as soon as they’ve had their first set of immunisations; the youngest swimming class caters for babies aged between three and ten months. Classes are inexpensive, last thirty minutes, and until age three you can just drop in with no need to book.
Most recently, James has been attending a class for toddlers up to the age of three. Each class follows a familiar format: we are greeted by our swimming instructor who provides the children with a watering can or bucket, encouraging them to wade into the water and become accustomed to their surroundings. James starts to enjoy himself splashing around, and in the shallow end of the toddler pool even I feel pretty relaxed!
The children are asked to splash the surface with their hands, and then to sit on the side of the pool and kick their feet. With all this water flying about, no-one should still have dry hair at this point (sadly I find myself included in this!). As the kids’ confidence increases we move up to the deeper end of the pool, and our instructor provides small plastic ‘egg flips’ that turn over in the water. We are told how to hold our wee ones - under their armpits, with their bodies stretched out flat - and then we move them smoothly along, blowing bubbles to ‘flip’ the toys.
Next, the children all clamber out of the pool and each selects a coloured ball. I hold James on his back in the water, and we chase the ball as he kicks it away. In the shallow end, James and I pass the ball back and forth between us, and then the children are paired up to throw and catch among themselves. After this, we collect small floats and each child moves along holding their float out in front of them, kicking with their feet, and always supported in the water by their responsible adult. Two floats – one under each arm – turn James into an ‘aeroplane’ and he zooms about the pool, seeming to enjoy a sense of freedom.
The emphasis throughout these classes is on having fun in the water; learning essential swimming skills in a laid-back, unpressured way. The swimming instructors seek to instil the basics at this early stage: how to safely climb into and out of the pool, how to pay attention to simple instructions, and the correct streamlined posture to hold in the water.
Towards the end of the class, we all gather at the ‘deep’ end and it’s time to practice jumping in. Many of our classmates simply love this, and leap into the water repeatedly, whooping with joy. James totters on the edge of the pool, seizes my hand with a vice-like grip, and utters a decisive “Noooo!”. It’s ok, the children aren’t forced into anything they’re really unhappy about, and chances are James will manage to jump in next time. We finish up with a go on the baby slide, and a few minutes of free play.
A big bonus of the Live Active swimming classes is that, for no extra cost, you can just head straight into the leisure pool afterwards. We always go for some extra time splashing about, and James loves the kids’ play area (recently refurbished!) complete with animal figures and slides.
Perth Leisure Pool has family-size changing rooms with change tables and high chairs, to help take the stress out of your swim. There is even a crèche which is useful if you are juggling different classes for siblings. The adult and child swimming classes are relaxed and sociable (try Café Aqua for a coffee with your new pals), and a perfect jumping-off point for the preschool group swimming lessons.
Find out more about Perth Leisure Pool and all the classes on offer.
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