KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 — You can start your child on swimming lessons from as young as four months but where would you go for them?
A few years ago, there were no baby swimming classes available in the city but now there are quite a few with the latest being Aquabubs.
The baby swimming school is the brainchild of Joanne Ho, a certified AUSTSWIM (an Australian organisation for teaching of swimming and water safety) instructor who wanted to find swimming lessons for her child.
The mother of three boys said, “How I got into baby swimming was when my eldest — he is 12 now... when he was a baby, there were no baby swimming classes in KL. I taught him how to swim from watching videos and reading books.”
Once her friends saw Ho’s progress with her son, they asked her to teach their children. Initially she started swimming play groups which she taught for free since she was not a certified teacher.
About four years ago, she decided to take an AUSTSWIM course on infant swimming. It was during that time that she met Zarina Parry, also a mum of three children, who later became her business partner.
“I don’t know if it was during the course that she said, ‘One day I will have a swimming pool, it will be heated for babies and I will get in contact with you.’
“A couple of years later, I got the call ‘I’m opening it up’ and so we started teaching in Joanne’s first pool in April last year,” said Zarina.
The purpose-built swimming pool is located in a house in Damansara Heights; it shares the space with a pre-school.
Keeping in mind that infants have a delicate immunity system, the eight-metre pool is heated and they use saltwater. There are also baby friendly showers and changing facilities.
At the start, only Ho and Zarina were teaching. Initially, they started out with about 16 classes a week and around 80 students at Damansara Heights.
Seeing that the demand for baby swimming lessons was there, they decided to look for a new venue.
“We would get people calling us up maybe a week after giving birth wanting to register their child so that’s how popular baby swimming has become,” said Zarina.
Eventually, they secured an empty warehouse in Bangsar to build their indoor swimming pool.
Opened a couple of months ago, the Bangsar branch spans roughly 6,000 square feet excluding the carpark. The 12-metre swimming pool has a depth of four feet.
It also has teaching ledges, steps and a standing platform. There is also a shallow pool for children to practise. The pool uses salt-chlorinated water that is heated to around 33 degrees Celsius.
For parents who are waiting, they can lounge at the air conditioned reception. There is also a play area for children.
With both facilities up and running, Aquabubs is now holding around 75 classes a week with about 420 students.
Children come from as far as Ampang, Puchong, Klang, Shah Alam and Cyberjaya to attend classes at Aquabubs.
Their swimming lessons are in a group setting. “We currently have five categories: Tadpoles, Guppies, Dolphins, Sharks and Rays. Our Tadpoles are from four months to 12 months. And from 12 months or one year, we move them up to Guppies. Dolphins is about two to three and a half years old.
“All these categories, the parent or the carer goes in together with the child. And then there are the Sharks which are three and a half years to five years old and the Rays which are five to seven years old,” explained Zarina.
Sharks and Rays do not have to be accompanied by the parents in the pool; there will be around three to four students with the instructor.
When the children start swimming independently, Aquabubs will introduce stroke techniques. “We have categories that follow the age of a child, and at each of these levels there are skills that we teach which include water familiarisation, water confidence, water safety skills and swimming skills. A baby at four months is learning different skills compared to a child of one, two, three and so on,” added Zarina.
“Baby swimming has become part of the variety of child enrichment classes that are available in the Klang Valley, along with activities like Gymboree or Little Gym, music classes, art classes, martial arts, etc.”
Aquabubs’ teaching methodology also helps to improve understanding and bonding between the parent and child. Based on the duo’s observations, sometimes the parents enjoy the sessions more than the child.
During the lessons, some infants may feel cranky, nervous or restless so the instructors encourage the parents to understand their child’s behaviour, fears, dislikes and cues.
This includes teaching parents not to force their child to do something they do not want to do at the point in time.
The duo believes that through gentle encouragement or watching their own peers and gaining confidence, the child will progress at his/her own pace.
Sometimes whenever a child gets unsettled during a class, teachers may introduce a different skill, game or song to engage the child.
The teacher also may ask the parent to spend some time in the wading pool practising a skill to help calm the child.
Aquabubs is located at:
24, Jalan Liku, Bangsar, KL
Open: 10am to 5pm (Tuesday to Friday), 8.30am to 6pm (Saturday and Sunday)
Roots and Wings Preschool
1, Lorong Setiabistari 1, Damansara Heights, KL
Open: 10am to 5pm (Monday to Saturday)