Aqua-Tots Swim Schools has been a leader in swim instruction for children aged four months to 12 years since 1991. The international franchise brand has locations in 14 countries around the world including the United States, Canada, the Middle East, Mexico, Europe, Central America and Southeast Asia. Husband-and-wife Jake and Lindsay Thayer were considering opening a business together when they discovered Aqua-Tots.
“We opened our first location in 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky,” says Lindsay Thayer, franchise owner. “I grew up there, and there was nothing like Aqua-Tots in the community. In 2017 we decided to expand to the Indianapolis market. “My husband grew up in Michigan. Indy is conveniently in the middle of our two hometowns, and I graduated from Indiana University, so have a love for the Hoosier state!”
Fast-forward to 2023, and the couple is developing their sixth location, providing swim curricula in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. The Aqua-Tots swim journey consists of eight levels of comprehensive swimming lessons. Levels 1 and 2 are infant and toddler classes for children aged four months to 2.5 years old.
“Level 1 and 2 classes include a parent or caregiver,” Thayer says. “These classes focus on adjustment to the water.” Students learn survival skills such as rolling over from front to back and floating. They’re practicing safe submersion in water early in age.”
Levels 3, 4, 5 and 6 are geared toward children aged 2.5 years old and up, focusing on building swim skills for a lifetime of safe water experiences. Thayer says students learn basic swimming and safety skills like confidence in the water, controlled movement, breath control and swim strokes. Kids move through each level based on their skill level and mastery.
Levels 7 and 8 are advanced swim lessons where students focus on fine-tuning their newly acquired skills and laser-focusing on technique. Those skills include the techniques of breaststroke, backstroke and freestyle. They also begin to learn the butterfly and flip turns. Thayer says Aqua-Tots provides advanced swim instruction to children up to age 12.
Aqua-Tots provides specially tailored swim lessons for special-needs children through their Special Needs Aquatic Program. Thayer says instructors complete an intake program to provide customized programming for each individual’s unique needs. Those goals may include increased motor function, improved balance, coordination and range of motion, and development of spatial awareness.
Thayer says she realized how life-changing and life-saving swim instruction can be when her four children enrolled at the school. She says drowning is the number-one cause of accidental death in children aged 1 to 4.
“This is preventable with action,” Thayer says. “As parents, we are the first line of defense, however, it’s also our responsibility to provide our children with the skills they need to be able to save themselves if there is an accident. Swim lessons reduce the risk of drowning in that same age group by 88% if enrolled in a formal, consistent program.”
Classes consist of one instructor and four students, to ensure a safe but social environment for children to learn. Thayer says it’s essential that each student receives sufficient time with the instructor. The small-group classes also provide soft skills such as patience and support of other students. All Aqua-Tots Swim Schools water safety instructors complete more than 40 hours of intensive training online and in water. Each instructor is CPR certified as well. The water in the indoor pools is kept at a comfortable 90-degree temperature to foster a positive learning environment.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children should be in swim lessons by age 1,” Thayer says. “Here at Aqua-Tots we say any time is the right time to get them started. If parents want to get them started sooner to adjust to the water, that’s great. It’s a wonderful learning experience for the kids, and a great bonding experience for the caregiver and the child.”
The Indianapolis facility hones in on exactly what busy families need while participating in lessons. It provides parents with a calm, relaxing environment to wait while their kids are in the water. A fully stocked changing area provides detangling spray, hair ties and a bathing-suit dryer.
“One advantage to Aqua-Tots is that we provide feedback after every single lesson,” Thayer says. “Parents love the transparency and feeling like they know exactly what is happening if they’re not in the water. We also have an app that makes it super easy for parents to schedule and check in for classes. You can also track your child’s progress. We try to make the whole process easy on parents.”
Thayer says owning and operating Aqua-Tots Swim Schools locations has been an incredible experience. It was essential to her and Jake that their concept works in a comfortable environment. She says her children have not only learned lifelong swim skills, but also gained confidence in themselves at the same time.
“There hasn’t been one regret along with way,” she says. “It’s a privilege for Jake and I to have the opportunity to influence the lives of young adults too. We have a lot of staff who look forward to coming back each summer in between college classes. It’s also an incredibly positive culture and environment for them.”
Aqua-Tots is located at 4825 East 96th Street, Suite 1000 in Indianapolis. For more information or to enroll your child, call 317-559-3210 or visit aqua-tots.com.