For most kids, swimming lessons are one of those ritual events in life, right up there with learning to ride a bike. Nowhere is that more true than in the South Bay area of Los Angeles. Parents in the beach cities agree that swimming lessons are essential not only for safety but for getting the most out of the beach lifestyle. Whether your child grows up to surf or just to hang out at the beach with friends, you will both feel more secure if you have provided a strong foundation in swimming. The South Bay is home to many great swim programs from parent and me all the way up to junior lifeguard classes. I have either tried the programs discussed in this article with my children or have received recommendations from moms in the know.
Parent & Me Classes
It’s never too early to get your child familiar with the water. That’s what parent/child classes are about. The intent of these programs is not to teach your little one how to swim. The purpose of the parent and me class offered by the City of Manhattan Beach (www.ci.manhattan-beach.ca.us) is to “help develop swimming readiness by leading parents and their children in water exploration activities, with the objective of having fun and becoming comfortable in and around the water,” explains the city’s program brochure. Manhattan Beach’s parent and me class is offered in the summer only, for children one to three years old. Registration begins in May and classes are open to non-residents as well as locals. Classes are offered in an outdoor pool that is moderately heated, hence the summer-only offering.
The Westchester Family YMCA’s (www.ymcala.or/westchester/program-details) parent-child class teaches fun water games and methods to keep kids safer around water. I enjoyed this program when my son was a toddler. It came highly recommended because of its small, warm, indoor pool, perfect for getting even the youngest baby comfortable in the water. The Westchester Y offers six and seven-week sessions year round for children four months to 36 months old. Fees range from $84 for once-weekly sessions to $168 for twice-weekly sessions for non-members. Member fees are slightly lower.
Both Manhattan Beach and the Westchester YMCA also offer private lessons for toddlers and young children.
Introductory Swim Lessons
Children can begin “real” swim lessons at age three at most South Bay swim facilities. The Spectrum Club South Bay (www.spectrumclubs.com/southbay) in Manhattan Beach offers five levels of classes ranging from introduction to water skills to stroke refinement. Friendly, mostly college-aged instructors teach the basics and beyond, beginning with learning to open your eyes underwater to tackling the butterfly and breaststrokes. Get a small group of friends together for semi-private classes available year round at the Spectrum’s comfortable indoor pool. Sessions run for approximately 12 weeks. Group lessons are $29/class or $286/session for non-members and slightly less for members. Private lessons are $35/class or $352/session for non-members. This is a popular program and classes fill quickly.
The South Bay is also home to many private swim instructors who either teach at a private pool or will come to your pool, if you prefer that to a large gym pool or public pool. For more than a decade, Bonnie Spivey has operated the popular Swimkids (www.swimkids.net) program at a cozy, outdoor residential pool in Manhattan Beach. Spivey, who has taught kids five months old and up, is a stickler for fundamentals like proper breathing technique. She offers fun but no-nonsense instruction in private or small group, 30-minute formats that ensure your child is getting something out of the program.
Little Lifeguards in the Making
Once your child turns nine years old, you’ll begin to hear about the Junior Lifeguard (www.watchthewater.org) program, operated by the Los Angeles County Lifeguards at beaches throughout the L.A. area. Junior Guards, or “JGs”, is so popular with parents that you are not always guaranteed your first choice of class location. In the South Bay, locations include Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance. The five-week summer program is open to children ages 9-17. The half-day sessions, which begin in late June and run through July, provide instruction in water safety, swimming, body surfing, surfing, physical conditioning, first aid, lifesaving, CPR and rescue techniques. Registration begins online in March. After you’ve registered your child you will receive a tryout time. All new applicants must pass a timed 100-yard swim test. The swim test led to the birth of Junior Guard training classes, which are offered through almost all of the private and public swim programs in the South Bay that are discussed in this article.
No matter if you envision your child becoming the next Michael Phelps or just want to have some fun splashing in the water with your toddler, you’re likely to find a swim program that suits you and your child in the South Bay.