Skills are learned over a 7 stage course

This year we are celebrating 30 years of teaching babies to love the water.  As one of the first baby swim schools in the UK we have been developing and innovating the Little Dippers programme teaching babies key water safety techniques in a fun and nurturing environment. 

There are 7 stages to the course, which takes about a year to complete if all stages are followed consecutively. We have a maximum of 6 babies in a class with one parent or carer.

Different skills are introduced in each level in accordance with babies natural development, and babies and parents' water confidence. While the focus is on water safety your baby will also benefit from stronger heart and lungs, increased muscle and cognitive development with improved eating and sleeping patterns.


Each stage has 6 weekly classes lasting 30 minutes.

Once you have chosen your time and day for your Little Dippers' course, your class will take place on that day and time each week for the duration of that term.

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Stages Skills learnt



An introduction to swim holds and back floating positions, bathtime homework and key word association which leads onto early swimming and self rescue skills. Baby’s respiratory system is developed through gentle submersions leading onto their first independent underwater swim.

Stage 1

Percy Penguin

As baby’s confidence grows, we build on reaching and kicking exercises to create early coordination and muscle development for swim strokes. Introduction of underwater turns to teach your baby to turn back to safety, and learning to breathe between submersions will instill crucial self rescue skills.

Stage 2

Billy the Beaver

As the heart and lungs develop babies are able to complete longer independent underwater swims, dips off the side to turn back to safety and hold on. Splash entries are introduced to replicate the act of falling into the water. Continue to build on back floating practice as a key component of their water safety skills.

Stage 3

Colin the Crab

Increased stamina and muscle strength allows baby far more independence in this stage. The introduction of noodles is used to increase independence and teach them buoyancy. Introduction of the dive position will eventually teach babies safe entry into the water.

Stage 4

Freda Frog

Babies become less dependent on the key word associations which have been used in previous stages which are now replaced by nursery rhymes, games and songs. Self rescue skills are now becoming natural movements to the baby and exercises are practised through play with a view to being achieved unaided.

Stage 5

Olly the Octopus

Now working closer towards independent self rescue and swimming. This stage involves exercises carried out through lots of song and play. Longer swims increase stamina and deeper swims to encourage kicks to the surface. Practice of rolling over onto their backs from underwater. Independent use of noodles using fun and games to encourage arm paddling and leg kicking movements

Stage 6

Oska the Orca

Lots of fun games to further coordination and develop independent swim techniques. As children’s understanding of verbal commands increases the learning is accelerated. Fun underwater swims now involve swimming through hoops and “tunnels” to increase stamina, strength and muscle development. This is all in preparation for children to move onto toddler swim school.

Stage 7

Sammy the Seal

This is a transitional stage moving with the aim of preparing our babies for toddler swimming and swimming more independently.

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What happens after stage 7?

As you near the end of your course your teacher will advise you on the best next steps, depending on your baby's confidence.


Babies are born with a natural relux allowing them to easily adapt to water from birth, we have had a baby at only 2 days old, but most parents tend to come to us when their babies are between 8 and 24 weeks. We believe it is best for babies to start the Foundation course before they reach the age of 1. 

What to wear

We have a ‘double protection policy’ to help prevent accidents in the pool, which means 2 swim nappies must be worn in the pool.

  • The ‘under’ nappy, or disposable nappy can be purchased from any supermarket or large pharmacy chain – 'Huggies Little Swimmers' work well.
  • The ‘over’ nappy is a neoprene nappy (called a Happy Nappy) with elastic waist and leg bands. This should fit snugly around your baby's waist and legs to prevent any leakage. The 'Splash About Happy Nappy' can be purchased from the office or online from or from leading baby retailers and some of the big pharmacy chains.
  • Splashabout now also produce the duo system happy nappy which has a re-usable inner lining, which saves you having to buy the disposable nappy which is also kinder to the environment.

You also need to bring a swimming costume and towel for you and your baby.

Please note your teacher may refuse entry into the pool if they feel the nappy protection is inadequate.

What if my baby is ill?

It is very common for babies to pick up bugs during their first year, particularly if they also start nursery. Our general rule is that if they have a runny nose but seem happy in every other way then it is fine to bring them along. However, if they have a temperature or if you think the cold has gone onto their chest then we would advise you to miss that class.

If your baby has been sick or had diarrhoea we ask that your baby is clear of any symptoms for at least 48 hours before bringing them swimming. If your baby has any kind of skin infection or rash we advise you to check with your GP before coming along to your class.

What happens if I miss a class?

We know that holidays and sicknesses sometimes mean you have to miss a class. Please note we DO NOT REFUND missed classes.  However,  we do offer 2 free make up classes each term where you can join another class to make up for the one you missed.(subject to availability). If you require any additional make up sessions they are charged at £7.50 a class.

In order for our make up system to work we require prior notification of your absence to create space in a class for other parents. As our classes are usually running at full capacity, without prior notification of absences we are unable to offer any replacement classes.

We ask that you give us as much notice as possible by contacting us by phone, leaving a message, or emailing Please note that due to the constantly changing availability of make up classes we can only organise these over the phone. Make up classes must be taken in the current term and cannot be carried over to the following term unless in exceptional circumstances agreed with the office.

Please note that make up classes are given as a gesture of goodwill and we CANNOT REFUND a class if you are unable to arrange a make up for any reason.

Booking onto further stages


Once you are booked onto your Foundation course, we assume you will want to continue through the rest of the programme and as such, we will automatically offer you a place on the same day and time for the next course.

Approximately 2-3 weeks into your course, you will be sent a renewal text and email giving you the details of your next course and the deadline date when payments will be taken for that course.

When you book onto the Foundation course your payment details are held securely with SAGEPAY (we do not hold any card details on our database). We will suggest that the card originally used will be processed again for the next course.  As long as you are happy to renew, you do not have to do anything, and we will process your payment on or around the deadline date stated in your renewal text and email.

If you are not sure whether you want to renew or wish to cancel or postpone a course for any reason, you just need to let us know before the deadline date and we will either put your place on hold or cancel you out of the next course