The Dutch take swimming seriously. Water is literally everywhere and Dutch kids are taught how to swim from an early age.
Through the national Zwem ABC programme, kids work towards three certificates. They start around age 5 by simply playing in the water and learning to be comfortable in the pool. Next comes floating, and a series of swimming strokes. The last stages of the programme focus on teaching kids to swim with clothes and shoes on, and to orient themselves underwater. This gives them the skills they’ll need, should they ever fall into a canal or deep lake.
This is all clearly great for kids to learn. For parents, however, there is a problem: swimming lessons are so popular that the best courses have long waiting lists. In addition, there’s no central website which offers a good overview of swim schools. To make things a little easier, we’ve put together a few tips.
Most kids start swimming lessons around age five, and many programmes have a long waiting list. For subsidised lessons (such as those run by the city council), the wait could be up to a year. The message is clear: start looking around early and put your child’s name down on a list as soon as you can. If you live in The Hague, here’s a summary of options.
Compare Prices Carefully
When comparing prices, pay attention to the duration of the lessons. Some appear cheaper but are only 30 minutes long versus 45 minutes at other clubs.
Cold Water? Get A Dry Suit
In some clubs, kids are immediately put into a cold pool. This can be hard for little bodies to adjust to, so a dry suit comes in handy.
Our kids take lessons with the Lifeguarding Association of The Hague (the Haagse Vrijwillige Reddings Brigade). It takes about 2 years to get an A diploma so it’s not the quickest programme around, but the instructors are incredibly friendly, the groups are small and the club is a real community. They don’t only give swimming lessons, they do field trips together, have disco parties and movie nights at the club house and celebrate holidays such as Sinterklaas. The lessons are also reasonably priced. If you’re not in a hurry, we recommend it.
Another option (recommended by friends) is the Zwemschool Atlantic in Kijkduin.