There’s a new spot for swim lessons in Northern Virginia – Goldfish Swim School in Reston – and on a cold November morning my swim-loving daughter and I were excited to check it out. This was not our first time taking swim lessons. We’ve taken lessons at the REC center and our neighborhood pool. While we enjoyed both of those experiences, Goldfish Swim School blows them out of the water (no pun intended!).
We were welcomed to the cheerful space as soon as we walked in, given a welcome bag (including a t-shirt!), and given a tour of the space. The pool is a nice size and the area is kept at 90 degrees so kids aren’t cold and are ready to jump right in. The pool is right behind a glass wall, with a seating area for parents to sit and watch their children swim. I was also told that they are a photo-friendly facility and parents are more than welcome to go on the deck and take pictures. There is also a section in the seating area for younger siblings to color (including a popular chalkboard wall) and read.
Instead of locker rooms, there were plenty of clean bathrooms, cubbies, changing rooms and several showers (along with a large shower area in the pool space to rinse off right after you get done with your lesson). The changing rooms were much better than a locker room with small children, and especially nice for dads who bring daughters or moms with sons. There was also a blow dryer station (with actual blow dryers, not wall mounted hand dryers) and spinners to dry your bathing suit when you’re done. The front area also had some small snacks for sale, as well as everything you need for your swim lesson – bathing suits, swim diapers, goggles, etc.
The pool is divided into 6 lanes/sections for different lessons – 4 or 5 lessons may be going on at the same time – which gave me the opportunity to observe different levels and instructors. All of the instructors were clearly well-trained and knew how to engage kids while teaching swim skills and making the class fun. Everywhere you looked there were smiling faces. I have to say – I’m a little jealous of the families in the parent-child classes. My own experience with a parent-child class when my daughter was little was good, but nothing like the class I saw. My daughter loved her class. Watching her smile and laugh through her lesson was awesome, and I could see that she was already learning new skills in just one lesson.
One of the things I really liked was that the instructors quickly assessed where my daughter was with her swim skills and built off of what she learned over the summer to learn new skills. The levels are fluid – you can change groups as soon as you are ready – and students individual needs are met. For kids who do not fit the pre-determined levels for their age groups at the REC center, this is a lifesaver. My 5 year old is a good swimmer, and in a REC center class would either be with kids much older than her or kids her own age that are working on skills she has already mastered.
I also really liked how well organized the entire school was. Each lane was equipped with plenty of supplies for the class (turtle shaped kickboards, diving rings, floating dumbells, etc) so that the instructors didn’t have to stop to get things as they taught. The area for the parent & child class had a wide array of pool toys (including a floating foam canoe!) and all of the supplies seemed clean and well taken care of. A deck manager walked through the classes throughout our session, offering extra help and delivering ribbons for various accomplishments (my daughter received the “I swam across the pool” ribbon). There was also extra staff on hand for reluctant swimmers – one child wanted nothing to do with his class, and an instructor worked with him on his own to help him into the water and feel comfortable with joining the class. My daughter noticed the platforms that were in each lane, so that students could stand at various spots without having to hang on a lane line or instructor. This also means that NO water wings/floaties are used (which is the best practice for swim instruction – children should not be wearing floaties in swim class!).
Lessons aren’t cheap, but are in line with other swim schools in the area. 1 small group (4 children) lesson a week is $95 a month, with semi-private and private lessons also offered. The full list of fees can be found online. They are definitely more than lessons offered by lifeguards at the local pool over the summer, but I think the cost may be worth it. Talking to a one of the employees, I learned that instructors go through over 50 hours of training – I think this is a case of getting your money’s worth. There is also a recreational swim team for more advanced swimmers and family swim times to practice your skills and enjoy the pool. There are no set lesson sessions – you start and end when you want – which is perfect if your schedule changes month to month. They are running a holiday gift package special which includes 2 months of lessons, 1 pair of goggles, 1 bubbles plush toy, and 4 family swim passes for $225 (a great gift idea when grandparents ask what the kids would like for the holidays!).
My only complaint? Reston just isn’t that close to our house. Goldfish Swim School is less than 10 minutes from Reston Town Center and right off of the Fairfax County Pkwy. They do have plans to expand in the area, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they expand closer to where I live.
The Bottom Line
Goldfish Swim School was awesome. My daughter loved her class and keeps talking about how nice the teachers were. She also loved that she received a prize for completing her class (the prizes change with the monthly themes) and has decided that her ribbon needs to be hung up in her room AFTER she shows it off for show and tell at school next week. I really appreciated how knowledgeable the instructors were and how clean and organized the school was. We liked our lesson so much that we’re seriously considering making the trek to Reston once a week – if it was closer I would have signed up for more lessons on the spot.
Updates after their one year anniversary!
The Goldfish Swim School opened their state of the art facility on November 4, 2014 and since then offer classes six days a week and are adding more classes as this update is being typed. Goldfish Swim School-Reston is the go-to place for children’s swim lessons and over the course of the last year has received glowing reviews and feedback from families that swim with them. Their one year birthday party celebration is on November 13, 2015 from 6:30 to 8pm. It is free and open to the public.
Photos by Mara Surridge.