Kids Swimming Lessons

This post is inspired by a question from a lovely reader. You can see some other answers to questions from readers here.

You talk about taking the kids to swimming lessons and was wondering (a) how do you take five kids swimming?? and (b) what tips do you have to make it easier?

This year it is only four kids as my eldest is in secondary school and has a different timetable and doesn’t join us at swimming any more. But before I answer the question, I will give you a bit of background on us and swimming lessons. Firstly, don’t think you HAVE to do them. Don’t read this post and think “I must enrol my kids in swimming lessons” because that certainly isn’t the point of this post.

Up until our fifth baby was born, the kids mainly did swimming lessons in the school holidays. They would do a week intensive where we would go swimming every day. That was working well for us. At the end of 2008, as is our habit, we re-evaulated what activities the kids where doing. School age kids could do up to two activities a week. The older boys were doing jiu jitsu and cricket. At our review they informed me that in Term 1 2009, they wanted to do swimming lessons. My thoughts on this – “Great!!! I will have a new born baby and four other kids to take swimming each week – oh joy!”

We have now been doing weekly swimming lessons every week for the school age kids, the preschooler paddles about and since he was about a year old, the toddler hops in as well. While it is a bit of hard work, over the last couple of years, I have worked out some ways to make it easier for all of us.

I have had success with two different strategies when it comes to swimmng lessons for the kids:

Go later

When we started swim lessons in 2009, we were late to the party in booking in our times. I wanted to have the three school kids in the pool, having their lessons at the same time. The only time available was 5.30pm on a Monday evening. To make this work we used to run swim nights like this:

  • 3.30pm – kid’s home from school and have a piece of fruit
  • 3.45pm – do reading and homework, get changed into swim gear
  • 4.45pm – eat dinner
  • 5.30pm – swimming lessons
  • 6.15pm – healthy snack in the car on the way home

The pool isn’t so crowded either at this time, so it is easier to manage the little ones in the water. Downside is, is that it is very cold and dark in winter. I didn’t change the kids at the pool. I bought them all warm dressing gowns and they just pop those on and we go straight home to shower.

Go early

This term, one of the kids needed to go up a level, which meant to have them all together we needed to swap our times. The only time available was 4pm on a Thursday afternoon. I was very hesitant about how well this would work, because it could be a rush to get us there on time and being towards the end of the week, the kids are more tired.

So far, I am liking this set up a lot:

  • 3.15pm – My turn to do school pick up, drop some other lovely kids home and head straight to the pool. I have an afternoon snack for the kids to eat on the way.
  • 3.45pm – time for a short play before the lessons. Pool is completely deserted at this time!
  • 4.00pm – lessons
  • 4.45pm – home, generally to a ready meal in the slow cooker

Again the pool isn’t too busy at this time. The busy time at our pool seems to be 4.30 – 5.30pm. I am absolutely preferring to have swimming later in the week. It makes the start of the week seem calmer with out it cluttering it up. Downside is the timing is pretty tight. I need to have lots organised before I do school pick up and I need to get the kids to get their swimming gear ready in the morning.

So do you do swimming lessons with your kids and if you do, what do you do to make it easier?

And if you are worried about the “Wait a half hour after eating before you can safely go swimming” rule – it is a myth.


  1. says

    We are a family that swims every Saturday morning. Like you, the timing is crucial – and I am always early to the party to try and get them all booked in at the same time! (And fingers crossed that when one moves up a level, they all do!)

    We opted for Saturday mornings as it means we have two parents to share the load, and because it’s actually a great way to get us all up and out of the house early – it feels like we start the weekend on a positive note, and have more Saturday to enjoy when swimming is swum and done…

  2. Deb says

    I only have 2 kids but they have done swimming most of the time since they were babies (we had 2 big breaks at different times). Every time one of them goes up a level we have to shuffle our routine (this just happened yesterday LOL).

    I pick them up at school, they have a snack in the car, they change there and have some free swim time (new location we started this year has a free play pool, the one we did for the 3 years prior did not even though same chain of schools), then lesson, then head home at 5ish. As of yesterday I started a new weekly solution to the dinner issue and I pre-order fish/calamari etc and chips and swing by our local place to pick it up on the way home. we walk in to the house and the kids eat it straight away as they are starving. easier for me now and since i only have 2 kids it is not too expensive (hubby and I eat around 8/8:30 after kids in bed). We will be doing this from now on!

    We have 2 nights a week that finish around 5pm so I am cutting myself a break for the 2nd one.

  3. says

    We’ve been doing swimming lessons for 4 years now, once a week with my girls.

    Things I’ve found

    – swimming pool toilets are funky, if you have kids with sensory issues try to get them to use the toilet before you go.
    – always have a drink on hand for after swimming.
    – Friday night is always quiet at our pool and my girls can have a sleep in Saturday morning.
    – We have done 4pm, 4.30pm, 5pm, 5.30pm and 6pm lessons. By far I like the 6pm Friday timeslot best, it is the quietest, we often get one on one lessons because other families cancel.
    – Don’t use the showers at the swimming pool if you have kids with sensory issues, if they scream the shower down at home, what makes you think it will be any different at the pool.? — this to myself because I tried to give Heidi a shower at the pool and had several concerned folk come into the change rooms to see if an ambulance needed to be called, the screams were so blood curdling.

    We also do before school swimming a couple of days a week – my girls definitly need second breakfast after swimming in the morning, plus a bigger protein filled lunch.

    From my own experience doing aqua aerobics during the day – it is almost impossible to get fully warm after being in the pool during winter. A hot shower as soon as I get home is a must. Also warm clothing, hot drinks and I have a big bowl of porridge with protein powder to boost my bodies heat stores. I have lots more body fat than my girls, no wonder they were always so shivery after swimming.

  4. Nicolle says

    I have 3 kiddies 8, 2 & 8mths old – Swimming is fun I used to be able to have my 2 eldest at the same pool and same time with their swimming lessons..but along came number 3 which put a spanner in the the eldest has swimming at 5.00 on a friday and the 2 yr old has swimming on a Saturday mornning at 930 at a diferent centre so my eldest can sit with the baby while im in the water with the 2nd (at the 1st centre children cant be unsupervised so my 8yr old cant sit with the baby while im in the water with the 2 yr old – even tho they would be 1.5-2 meters away) – I havent started lessons yet with the youngest he may have to wait a while and just hop in the water on a friday night once in a while.

  5. says

    We are like Lucy and do swimming on a Saturday morning for the oldest one only. We did it on a Saturday so it could be a daddy and son activity and it has worked really well. The toddler and I will start swimming lessons soon during the day while the oldest is at school.

  6. says

    Oh, I so needed to read this now. We have been slightly remiss with swimming lessons in our house. Let’s say we’ve approached it with a rather slap dash approach; on again, off again.

    We need to really commit to it because it’s so important for the kids. Mine don’t love swimming lessons so I’m always looking for ways to make it more fun for them. We did the ‘late shift lesson’ last time and it worked well. Healthy snacks in the car on the dark, cold ride home were rather fun.

    Thanks for a great post. I’ll be reading the comments with interest.

  7. Ann-Marie says

    Swimming is a big thing in our family. My husband comes from a big Surf Life Saving family, and he was quite adept at the swimming himself (regionals I think, but he admits he was too lazy to take it further).

    Both of our sons (5yo and 2yo) have taken to swimming to dolphins. So of course, swimming lessons are pretty much a definite. We are Sat am, with 5yo in a 4:1 class, and 2yo in a class with Dad. At the moment, I join in freeplay afterwards.

    Fortunately, we have a swim school that works very hard at having siblings at same or very close to similar times. So far, our worst has been 30mins apart – definitely not a problem. As we have more kids, it could become more difficult, but so far so good. For us, the important factors are teachers who respond well to kids, and administrators who recognise the importance of family balance.


  8. says

    I am a big believer in swimming classes because it is such a safety issue – and swimming is so bound up in our Aussie culture and personality and in my personal background too. I take both my kids together now weekly. I used to take them on different days as I thought that made life easier what with a 5yo and a baby. But actually I was making work for myself. So now we go at the same time and I’m actually finding this miles better. As I don’t have to drag the baby out two days running interrupting sleep schedules etc. Am still very impressed at your organisational skills with 5 tho!

  9. says

    Nice to hear how others manage this. We do 4.00pm Wednesdays for 2 pinks while the other is cared for my Dad. (We own our own business so I’m able to book into the diary.) Even with a 4pm lesson its cold up here (ballarat). Like the idea of not dressing the girls at the pool – but worry it’s just too cold.

  10. Andy says

    I have 4 children under 5 (youngest is 7 weeks old). We go to a swim centre that has an enclosed viewing area so is great for being able to sit and watch with an active toddler and newborn while big brother and sister are in the pool. Change rooms are spacious (and clean) so plenty of room for the pram to confine children while getting others changed. We do morning (10am) classes so baby is usually asleep in the capsule, toddler entertains himself with toys at the centre, and his snackbox and I pack a snackbox for the bigger kids to have in the car on the way home. It is busy (as are are most things with 4 young children) but it works well.

  11. says

    Sounds like a great swim centre – I think that really makes all the difference. Thanks everyone for sharing your tips! It definitely shows me that swimming lessons do require a little planning!

  12. traceyb65 says

    we do the mid-afternoon claases — if i time it right, i can arrive just after the 3.30 mini squad finishes at 4.15 and get a park right at the door. and the best thing i ever did was buy a swim bag for each that i hang up on hooks behind the laundry door. as each item comes out of the wash and off the drying rack, it goes straight back in the bag. no running around last minute for goggles/flippers/towels/water bottles/record books etc.

    i also make sure there is a spare set of swimmers/undies for emergencies!

  13. says

    We are another Saturday morning clan! All three of mine (aged almost 8, 6, and 27 months) swim at 9:30am on Saturdays. My partner and I alternate going in the water with the toddler in her waterbabies class, but generally we all go, so the other parent can watch / talk to teachers, help with showering & dressing etc. The beauty of them all being in at the same time is that one parent can take them all if circumstances dictate, although TBH that is more likely to be me than partner – he is cool with taking any given two by himself, but all three is a bit daunting for him.

    Saturdays works for us although the pool is very busy at that time (we just suck it up with waiting for family change rooms etc) because it means that we can make it a family occasion. This means that in winter especially, it’s less likely to get missed altogether because one person is sick, or the on-duty weekday parent (me) cannot face the freezing dash to the showers in the dark ;-)

    We have full-ish Saturdays (swimming at 9:30, then the older two & my partner all have music lessons at 1:30) but trade off for only one weeknight out – gymnastics on Wednesday. It’s a trade I’m more than willing to make TBH, as I really cherish and the kids really need post-school wind-down time.

    My tips are:
    – If you can, try to get all the swimming-lesson kids booked in at parallel times. Makes logistics and life much easier.
    – Book early!
    – In warmer weather, ditch the idea of showering at the pool altogether. If it’s not going to chill you beyond redemption to do it, wrap everyone in towels and scoot home for a comfortable and relaxed wash instead!

  14. Tamara says

    My experiment to deal with this weeks arctic blast was to put a wheat bag fresh from the microwave in my toddlers swimming bag. He loved his warm clothes at the end of his lesson. He is so skinny he often has blue lips by the end of his class even though the pool is warm and he doesn’t stop moving for one second – I am alway looking for ways to warm him up and this is one I’ll use again.

  15. says

    I do the ‘go early’ timetable. It’s great. I follow it exactly the same way, snacks straight after school on the way to the pool, a bit of a play, lesson at 4 and home for usual dinner time. It is much quieter at 4pm. I’m definitely keeping this timetable for a while.

  16. Michael says

    We do 9:30am on a Sunday — up early & out of the house, leaving the rest of the day clear. It’s a bit of a rush at times with a 5 1/2, 3 1/2, and a 1 year old to chivvy and chase out the door :-). After the lesson, we stay and play in the different pools — warm pool, big pool, slide pool.

    A really crucial element with little ones is to have food available the *instant* we are out of the water. Blood sugar levels are low and instant misery threatens. We give a container of sultanas and a small muesli bar to each child, then stuff them with fruit and sandwiches; that keeps them from melting down.

  17. Angie says

    I really dislike swimming lessons, but feel that my kids just have to learn to be confident swimmers so we suck it up and get on with it. I think Friday afternoons are the best time around 4.30pm or 5pm. Pick up from school and daycare, have a snack on the way, time for a play beforehand, then lessons at the same time. After that the kids hop in the showers to warm up (we don’t wait as both have eczema and need to get the chlorine off their skin), pop their PJ’s, ugg boots and dressing gowns on and we head home for an easy dinner of pasta or rice.