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Swimming Lessons at Little Fishes Swim School

2013 August 19
by Becky

Right after we moved back to St. Louis a mom friend told me about Little Fishes Swim School. I wanted to get Ethan swimming, but our track record with lessons is not great…they mostly involved crying, screaming, and clinging to me like a baby monkey.

But this mom swore by Little Fishes, claimed they were nothing like rec center lessons, they were REAL swimming instructors. So we signed up…

Little Fishes Swim School - Sub

First off, the facility is amazing.

It’s a huge space with three small swimming pools in the middle. There’s a play area with toys, big unisex locker rooms with plenty of chairs, lockers, changing tables, and shower rooms—the whole place is designed and custom built for kids and their caretakers.

Oh, and the pools? They are WARM. Like really warm. One of my biggest complaints of our past swimming lessons was that the water was freezing cold. I didn’t want to get in, why would my toddler? But these little pools feel like hot tubs.

And they are salt water.

Little Fishes Swim School - Pools

I’ve never swam in a salt water pool before these, and it’s clearly so much better than chlorine. No icky smell or itchy skin. Ethan mostly likes it for the taste—he drinks about a gallon at every lesson, sometimes licks his arms when he gets out.

As for the lessons, they’ve been extremely successful.

Now, maybe Ethan was just at the right age to start enjoying water like he does, but I think a lot has to do with Little Fishes’ style of teaching. They promote putting kids under the water quite often, right from the start. In past classes, going under water was ramped up to be a big deal and the kids screamed their heads off. But here, Ethan barely got upset when the instructor gently floated him to me under the water, just for a second.

We spent a couple classes getting used to things, there may have been a few tears and a little clinging, but Ethan quickly blossomed and learned to love going under water. Now it’s tough to keep him out!

Little Fishes Swim School - Belly Flop


He also really caught on to paddling his arms (they call it “stirring the stew”) and kicking his legs. His favorite thing to do is jump off the steps, then he kicks and paddles furiously—all on his own, no help from—and swims to me. Only after a few seconds do I reach out and grab his hands. He is making more progress every week and almost doesn’t need me to reach out anymore.

It’s kind of like watching your child drown for what seems like an hour, but you get used to it. Ethan can’t get enough. He never coughs or sputters and never acts distressed. Just pops up out of the water and says, “Again!”

Little Fishes Swim School - Instructor

There are usually two instructors in each class, rotating around and working with the kids individually.

We throw balls or squirter fish and help our kids use their arms and legs to retrieve them.

We sing “Happy As You Know It” that includes blowing bubbles, putting faces in the water, padding arms, kicking legs, and, of course, shouting “Hooray!”

We help them float, which is actually really tough to do. Ethan’s learning to relax and is getting better every week.

Little Fishes Swim School - Floating

Then, Ethan’s other favorite part, we count to three and our kids JUMP off the side into the water. It took a couple months (he technically wasn’t even able to jump on flat ground when we started), but he finally learned to launch himself off the side, a real jump. He’s also almost able to climb out on the side of the pool by himself. Almost. 

Little Fishes Swim School - Jumping

And while it’s usually me taking Ethan to class once during the week, we’ve scheduled a few make-ups on the weekend so dad can go. Stu loves swimming lessons. He comes home so proud, telling me all the amazing things Ethan did.

Little Fishes Swim School - Kicking

We’re in the toddler class, the same one we started in, but Ethan’s just a couple weeks away from being ready to move up. I have mixed feelings about it—excited because I want him to progress, but sad because parents don’t get in the pool for the three-year-old class. It’s just instructors and a few kids in the pool, parents watch from the side. Ethan asks about the “big kid class” every week and listens intently when we talk about the skills he still needs to learn, then tries really hard to do them all.

He’s so into swimming and loves getting into that water every week. I have to hold him back from just jumping in without me.

Little Fishes Swim School - Running

We are so proud of him! He’s a rockstar in the water.

We joined the local YMCA pool that’s just south of us and totally incredible. So we head over there to practice our skills. We really have to watch him, he’ll just go under whenever he wants, but we’re working on being careful, to tell us before he dives under. The water wings only go on to float him around the lazy river.

Little Fishes Swim School - Dad

I find myself recommending Little Fishes constantly.

We’ve been SO happy with Ethan’s progress and development of his love for swimming. The classes here are more expensive than rec centers—quite a bit more—but in this case I feel the extra cost is worth it. To be fair, Ethan was younger when we took those rec center classes, but I see younger kids thriving at Little Fishes so I believe their method makes the difference. Just the pool size and warm water alone make little kids more comfortable and able to relax.

We’re taking a break from swimming for a month or so since Ethan starts preschool next week, but I can’t wait to come back and start him in the next level class. It will be a great winter activity!

Does your kid like to swim? Did you put them in classes? Tell me about it!

6 Responses
  1. Grandpa Joe permalink
    August 19, 2013

    Love it.
    Been there.
    Wish I’d learned to swim at Little Fishes,
    rather than the cow pond in Kansas…..
    maybe I’d be able to swim today.

  2. Linda Johnson permalink
    August 19, 2013

    Way to go Ethan!!
    That Little Fishes swim pool sounds like a great place. I love the pictures of Ethan swimming. Makes me happy to know he is having fun while learning to swim. Also brings back such great memories of Stu when he had lesson’s in Arizona. He too was a fish just like Ethan.

  3. August 19, 2013

    Thanks for sharing your experience at Little Fishes! We are VERY PROUD of Ethan & our staff LOVED the story & pictures. This makes the hard work soooo worthwhile.

    • Becky permalink*
      August 20, 2013

      Happy to do it! We are thrilled with Ethan’s progress and love his confidence in the water.

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