I only learned to swim when I turned 30, but I won't let that happen to my son Daniel. Being born in the Netherlands, he should know how to swim as early as possible. Before it's time for Diploma ABC, we thought it would be useful that he gains some confidence in the water.
As soon as we survived the first intense month of becoming new parents, we looked for a pool where we could take Daniel. He is now almost 1 and here are the places that we have visited in and around the centre of Haarlem:
We used to go swimming at Boerhaavebad, up until the last month of my pregnancy. As we knew the facilities well, it seemed logical to take our newborn there for his first swim.
There is an ankle-deep pool in which the little kids can sit up and play safely. However, the water is cold. As Daniel was just a couple of months old, we didn't think he would enjoy it. We took him to the big kid pool instead. He threw up some milk as soon as we got down the steps. After a quick retreat, some cleaning and many hugs, we attempted the water the second time. He cried a bit more, clung tightly onto his dad for half an hour before starting to relax.
When it was time to leave, we started to see some of the shortcomings of the place. It is a long way from the pools to the shower and the changing rooms. With a stop at the locker, it would get even colder for the little ones. If your kids are older, say six and above, or more used to the water, they are more likely to enjoy the facilities at Boerhaavebad like slides, water fountains and jacuzzi. The cold water and the long way to the changing rooms might not be such a big deal then. With our newborn, however, we found it fun but rather tiresome.
The entry fee is 5.50 euros and you need an extra 20 cent for the locker. When there are two of you using two lockers, it is 12,40 euros per visit. The pool is near the Spaarne Gasthuis in the south, with several buses stops five minutes away on foot.
● Open at weekends
● Fun stuff for bigger kids or kids with some confidence in the water
● Hot snacks available after swimming
The second place we tried is a swim school by Het Spaarne river. It is in a beautiful old building with big stones and a labyrinth of stairs and doors. There is only one small pool, which I find rather gezelig! The water is reasonably warm, and there are some toys for the little ones.
Once you get out of the water, you can go straight into a shower area. However, there is only one shower head so you might have to queue. After the shower, you can go out into a small corridor, then back into the reception area. Here, there is a big changing table with a few toys. If there is only one parent with one child, it is probably the most convenient to dress the child on that table. As there are not often many parents, you can even get changed at the reception instead of going down one floor to the big changing room. You will notice that there are no separate areas for men and women.
You can either go to Zwemschool t' Spaarne Huys for free parent-child swimming sessions or taking swim lessons with an instructor. There are quite a few time slots during the week. The school is, however, not open during the weekend.
It is 8 euros per lesson, or you can pay 27,50 euros to go twice a week for the whole month. Free swimming mornings last for two hours, and you pay 4 euros. There is not much space right outside the school for leaving your bikes or inside for big strollers. However, it is next to a parking lot if you drive.
● Plenty of options for both free swimming and swim lessons
● The gezelig feeling of being back in time.
● Quiet to the point of having the whole pool for yourself
So far, Kenamju has been my favourite. The facilities are excellent: warm, chlorine-free water, clean, separate changing rooms adjacent to the pool. There's also a kids corner where your little ones can play with each other, and you can have a drink with other mamas and papas after a lesson.
For children under four, you can opt for a private course or lessons with other kids and their parents. There are now weekly group sessions both in English and Dutch. The instructor sings a series of songs while parents do activities with their kids to help them gain confidence and feel at ease in the water. My little one has learned to jump into the pool from the edge and dive. He has also had a lot of fun.
Each group lesson lasts for 30 minutes with an extra 15 minutes to play both before and after.
We paid 5.50 euro for a single visit and 40 euros for a card of 8 lessons. They are going to increase the charges to 7.50 and 55 in the coming month, though. The sports centre is about 7 minutes walk from the train station. There is also plenty of room for parking your bike just outside the building.
● Warm, chlorine-free water and clean changing rooms
● Great facilities with a kids corner and a creche
● Interactive lessons in English or Dutch
In conclusion, swimming with your newborn can be a lot of work but it is also enjoyable. Being in The Netherlands, it is also essential that your child is not scared of water and becomes a confident swimmer as soon as possible. Luckily, there are plenty of good pools and classes where your newborns and toddlers can begin their journey with water.
Quynh Nguyen is a full-time mother and part-time copywriter. She enjoys the Dutch way of cycling everywhere, prioritising work-life balance and having a "borrel". You can check out her works at https://quynh.nl/