NYC Parks’ Free Learn to Swim Program Lottery is Now Open!

The first day of summer is finally here (despite the unofficial start when school let out for summer vacation)! Today marks the beginning of a series of hot summer days outside (if the rainy weather will ever stop!), ice cream treats, family vacations, barbeques, and plenty of swimming. Speaking of swimming, are your children approaching that age when they’re getting a bit “too cool” for floaties? Or maybe you want to start your little ones young in the pool — after all, swimming isn’t only a leisurely pastime, it’s also a life skill to stay safe in the water and a healthy mode of exercise and fitness. Knowing the basics of swimming (aka being able to stay above the water and maybe even master the freestyle stroke) is also a NYC must with all of the outdoor swimming pools and beaches. Not only will your children feel more confident in themselves when they can swim comfortably without floaties or a life vest, but you, as a parent, can relax a bit when you embark on a family water outing around the city.

NYC Parks’ Learn to Swim Program Overview

So it’s no wonder that NYC Parks’ Learn to Swim program is extremely popular. These FREE swim classes are the perfect way to learn and practice swimming skills, all while staying cool and having fun in the water. NYC Parks strives to provide a swim education to as many people as possible so that all can participate in this timeless summer activity. And who knows, maybe the Learn to Swim program will be the first step along the way to your little one becoming the next Michael Phelps. But we can’t all win 23 gold Olympic medals, so if anything, the swim classes will provide your children with the necessary skills to venture into the deep end of the pool, conquer the waves in the ocean, bravely face the water slides, or splash around in the water with their school and neighborhood friends.

Aquatic specialist and swim instructor helps teach children how to swim in NYC Parks’ Learn to Swim! Photo by NYC Parks.

How the Lottery Works

Due to the high demand of the Learn to Swim program, NYC Parks grants spots through a random lottery system. And the lottery for ALL sessions is open NOW! The lottery actually opened on June 10, but don’t panic — you still have plenty of time to sign up. Before we get to dates and deadlines, let’s dive into how the lottery process works. First, NYC Parks is truly committed to offering free swim classes to as many people as they can, but would you want your kids’ swim classes to be overly crowded? Of course not. That’s why they offer three different sessions during the summer, in addition to a fourth for advanced swimmers, in all of the NYC boroughs.

Swim Class Specifics

There are lots of Learn to Swim Sites, where the classes take place within each borough. For example, in Manhattan, you can sign up for the Learn to Swim program at the Asser Levy Pool, Hamilton Fish Pool, or Jackie Robinson Pool, among many others. Within each session, NYC parks offer classes for both children (ages 6 to 17) and toddlers (ages 1 ½ to 5). They break children’s classes into two levels: Level 1 focuses on basic skills in the water, while Level 2 builds off Level 1 with more swimming techniques, as well as provides an overview of how to help another swimmer in an emergency. For toddlers, a parent or guardian must join their little one in the water for all sessions, so be mindful of not only your child’s summer schedule but yours as well. If you miss two consecutive classes, your spot will be given to someone on the waitlist. You can register for one class per session, but be sure not to register for more than one, because your registration will be disqualified. 

Full smiles in the water for fun, fitness, and safety with NYC Parks’ Learn to Swim :)! Photo by NYC Parks.

Dates & Deadlines

Session 1: July 8 – July 19, Deadline: 11:59 pm, June 23
Session 2: July 23 – August 5, Deadline: Noon, July 8
Session 3: August 7 – 20, Deadline: Noon, July 29
Advanced Session: August 21 – 23, Deadline: Noon, August 12  

If you happen to not be chosen for a session, you will be put on a waiting list. Given the typical shifting summer schedules with vacations, summer camps, and classes, don’t give up if you’re on the waiting list! Although school may be out, summer is still a hectic time, especially with all of the events and activities going on in NYC, so stay hopeful that a spot will open up. While swim classes are not classroom-style learning, life is a never-ending cycle of learning, both in and out of the classroom. Summer is your chance (and your kids’ chance) to explore your interests, passions, and the world that surrounds you. And when these learning experiences are free, it’s even better! Start your active and educational summer with NYC Parks’ Learn to Swim program, and sign up now for a chance to participate!