Swimming isn't seen here as just some hobby children can or cannot choose. In the Netherlands it's just plain common sense to ensure that even the little ones are good swimmers; with all the water around, it's a safety issue! From a certain age on, children may have to show that they have the official ABC-swim diplomas if they want to participate in some camps or other activities.
Swimming lessons here don't really focus on style or speed, but on being truly ,waterproof' - at ease in the water in all sorts of circumstances. In the diploma lessons the children learn to jump, dive, duck-dive, scramble in and out and swim appreciable distances - some with clothes and shoes on. Beyond the ABC diplomas there are further swimming certificates which also include lifesaving (rescuing others) - and of course ,real' swimming and waterpolo clubs (which we're not focussing on here).
The swimming pools themselves offer lessons, and there are also several other organizations using the same pools for their own classes. It's worth looking at all the options as prices and lesson times vary, with classes after school on all days and at the weekend.
Opinions vary, and you will find you meet some people who swear by starting at four, while others wait until six. Likewise some children manage their full A-B-C before they're seven while others only plod through to B when they're eight. Choose your own approach, but bear a couple of things in mind:
- Most people agree that under a certain age children lack the concentration and coordination effectively to learn the movements for swimming - so is it really worth putting your just-four-year-old in classes, when she's exhausted from starting school and won't be learning much? Mightn't it be worth waiting a while?
- It's also true that children take time to develop strength and stamina - the C diploma requires over 300m of swimming, much of it fully dressed, and few five-year-olds have that kind of staying power even if they have acquired the technique.
- Swimming classes don't come cheap, which I find can be an argument against starting very young - do you really want to pay €8 per session for your four-year-old to spend a year splashing around and not actually learning anything?
- Final selfish parent point here: pool cafes are pretty dire places to have to spend your time if your child is not enjoying it and/or progressing!
What this boils down to is that children tend to start lessons somewhere between four and five (but some not till six) and that most are through at least A by seven. Many pools will not allow you to sign up your child (most have a waiting list of 1-3 months) before it is four.
Once a child has A, the B and C diplomas follow much more rapidly, as the child already has the basics and just builds up stamina. Don't feel pressured, don't start the child too young and it will all come right in the end.
What is it: Swimming lessons organized from "De Zijl" pool. There are max.10 children per group, and the class takes one hour. "De Zijl" offers however also more expensive "private" lessons with just 3 per group; they last 30 minutes.
For: Children from 4 ½ years on fort the regular lessons and from 5 for private lessons. You can register them from their third birthday on, and the responsible lady said that for popular days/hours that might also be necessary, as the waiting list is long. You can register them at the entrance/cash point or under 071-5220780).
When: Regular lessons on monday, tuesday, wednesday and thursday afternoon. "Private" lessons on tuesday, wednesday, friday afternoon and saturday morning.
Where: Paramaribosstraat 66
Cost: € 36 for 4 weeks regular lessons (60 min.); € 55,40 for 4 weeks private lessons (30 min.)
Website: Leszwemmen zwembed De Zijl
Review: My daughter goes to the "standard" swimming class. Best to sign up well in advance (you can do it when your child is 3) since there is a waiting list.
They start in the "instructie bad" which is divided into 3 sectors. Kids start in the shallower water "badje" and then move forward to the next sector after a "zwemtoets". Differently from what I have heard about other pools, kids are not moved to the next badje without having passed the "toets", which takes place every 4 months. You can follow the progresses of your child looking at the on-line zwemscore. Only the children who are ready get an invitation for the "toets". It might happen that a child needs to stay in one sector longer than the other. This is up to teacher to decide.
At the first swimming lesson, the kids get a foam puzzle in the shape of a dolphin and the first piece. For each milestone they get a new piece until they reach the Diploma C.
Parents/family/friends can watch from the window of the upstairs bar/restaurant. We are very happy with these swimming lessons. The only downside is that it tends to get very chaotic since there are many kids having lessons at the same time and there are not enough showers. Kids need to share a shower with 1-2 more kids. (Alessandra)
What is it: Swimming lessons organized from "Vijf Meibad" pool. There are usually 10-15 kids per group; the kids are supposed to come twice a week, on monday and thursday, for 30 minutes. There are also "private" lessons (once per week 30 minutes).
For: Children from 4 1/2 years on. For the private lessons they have to be 5. Register them at least half a year in advance (at the cash point or under 071 - 5312827), there might be a waiting list!
When: Regular lessons on monday and thursday, private lessons on wednesday and thursday
Where: Boshuizerlaan 1
Cost: € 36 Euro for 4 weeks of regular lessons (2x30 min.); € 55,40 for 4 weeks of private lessons (1x30 min.)
Website: Leszwemmen Vijf Meibad
What is it: Swimming lessons organized by "Poelmeer" pool. They offer regular groups, "private" lessons of 30 minutes for max. 4 kids - and since 2013 also "Turbo lessons", in which the children stay for two and a half hours (!) every week. Before you shudder in horror: not all of that is swimming; they stop half-way for a drink and a snack. Here there are max. 8 kids per group, and they guarantee that they get the A- diploma within 20 weeks.
For: Children from 4 years on; Turbolessons from 5 years on.
When: Regular classes for Diploma A on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Private lessons on Wednesday, Turbolessons on thursday.
Where: Lange Voort 273 (Oegstgeest!)
Cost: Regular lessons € 40,50 per 5 weeks; private lessons € 84 for 5 weeks; Turbolessons € 765 for the whole course of 20 weeks
Website: Zwemlessen Zwembad Poelmeer
Review: My daughter is swimming at Poelmeer and doing the regular lessons. She has just got her diploma A, and now she's going for diploma B. At the beginning she was afraid of the water, but the teachers have been great. The class is very well organized, and the teachers we have come across were very good at interacting with the kids. The pool also has never been too crowded during our classes.In fact, my daugther likes the swimming lessons very much! I'm very pleased as well because she has made a lot of progress in a very short time. (Antonia)
What is it: Like Poelmeer, they jolly up the lessons with a mascot - Jip, the hippo - handing out stickers, and so on. Children first join in to "Waterwennen" (getting used to water) and are later promoted to more difficult groups.
For: Children from 4 years on.
When: Both "Waterwennen" and the real swimming classes are hold from Monday through Saturday.
Where: Amaliaplein 40
Cost: € 30 per four weeks.
Website: Zwemlessen bij de Boes
What is it: Stizol is a foundation aiming to teach children how to swimm. They offer many lessons both especially in "5 meibad", but also in "De Zijl"; they also have lessons on saturday and sunday, which can be handy, and they cost less then the other swimming lessons.
For: Children from 4 years on. Register a few months ahead, but you will probably find a spot as there are many classes.
When: In "5 Meibad": Monday and Tuesday afternoon, saturday and sunday morning; private lessons on friday. In "De Zijl": WEdnesday afternoon, sunday morning.
5 Meibad, Boshuizerlaan 1
De Zijl, Paramaribosstraat 66
Cost: 22 Euro per month for the first child (45 min.); for every sibling it becomes less
Review: Our son is swimming with Stizol in "5 Meibad". We go on saturday, and the whole place is buzzing with kids. Under the showers it can get pretty crowded. But Stizol is well organized: Both pools are divided into different sections, so that kids of all levels can swim at the same time. That means that you can easily bring siblings together... and that your child is promoted to the next "badje" (pool) as soon as he/she is able to learn new things. I would guess that there are around 10 kids per level with two instructors. Some of the instructors are quite young (volonteers? I'm not sure), but lovely. Another plus is that during certain times on saturday one lane is reserved for parents, so you might swim as well while the kids are having their lesson. You cannot not leave the building while they are in the pool. But there's a coffee for parents where they can drink something and watch their kids through a big window.
What is it: Leiden's biggest pool "De Zijl" is also home to the swimming club "De Zijl Zwemsport" - and they, too, are offering ABC diploma lessons, but also swimming classes for kids that want to go on with three other diplomas ("brevet"). After that, they can join Waterpolo or the competition team. In order to participate in the classes, you become member of the swimming club, including "gezellige" things like Sinterklaas party, pancake eatings, camps, etc.
For: Children of 4 ½ years and older
When: ABC on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning. Brevet swimming for advanced kids on Thursday and saturday.
Cost: 27 Euro membership fee per year. The ABC classes cost additional 20 Euro per month (paying 11 months a year). Brevet Swimming once or even twice per week 18,50 Euro
Where: Paramaribosstraat 66
What is it: It's a private organization offering swimming lessons. They have small classes with max. 4 children per teacher, and they say about themselves that children are usually reaching their diplomas faster then in other type of classes. No guarantee about that, but we have been talking with several parents who have been very enthusiastic about it, especially for kids that get distracted in the classes with ten or more students.
For: children from 4 years. They advise, however to start around 5 years.
When: Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Leiden. They have other classes in Noordwijk and Voorhout.
Where: Rijnlands Revalitatie Centrum, Wassenaarseweg 501
Cost: € 150 for 10 weeks of swimming (30 minutes per lesson)
Review: If your child is not happy with "normal" Dutch swimming lessons, this might be ideal for you. Our child could not cope with big groups of children. Here you almost have your private teacher: 1 teacher for 3 ( sometimes 4) children. There are different locations, and we go to the revalidatie centrum Rijnlands Revalidatie Centrum in Leiden.
The advantage is here that your child can not stand in the pool. The teacher can (1.40 m deep) so s/he can walk behind your child and help with the leg movements. The result for our children is incredible! My daughter had her A and B certficate in 1 year! In the "normal" lesson we were after one year still in badje 0. We think it is a big advantage that they learn swimming from day one as they can't stand in the pool! Downside is a long waiting list... And people who are travelling a lot should consider that you pay for all the lessons there are.... Lessons are always continuing, even during holidays! (Elisa)