There are dozens of pools in the Warwick, Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon area, but which ones are the best for new parents taking a young baby for their first ever dip in the water?
I’m a big fan of swimming and my son absolutely loved bath time, so when he reached (just short of) three months old, we started going for a casual weekly dip in different local pools. I wanted to suss out the best and eventually enrol him in lessons when he reached six months.
“You can take your baby swimming at any age, both before and after they have been vaccinated.”NHS
It’s completely up to you to decide when you make that first visit – some parents will wait until the end of that first round of immunisations (16 weeks) but we didn’t.
And if this is your very first time going to a pool with a baby, these would be some of my top tips…
- Always ring up to check the family swim times (sometimes “public” and “family” can mean different things and pools can often be closed for private lessons too)
- Make sure to take a disposable swim nappy to use as an inner layer (in the supermarket aisle with the normal nappies) and a non-disposable material one (swimsuit or shorts) for the outer layer
- Sometimes, if there are no baby-changing surfaces available, you might have to improvise with a thick towel so take a spare
- There aren’t always locked areas to store large items but staff are often happy to keep an eye on prams by reception and/or you might be able to leave your car seat by the pool-side or in the changing rooms if they are secure
- You might like to take your baby’s towel to the pool-side so that they can be wrapped up as soon as they get out (if the pool area itself isn’t heated)
- My son was always hungry and tired as soon as we got out of the water so (as a formula-fed baby) I soon learnt to always have a bottle prepared, cooled and ready-to-go for afterwards
- Check that parking is free in case you need coins
- Also don’t forget change for the lockers
- Never hesitate to ask staff a million and one questions!
Most prices are pay-as-you-go for a one-off session – expect to pay for adults but babies and children under a certain age will go for free (adult prices listed below).
The Glebe Hotel, Barford
A small country hotel just a five-minute drive from Warwick town centre, The Glebe was recommended to me by various different mums as the perfect place to take a baby swimming for the first time. The small, quiet pool did make the ideal environment for my son’s first swim experience. We have visited here a few times now in the week and have only ever shared the pool with one or two people – having the pool and changing area pretty much to ourselves made everything stress-free and meant that our baby loved his un-chaotic first encounter with the water.
Price £8, glebehotel.co.uk
Newbold Comyn Leisure Centre (Everyone Active), Leamington Spa
Deciding to visit here on a Saturday morning during the summer holidays wasn’t a great idea (I struggled with the imperfect 15-minute admittance wristband system and I kept getting pushed to the next time-slot as I was feeding my baby in the cafe.) But 45 minutes later, once we were finally in, we loved our swim in the pool for kids and the brand new, spacious changing area is fab. It’s nice to take a walk around the beautiful Newbolyd Comyn too afterwards and there’s plenty of free parking. Like most Everyone Active Centres, take a £1 coin and exchange it at reception for a locker token.
Price £4.90, everyoneactive.com
Stratford Leisure Centre (Everyone Active), Stratford-upon-Avon
During my visit here (admittedly during quieter weekdays) the staff went above and beyond to welcome a new mum into a new environment. Like Leamington Spa, the facilities are good-as-new with lots of spacious changing areas for those with children. The price is just £4.25 , spot on what you would want to shell-out for a quick swim with your baby that might not last longer than 20 minutes, depending on how tired they’re getting. I’ve also heard great things about the Everyone Active at Warwick (St Nicholas Park Leisure Centre) and Kenilworth (Abbey Fields Swimming Pool). All of these centres offer swimming lessons, too. Parking isn’t free in Stratford so don’t forget to get a ticket (I forgot a few times, #mumbrain).
Prices £4.25 (Stratford), £4.90 / £5.20 (Warwick), £4.70 / £4.30 (Kenilworth), everyoneactive.com
Hatton Swimming Pool (Everyone Active), Hatton
This pool deserves its own mention as it’s the newest and the facilities have been specifically-designed for families. Even though this is a “private pool” specialising in lessons, there are public swim times dotted throughout the week. I found the staff very friendly and welcoming and happy to answer any questions I had about swimming for the first time with little ones. I’d definitely return.
Price £8, everyoneactive.com
Croft House Pool, Stratford-upon-Avon
Just two miles up Banbury Road, Croft House Pool specialises in hosting swimming lessons, rather than public swimming, but you can also hire the pool privately for a set cost. Myself and a group of other new mums organised this and for just a few quid each had the entire place to ourselves. The pool is lovely and modern, there are lots of pool-side changing mats and the atmosphere really nice and warm. And the lessons here do have a great reputation – check out the list of schools who use this space on the Croft House website.
Prices vary, crofthousepool.co.uk
Swim Works, Leamington Spa
After discovering that my baby absolutely loved the water, I did want to try out some lessons. I’d heard of the independent, family-run brand Swim Works and they were offering short taster courses for those still making their mind up about what to do. Their private swimming pool and centre has been designed with babies in mind - brilliant baby-friendly changing areas, heated pool and surrounding area and large parking spaces in a private car park. Whilst there is no public swimming, if you have established that you and your baby want to get going with regular, structured lessons then definitely check them out (there’s a location in Rugby, too). For just £20 we enjoyed four 30-minute lessons and in just one month both myself and my baby learnt so much.
Prices vary, swimworks.co.uk
Freedom Leisure, Warwick
Whilst not boasting the most modern facilities, for just £26 per month you can enjoy Freedom Leisure’s new Saturday adult-and-child swim class and unlimited swimming any other time (during family times) for you and your baby . Otherwise, swimming one-off is just £4.30 for adults (under 4s go free). Even at weekends, I find the pool a spacious, relaxing environment – with always plenty of room to swim around, this is my regular go-to place for a cheap, un-chaotic swim with my baby.
Price £4.30, freedom-leisure.co.uk
Stratford Manor Hotel
Hotels are always a great choice for baby swimming. Whilst one-off swimming costs tend to be more expensive, hotel pools aren’t typical family hot-spots so are normally quite quiet. Baby’s first swim can be a stressful one – swim-suit changes can be challenging for the first time and they can feel mentally overwhelmed by the environment, especially if it’s busy. For a steeper cost, those wanting to make the first swim a special occasion somewhere more likely to be calm, could enjoy a morning or afternoon at the gorgeous Stratford Manor Hotel. Family swim-times are daily between 8am-11am and 4pm-8pm.
Price £12, stratfordmanor.co.uk
Other companies and schools to give a shout-out to, who I haven’t visited myself but are known in the area include Aqua Beans, Turtle Tots, Flippers, Water Babies, Kirsty’s Swim School, Puddle Ducks (all at Croft House). Also search Bunkers Hill and Broom Swim School. So much to choose from!
Less relevant as we head into Autumn, but the free council-run outdoor pools available locally throughout summer can make a great day out if it’s roasting hot outside. The shallow pool at St Nicholas’ Park was lovely for a quick 20-minute toe-dip with my baby (I took my own swimsuit and sat in the shallow area with him on my lap, allowing him to absorb the noise and sounds without being fully submerged in the water).
On a final note, it takes time to build confidence – for you, as a new mum taking a small baby out-and-about to classes, and for your baby, this being their first time trying something that could be overwhelming. Don’t put too much pressure on either of you to begin with – just take it slow, don’t worry if the swim doesn’t last long, and have fun just being in the water together.