How good is Aqua-Tots Swim School? There’s none better from coast to coast, according to Lexington mom Kallista Isernhagen who has tried swim schools for her son from one end of the continent to the other.
Brody, now 3, started in swim school in Miami at 6 months and continued lessons after the family moved more than 3,400 miles in 2015 to Vancouver on the West Coast of Canada.
A year later, Kallista enrolled him at Aqua-Tots when the family settled in the Bluegrass. Blake Isernhagen is an ophthalmologist in Lexington.
“Aqua-Tots is a great swim school and by far the best we’ve experienced,” Kallista said. “I love the low student-teacher ratio, and Brody has learned so much.
“The staff is wonderful. The pool is amazingly warm and the facility is always clean.”
Plus, Brody quickly overcame a particular water fear after starting Aqua-Tots.
“He had been terrified of floating on his back,” Kallista said. “He would scream and grab for me. Now, he floats on his back with no trouble.”
No wonder she doesn’t mind making the drive from Hamburg for Brody’s weekly lesson.
That’s exactly the response owners Lindsay and Jake Thayer hoped for when they opened Aqua-Tots 18 months ago. The couple has two daughters, Lilly, 3, and June, 1, who are regular fixtures at Aqua-Tots.
The state-of-the-art facility on Ruccio Way behind Meijer near Fayette Mall provides everything a family would want for a child’s first swimming experience. The 26-foot by 50-foot pool is heated to 91 degrees and is ringed by convenient underwater benches.
Depending on what classes are taking place, the pool can accommodate up to 10 classes at a time.
Parents can observe their children’s lessons in the colorful, comfortable lobby.
At the end of a lesson – 30 minutes long – swimmers walk through a bay of showers, they like to call the kiddie car wash, and the changing area includes private changing rooms with benches, changing tables in the restrooms and bathing suit dryers.
All of the 27 instructors teach standardized lessons from a national accredited curriculum. All are certified in CPR and have passed a 50-hour water safety training and certification process.
Most instructors are high school and college aged, have swim backgrounds or are interested in child development.
Classes are capped at no more than four students, and private one-on-one lessons are available for all, including adults and advanced swimmers.
Most students are 2 to 6 years old and participate in group lessons. Over 25% of children attend classes multiples times per week, which is what Aqua-Tots recommends.
The club offers eight levels of classes from Tadpoles (Level 1, 4-12 months) to Sharks (Level 7) and Stingrays (Level 8), which are for advanced swimmers.
Level 3 (Leapfrogs for all beginners 2.5 years to 12) is the most popular for first timers.
Aqua-Tots is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-Friday, and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays.
Aqua-Tots also hosts birthday parties and has recently hired a Mermaid to swim along with the birthday child and their guests.
March through July is the boom season but swimming is a skill like any other so a year-round program is best for beginners.
“We are not a magic wand that can teach your child to swim in two months,” Jake Thayer said. “Like any learned skill, it takes repetition, practice and patience.
If you’re still not convinced, how about this? The first lesson is on the house.
A long with learning to swim and how to enjoy the water, the primary mission for Aqua-Tots is water safety.
“We are literally saving children’s lives,” Lindsay Thayer said. “We just heard from a family on vacation in Mexico whose 3-year-old swam back to shore after a minor boating accident.”
Backyard pools dot the Lexington landscape, plus customers from rural parts of the state have ponds on their property.
“You wouldn’t let a child walk around New Circle Road unattended,” Jake Thayer said. “It’s the same with water. It’s dangerous for little ones to be around pools and ponds. We preach safety every day.”
Safety concerns ring especially true for Kallista Isernhagen, who admits to a fear of drowning. She wanted to get her first son into the water as soon as possible.
“When we lived in Miami it seemed like all our friends had pools, so the quicker I could get Brody into swim lessons the better,” she said.
What started as a safety concern has morphed into just plain fun for Brody.
“He loves being in the pool,” said Kallista, who will start Boston, 1, at Aqua-Tots soon. “I highly recommend Aqua-Tots, and I plan on keeping Brody here until he tells me no, which could be a long time from now.”