Imagine Swimming is New York City’s largest learn-to-swim school, providing year-round lessons for 3,000 kids a week of ages 6 months to 12 years.
I will freely admit that my first and biggest draw to Imagine Swimming was the fact that I would not have to get into the pool with my five year old. Back in the dark ages (say, 2003) the most popular swim class in the neighborhood required parents to take their own child into the pool and hold them close during the entirety of the lesson. Most parents hated it. It was hard enough to get your child (or children) into their suits and into the pool- never mind one’s own post-baby blubber body. And then you had to reverse the process and shower the group a mere 45 minutes later. So I signed up for Imagine Swimming as soon as I heard that their teachers took the kids in the pool themselves after age three. And boy, am I glad that I did.
My sons, who clung to me like barnacles on a boat as they refused to even consider following teacher instructions during our former swim lessons, suddenly blossomed into children who actually enjoyed being in water. I’ll admit, my sons initially roared and bawled the minute their skin touched the water. But with the patience of the Imagine teachers, all three of my kids became so enamored with swimming that they wanted to do it several times per week.
Imagine teaches strokes and techniques, but in such a fun way that most children cease to notice they are actually in the water. The first day, I was discombobulated to arrive and find the shallow end of the pool filled with things like dog toys and a picnic table. I soon realized that the teachers use these unconventional props as tools for the children to become comfortable in the pool. As they float down to “have tea” with their instructor, children become swimmers before realizing it.
Each instructor that I have observed (and I have been going to Imagine with my three kids for years) has been phenomenal and attentive to every student’s needs. Even now, years later, if you ask my high schooler who his favorite teacher is, he still says “Eliot, my old swim teacher.” Each child is listened to with respect, and the lessons appear to be tailored to the class dynamic. All are lifeguard-certified and licensed in CPR, and many of the teachers at Imagine have impressive swimming credentials. Most hold some swimming title or record; some are Olympic contenders and record breakers. Founders Casey and Lars are competitive swimmers AND parents, so they understand the concerns of parents that entrust children to their care.
Each class is limited to four children (although there is a private and semi-private option) and Imagine does a superb job of partnering up kids that work well together. Whether my children were placed with a ‘new’ group or swam with old pals, they always had a good time with their fellow swimmers.
Ultimately, though, the reason parents send children to swim school is to encourage their children to be comfortable and able in the water. Imagine achieves that admirably. I remember travelling with my tiny five year old and watching as, independent of me or any floatation device, she jumped off the diving board at a hotel pool. I heard the collective gasp and felt the judgmental gaze of other parents as she descended into deep water. And I smiled broadly as she broke the surface and swam confidently towards the shallow end.
Imagine Swimming currently has 13 locations, including their own flagship facility in Tribeca. Classes are 40 minutes long and the group cost is a reasonable $40.00. Best of all, Imagine has a rolling admission process- you can sign up at any time.
Check it out at: http://www.imagineswimming.com