Finding a pool where your baby can experience the joys of swimming for the first time will take a little research, we put the best swimming pools to the test.
Are you looking for high entertainment value where your little one will be surrounded by bright, stimulating, attractions? Or, do you prefer the idea of a more tranquil environment, where the two of you can quietly explore the water together?
If you have a toddler or pre-school age sibling in tow, a crèche might be useful to keep them amused while you supervise their younger brother or sister. And what about swimming lessons? From as young as three months old, provided your baby has completed their first series of inoculations, many teachers say that it’s not too soon to consider starting. At this age a baby has no fear as the diving reflex is still active, enabling them to stay underwater for extended periods of time. The focus is also likely to be on teaching the parent about being confident in helping their little one to enjoy the water.
Pools that offer babies and young children a separate swimming area or shallow paddling pool are worth investigating, as are separate swim sessions for young families. It’s likely to be easier to build up water confidence without older children splashing and jumping in and out.
Chlorine and ozone are most commonly used as water cleansers in pools. A baby’s delicate skin may react differently to an adult’s, so take advice from a healthcare professional if you have concerns. You might also consider checking out water temperatures because babies lose heat more quickly than adults so the pool temperature should not be too cold – the Amateur Swimming Association recommends 32˚C for babies, and avoid remaining in the water for too long.
Buoyancy aids provide water confidence and also offer an extra layer of warmth. Any flotation aid used should carry the number BS EN 13138:2003, but as RoSPA cautions, “You should not rely on flotation devices as a substitute for supervision. Children can remove jackets and armbands and slip into the water very quickly.” Pools are likely to insist on a swim nappy being worn and at bigger public pools, will often have these available to purchase.
In fact, most pools have a range of facilities under one roof that makes a swim a rewarding experience all round. So dip a toe in the water and enjoy yourselves at some of the region’s best.
Best Swimming Pools for Water Confidence
Dolphin Swim Centre, Mitcham
A specialist swimming centre dedicated to teaching. Lessons are offered Monday to Saturday for babies from three months. Parent and baby classes aim to provide fun and enjoyment of the water through games and play combined with simple instructions, enabling your baby to gain water confidence. The impressive claim is that infants will learn to jump in, get to safety and climb out again before the age of two. Lesson fees apply.
Call: 020 8640 4488
London Baby Swim, Osterley
With the water temperature at a constant 33˚C, this specialist pool is open seven days a week exclusively for baby swimming lessons from six weeks (or 10lbs), toddler swimming lessons and water confidence. Babies are introduced gently to swimming in a playful, fun and safe environment with a progression that will develop natural swimming skills. The maximum number of children per class is eight. The pool has low chlorine levels with a UV sanitation system. Changing facilities are designed specifically for babies. Lesson fees apply.
Call: 020 8400 9091
This specialised baby swim school with locations across London, Brighton and Surrey. The water for all classes is heated to a minimum of 34 degrees and filtered so that babies and parents can comfortably learn, play and exercise. Skills are developed over a seven-stage course, with each stage comprising of six 30-minute lessons, taught by experienced teachers.
The Baby Swimming Company
Purpose built baby pools located in Wimbledon and Wandsworth offers parents and their babies the ability to develop skills and confidence in the water. This unique company offers enjoyable classes to help babies make progress in the water with each participant receiving individual attention by experienced teachers.
Call: 0208 417 1231
Best Swimming Pools for Gentle Splashing
Hogarth Health Club, Chiswick
This oasis features a decent size 18m leisure pool where you can sign up for the swim school and private swimming lessons. The chlorine-free water will appeal to some. There’s a crèche for babies from three months up to eight years and plenty of pampering treatments available in the adjoining spa, including mother-to-be packages. Private membership fees apply.
Call: 020 3504 3620
Best Swimming Pools for the Whole Family
Brentford Fountain Leisure Centre
A large family-friendly multi-purpose leisure centre recently refurbished. Adult and baby, and adult and toddler swimming lessons are offered within the ASA Learn to Swim scheme. The main pool has a flume and wave machine. There’s a soft play area with mini tots play pit for under twos, and a crèche from six weeks to five years. Under threes go free. Family group concessions.
Call: 0845 456 6675
Richmond Pools on the Park
This leisure complex with three pools offers a range of Swim with Confidence classes in the teaching pool for 6-12 months to give babies experience of pools, 12-24 months builds on water confidence introducing songs and games, 2-3 year old lessons will enable children to move independently. With Richmond Deer Park right on the doorstep this pool is in a great location. Under fives go free. Pay-as-you-go and private membership options.
Call: 020 3772 2999
Hampton Pool has two open air swimming pools and offers both private and group lessons at all stages from mother and baby to adult masterclasses. With a specialised learner pool open between 10:00 and 12:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays exclusively for under 5s and parents to help babies and toddlers start swimming. Located on the outskirts of Bushy Park, the pools are open all year and offer discounted season tickets and ticket books for regular swimmers. A grass area makes it perfect for relaxing with the whole family.
Call: 020 8255 1116
Best Swimming Pools With Additional Facilities
One of the national chain of Virgin Active health clubs, offering great value pay and play facilities plus additional private membership options available. Two public pools include a separate children’s pool with lessons, parties and mini aqua aerobics. FUNdamentals physical fitness activities for 18 months to 6 years. Club V for 2-4 years provides additional entertainment for pre-school age with a crèche and café. Under 5s go free, juniors from £1.20 and adults from £3.20.
Call: 020 7471 0450
David Lloyd, Finchley
This club features a splash pool plus indoor and outdoor pool for older children. The Swim Allstars programme begins with a 12-week foundation course for parent and baby, and for parent and toddler, with progression within the ASA Learn to Swim scheme. Club Play for 3-4 years with an annual programme of family events. Includes a children’s area, crèche and nursery on site. Postnatal exercise classes for new mums. Private membership fees apply.
Call: 0345 129 6791
Best Swimming Pools for Private Lessons
Purple Dragon, Chelsea
This private members club re-invents the whole notion of encouraging children to learn, whilst being entertained. Babies may be too young to take full advantage of what’s on offer but tots and older siblings will be entranced. Beach hut style changing rooms sit alongside the bright swimming pool and wet play area. There are daily swimming lessons during term time, with intensive holiday courses and private lessons available. Private membership fees apply.
Call: 020 3906 8601
Chelsea Swim Spa
This pool offers parent and baby swimming classes in their private hydropool located in the heart of Chelsea. This award winning pool maintains the water temperature at 33°C or above making it ideal for baby and toddler swimming. Lessons are available every weekday during school term time and each group has 3-4 babies led by professional and energetic teachers. Priced at £240 for 10 baby lessons. Also available for private hire.
Call: 07988 431229
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