Here Fishy, Fishy! Swimming Lessons in the Netherlands

by farrah on January 16, 2014 · 10 comments

During the summer I see many posts on blogs, Facebook and IG of parents at their children’s swim lessons. They’re cute, funny, crazy and I can feel the stress/anxitey occasionally of the mom or the dad. I never really gave much thought to having the boys in swim lessons. In our old subdivision back home a lady gave them every summer, but we moved before anyone was old enough to join. Well, the time has come and B is being very vocal about starting swim lessons since so many of his classmates take them already.

Swim diploma(diploma image from aqua-marijn website)

So what I didn’t know, was what swim lessons entail. We have since received an email detailing the ‘ A diploma’ that Brody will be trying to achieve as an almost 5 year old- and I can’t help but think: This is kind of serious. If I am reading this correctly- the lessons start while the child is clothed in regular street clothes. There is then a second part in swimwear.

From Aqua-Marijn Zwemschool website (translated from Dutch)


  • 1. From some height into the water with one foot leap, after surfacing then
  • 2. Tread water for 15 seconds, followed by
  • 3. 12.5 meters breaststroke, diving under a line through a half turn to the longitudinal axis and
  • 4. 12.5 meters single backstroke; complete test
  • 5. from the water to climb independently on the side (may also be using the stairs).


  • 1. From the side into the water with a jump (a kopsprong preferred), immediately followed by (not overcome)
  • 2. swim through a hole in a sail hanging vertically in the water that is 3 meters from the (start) side is under water.
  • 3.1. 50 meters breaststroke, complete with pilot
  • 3.2. 50m single backstroke.
  • 4.1. In the water off of the wall, followed immediately by
  • 4.2. Extruding 5 seconds on the chest, followed by a few meters breaststroke, after driving for 5 seconds on the chest, followed by,
  • 4.3. In turn the water, followed by a few meters single backstroke, and
  • 4.4. Extruding 5 seconds back, followed by a few meters single backstroke, after floating for 10 seconds on the back.
  • 5. In the water off of the wall, then 5 meters front crawl.
  • 6. In the water off of the wall, followed by 5 meter backstroke.
  • 7. Going from the side into the water with a jump of choice, followed by treading water 60 seconds using arms and legs, where 2 times, all the water kicking a full turn around the longitudinal axis is created.

When swimming for swimming certificate A, the clothes consist of:

  • Swimwear
  • Shirt, shirt or blouse with long sleeves, long pants (ie pants with legs, pants that fit seamlessly on the skin are not allowed)
  • Shoes (plastic, leather and shoes are allowed; shoes without real soles are not allowed)

I remember reading somewhere- or maybe someone here told me, that the Dutch put their kids in swim lessons early because of all the canals, rivers and lakes. It was important for them to learn so that if they fell in- they could swim instead of drown. Which, of course, makes all the sense in the world- and why they start with ‘dressed’ lessons.

Thus, at 5- most kids are taking these lessons beyond what they might have had as an infant or preschooler. I’m very thankful that B loves the water and is excited for these, but wow. This looks like it’s going to be tough. Not to mention the fact that obviously the lessons will be in Dutch- which, he should not have an issue with since he’s in a Dutch school and is pretty fluent as far as I can tell.

 So tell me parents: Where you are/were and what swim lessons were like for your kids. B is 5 next month and I’m just curious. 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Wendy January 16, 2014 at 9:06 am

We’re in Ireland and pool swim lessons here are all about learning the strokes and building endurance. Swim suits required and hair caps for all children. In the summer months there are swim lessons offered in the sea that come with safety lessons about tides and currents and swimming in waves etc. I’ve met a surprising number of people who have lived here all their lives and do not know how to swim. There were many many drownings this summer as the weather was unusually warm causing non swimmers to venture into the sea.

I have to admit that although the list you provided looks intimidating, the logic behind it is excellent and teaching kids in clothes what to do if they fell into a canal or river is a great idea.

I hope your little one enjoys his lessons!


2 farrah January 16, 2014 at 10:43 am

Hi Wendy! Wow- that makes a lot of sense with yours building endurance and safety in the sea. I think overall I am so ignorant as to what swim lessons entail (even back in the states) so yeah- I’m pretty blindsided by it. When I took them a lifetime ago they were like- here’s a kick board. Now kick! But these really do make sense.


3 Chamisa January 16, 2014 at 10:41 am

Whoa, that is intense! It reminds me of Safe Start in the US because they also teach the child to swim in street clothes. It’s big in Florida where we used to live because of all the pools, lakes, etc. We’ve done a few rounds of swim lessons here (ten weeks is the normal term length). I never did Safe Start, but many of my friends did. They mentioned it can be kind of stressful for the parent to watch when the teacher is (safely) simulating drowning. The program above sounds less emotional, but you’ll have to let us know how it goes. Here in Germany, the kids can’t start until they’re 5. They learn how to move their arms and legs and do a few strokes, but not any drowning prevention skills.


4 farrah January 16, 2014 at 10:44 am

Interesting. Brody is 5 next month, so I wonder if they let them start close to their birthday? Pretty sure I’m with you on the 5 thing. I want to say that’s when they start here.

I think a simulation like that would be very, very difficult to watch indeed- but makes so much sense.


5 Gert January 16, 2014 at 11:21 am

My 5yo started a bit before his 5 year birthday. He follows a 6 month course (every sunday from 16.45 till 19.00). Pretty heavy, but most regular swimming lessons for the A diploma take at least 1 to 1,5 years. This course uses the Swimsafe suit.

How long are the waiting lists for your 5yo?

Btw: the don’t start fully clothed at the first lessons 😉


6 farrah January 16, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Ah! Good to know! Thanks. I think here the waiting list was fairly short. My husband asked and a few weeks later we could join.


7 M. Ellen Dash September 27, 2014 at 3:43 pm

I’m researching the LTS (learn-to-swim) systems in two countries that produce more water-safe kids than the U.S.: Holland and Spain (as far as I can tell). The skills you list above are so sensible and yes, lessons sound intense. But this is what all kids around the world and all adults around the world should be learning in my opinion. The question is, how do they get people who are afraid to feel safe enough to do the first steps? And how good is the progression, going at each child’s and each adult’s pace, for getting everyone to a level where they can pass?

It must be good if 98% of children learn to swim according to a presentation I found in the Netherlands. When you say, “This is serious,” you’re right, and that’s what it should be around the world.

Swimming lessons are not taken very seriously in the U.S. from what I’ve been able to tell in the past 30 years. Swim school owners in the U.S. would scream if they heard someone say that.


8 farrah September 29, 2014 at 11:21 am

Honestly, I have no idea. As far as I have seen all kids just get in the water and-do. I’ve seen a child here or there crying a bit, so the mom will stand outside of the pool to calm them, but after about a year I have yet to see a real fear. It must be that the kids willing to do them, do them.

Also, some progress more quickly than others. We are still working on our A diploma- the kids that have finished before him were a little older and had more experience. I find that his classmates from last year are just now getting theirs- so I think we are on track.

I have heard that a child here or there might be pushed through- which I don’t like. I’m actually pretty sad as his instructor from last year was fantastic but he went on a sabbatical. The new teacher is much less engaging (and good) in my opinion.


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