Emler Swim School Vs. Aqua-Tots: Choosing the Best Swim Lessons for Your Child

As a parent, ensuring your child learns how to swim safely is a top priority. But with so many swim schools out there, how do you choose the right one? Two popular options are Emler Swim School and Aqua-Tots – but what sets these programs apart?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare the pros and cons of Emler Swim School and Aqua-Tots swim lessons to help you make the best choice for your family.

A Brief Comparison Table

FactorEmler Swim SchoolAqua-Tots
Teaching PhilosophySurvival skills & water safetyWater acclimation & stroke development
Signature ProgramsInfant swim lessons starting at 6 monthsParent-child lessons for infants & toddlers
Class Length30 minutes40 minutes
Class Size3 students per teacher4 students per teacher
FacilitiesLocal rec centers & poolsCustom-built swim school facilities
ContractsTerm commitments required for discountsNo commitments required
MakeupsGuaranteed makeupsBased on availability
Age GroupsSeparate infant, toddler, preschool, youthStages based on skill level
Schedule6 days/week5 days/week

Overview of Emler Swim School

Elmer Swim School
Elmer Swim School

Founded in 2001 by David and Anne Emler, Emler Swim School focuses on survival swim skills for infants and children. With over 70 locations across the United States, they aim to “drown proof” students by instilling swim safety from an early age.

Some key facts about Emler Swim School:

  • Ages served: 6 months – 12 years
  • Class sizes: 3 students per teacher
  • Teaching philosophy: Survival-based instruction with emphasis on safety
  • Signature program: Infant swim lessons starting at 6 months old

Overview of Aqua-Tots

Aqua-Tots Swim Schools provide lessons for kids ages 4 months to 12 years. First launched in 1991, they now operate over 300 swim school franchises in the U.S. and internationally.

Key facts about Aqua-Tots:

  • Ages served: 4 months – 12 years
  • Class sizes: 4 students per teacher
  • Teaching philosophy: Water acclimation and stroke development
  • Signature program: Parent-assisted lessons for infants and toddlers

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Key Differences Between Emler Swim School And Aqua-Tots

1. Comparing Teaching Philosophies

One of the biggest differences between Emler and Aqua-Tots is their core teaching philosophy:

Emler Swim School Philosophy

Emler’s survival-based technique aims to help even very young children self-rescue if they fall into a pool.

Skills taught include:

  • Floating
  • Moving onto back to rest
  • Rolling face up if underwater
  • Swimming short distances to wall or steps

The focus is water safety and “drown-proofing” without panicked swimming. Parents are not in the water.

Aqua-Tots Philosophy

Aqua-Tots Swim Schools
Aqua-Tots Swim Schools

Aqua-Tots focuses first on acclimating infants and toddlers to the water through play, songs, and games. Parental assistance is encouraged. Stroke development starts around age 3.

Key skills include:

  • Blowing bubbles and putting face in water
  • Floating, gliding, and body positioning
  • Coordinated leg and arm motions
  • Foundational stroke techniques like kicking

The priority is enjoying the water and building swim readiness.

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2. Class Structure and Teaching Methods

In addition to their core philosophies, Emler and Aqua-Tots take different approaches when it comes to class structure and teaching techniques.

Emler Swim School Classes

  • 30-minute weekly lessons
  • 3 students per instructor
  • Kids grouped by age and ability
  • Survival skills taught through repetition and problem-solving
  • Certified teachers with low instructor turnover

Aqua-Tots Classes

  • 40-minute weekly lessons
  • 4 students per instructor
  • Kids grouped by age and developmental milestones
  • Parent participation for younger kids
  • Play-based games and songs to engage kids
  • Proprietary curriculum to develop motor skills

While both focus on small class sizes, Emler emphasizes survival skills and Aqua-Tots takes a more developmental approach.

3. Facilities and Pool Considerations

The pool environment and facilities can impact the student experience at each swim school. Here’s an overview of what each provides:

Emler Swim Schools

  • Heated instructional pools at local rec centers or fitness clubs
  • Indoor pools year-round
  • Private changing areas
  • Viewing areas for parents
  • Showers and kid-friendly restrooms

Aqua-Tots Facilities

  • Custom-built swim school facilities
  • Indoor heated pools
  • Family changing rooms with showers
  • Pool viewing windows
  • Age-specific warm water pools for babies
  • Playroom, toys, and towels provided

Aqua-Tots offers amenities tailored for kids while Emler operates in shared aquatic facilities.

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4. Pricing and Other Considerations

Cost, schedule, and other factors also come into play when comparing Emler and Aqua-Tots. Here’s an overview:

Emler Swim School

  • Lesson pricing: Ranges from $100-$175 per month
  • Membership: Discounted rates for term commitments
  • Makeup policy: Guaranteed makeups for missed classes
  • Age groups: Separate infant, toddler, preschool, and youth classes
  • Schedule: Classes 6 days per week


  • Lesson pricing: $160-$220 per month
  • Membership: Not required but discounts offered
  • Makeup policy: Makeups allowed based on availability
  • Age groups: Stages based on skills rather than age
  • Schedule: Classes 5 days per week

While Aqua-Tots costs a bit more on average, Emler requires term commitments to get the best rates. Both aim to group kids by ability for optimal learning.

Watch this review video:

Emler vs Aqua-Tots:  Summery Of Key Differences And Similarities

To summarize the key distinctions between the two swim school brands:

  • Emler focuses on survival skills; Aqua-Tots on water acclimation
  • Emler uses repetition; Aqua-Tots uses games and songs
  • Emler classes are 30 mins; Aqua-Tots are 40 mins
  • Emler requires term commitments; Aqua-Tots offers more flexibility

Similarities include:

  • Serving infants to age 12
  • Small class sizes
  • Heated indoor pools
  • Weekly lessons year-round

So Emler emphasizes safety and Aqua-Tots promotes swim readiness, but both aim to create confident, skilled swimmers.

Choosing the Right Swim Lessons: Key Questions to Consider

When deciding between Emler and Aqua-Tots, here are some important factors to consider for your child and situation:

  • At what age do you want to start lessons? Emler takes infants while Aqua-Tots starts at 4 months.
  • Are you comfortable having your child learn solo? Emler does not allow parents in the water.
  • How much are you willing to spend? Aqua-Tots is pricier on average.
  • What kind of facility do you prefer? Aqua-Tots has custom kid-centric swim schools.
  • What schedule works for your family? Emler offers a few more class days.
  • Does your child need specialized attention? Emler has smaller class sizes.
  • What’s your priority: Survival skills or water fun? Emler focuses on safety.

Thinking through questions like these can help you determine if Emler or Aqua-Tots better matches your family’s needs and preferences.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Emler and Aqua-Tots swim lessons:

How do you swim in a swimming pool?

To swim safely in a pool: Enter feet first, never dive in shallow areas, Swim along the right side of the lane, Avoid horseplay or pushing others, Take breaks often and use railings when tired, No running on the pool deck, Follow all posted rules and lifeguard instructions,

When should a child be able to swim unaided?

Most kids develop the coordination and strength to swim independently between 5-7 years old. But with instruction, some children can swim short distances unaided as young as 3 years old. Safety is paramount – an adult should always be within arm’s reach.

What is CSR in swimming?

CSR stands for “compulsory survival requirement” – basic safety skills swimmers must demonstrate before advancing, such as treading water or floating on their back. Both Emler and Aqua-Tots set CSR requirements aligned with their teaching philosophies.

How do I teach my baby to swim?

For infants, swimming involves water acclimation, body positioning, and having fun in the water. You can start with bathtub sessions, then move to a warm pool with you providing full support. Verbally guide them through putting their face in the water and assisted floating. Take lessons together for a safer, smoother learning experience.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing is choosing a swim program that helps your child gain lifesaving aquatic skills and confidence in the water. Both Emler Swim School and Aqua-Tots offer excellent instruction with small class sizes, experienced teachers, and kid-friendly facilities.

Think about your child’s age, personality, and your priorities to decide if Emler’s safety-focused survival method or Aqua-Tots more playful, developmental approach is the ideal fit. With the right lessons, your child will be swimming and enjoying the water in no time!

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