Neither of us has actually had a baby in this century, but that couldn’t keep buoyant reporter Coleen Daniell and me from splashing in the Mommy & Me toddler swim class.
For this week’s Let’s Try It! -- where we dive into entertaining things to do in Mansfield -- Coleen and I headed to Mansfield’s year-old Aqua-Tots Swim School to get our feet wet with some young moms and their tots. The idea behind the 23-year-old nationwide corporation is “to get kids safe in the water and reduce the drowning rate,” said Mansfield general manager Marcia Lindsey. That’s what the parents want, the kids just want to play.
“We make it fun,” said swim instructor Quentin Wigenton. “That’s the only way they’ll get comfortable. We do stuff they like so they get used to being in the water.”
Aqua-Tots has classes for kids from 6 months old to 14. For the toddlers in our class -- which is for ages 6 months through 3 years --- it was their first time to dip their toes into swim lessons. But they were willing.
Our group, which ranged in age from 1-year-old Sai Modi to 2-year-old Madison Monroe, willingly went into the 4-foot-deep indoor pool. Of course, they were all clutching their moms, but they seemed pretty happy.
We started off with the good old “Wheels on the Bus” song, letting the kids get used to the water and splash around. Then everybody got a floating foamy toy that their moms tossed and then helped their tots stretch to get. Meanwhile, Wigenton worked with the toddlers one-on-one to pick up rings from the steps, showing them how to stretch into the water.
Most of the kids knew what was up and quickly retrieved the rings. For little Sai, reaching for the rings would have meant sticking his whole face in the water and he wasn’t having it. Madison knew the drill and got bored, while 21-month-old Shane Murphy got sneaky, stretching his leg down to try to snag one with his foot.
The scariest part -- for us and the kids -- came when the moms handed off the tots to Wigenton and Coleen, who took them for a short spin across the pool, encouraging them to paddle their feet and stretch out in the water. The kids were giving Coleen wary looks and looking at Wigenton with complete distrust. We soon figured out why. At the end of the ride across the pool, Wigenton scooped the toddlers completely under the water before handing them back to their moms, blinking and sputtering water. The kids knew what was coming.
Coleen flat-out refused to do it.
“They totally knew where that was going,” she said. “I wanted to be the happy, fun stranger.”
The look on their faces ranged from resignation to dread. Then there was Shane.
“Shane had this look like ‘I cannot believe I fell for that again!’” Coleen said.
Madison figured out what was up, but that doesn’t mean she likes it, her mom, Tana Monroe, said.
“My mother-in-law won’t come because she doesn’t want to see her get dunked,” Monroe admitted.
The parents wanted their kids to be comfortable in the water -- and to be safe.
“He loves the water,” Kimberly Murphy said of Shane. “That’s why we wanted him to have lessons. He has no fear. When we get here, he wants to be in the water.”
Cost for lessons starts at $79 per month for a 30-minute class once a week in a small group and go up to $217 a month for 30-minute group lessons three times a week. Private lessons are $198 per month for a weekly 30-minute class. The year-round classes are inside in a heated pool, which is more fun than sitting outside in the sun, Lindsey said.
“I would have loved that when my kids were that age,” Coleen admitted.
She had a pretty good time with the loaner toddlers, too.
“It was very sweet to have a moment with little people, then hand them back,” she said. “I’m sure all the kids, moms and me are going to have a fabulous nap.”
The biggest reward for Lindsey is teaching kids something important.
“Learning to swim is a life skill,” she said. “It’s necessary.
“The greatest feeling is watching them standing at the door screaming and crying through the whole class to jumping in,” Lindsey said.