Register for Free Swimming Lessons for NYC Kids

New York City Parks Department Free Swimming Lesson Lottery

The New York City Parks Department offers FREE aquatic programs for children under 18 all year round, as well as adults, but you have to apply through an online lottery for each session. Summer swimming lessons are on the horizon and the lottery opens on June 15.

Read on for the details on where to swim for free, or check our directory of paid kid swim classes or mommy-and-me swim lessons for babies and toddlers.

The Parks Department's swimming lessons are held at indoor recreation center pools throughout NYC in the spring, winter and fall.

Summer Programs

The Parks Department begins its online lottery for all summer swimming sessions on Wednesday, June 15. The lottery for the first session, which runs Wednesday, July 6-Wednesday, July 20, ends at 11:59pm on Sunday, June 26.

Results will be emailed by Tuesday, June 28. Below are the programs that will be on offer. Locations and schedule info are available on the registration page.

The Parks Department offers four outdoor sessions this summer. If the first session doesn't work for your family, consider registering for one of the other sessions. Registration for all sessions is opens on June 15, but each session has a different end date:

  • Session 2 runs Friday, July 22-Friday, August 5; registration ends at noon, Monday, July 11. Results emailed Wednesday, July 13.
  • Session 3 runs Tuesday, August 9-Friday, August 19; registration ends at noon, Monday, August 1. Results emailed Wednesday, August 3.
  • An Advanced Session runs from Monday, August 22-Friday, August 26; registration ends at noon, Monday, August 15. Results emailed Wednesday, August 17.

Summer Swimming Programs for Kids and Adults

Summer Learn to Swim Lessons
Ages 1½-17
Children are organized into two age groups (1½-5 and 6-17) and taught basic water safety and swimming skills on weekday mornings. Note: Kids ages 1½-5 must be accompanied by an adult, and there's a required ratio of one adult per child. So if you've got two, both parents must come along! (If you're got three or more, find a really nice friend.)

Advanced Swimming Lessons
Ages 6-17
This accelerated class is geared toward youth who already know how to swim and will teach beyond basic swim skills and stroke refinement. Children will learn backstroke, back crawl, butterfly and enhanced water safety skills.

Adult Water Aerobics
Ages 18+
Trained water aerobic professionals will lead these workout classes in the shallow end of the pool. The light resistance will help reduce joint pain and injury risk.

Spring/Fall/Winter Programs

If you're summer is already booked, the Parks Department offers off-season lessons free of charge at indoor pools. While lessons are FREE, you must be a member of the recreation center where you'd like to swim. Membership is FREE for children under 18, but there are fees for adults. That means children old enough to swim on their own (ages 6 and up) can learn at no cost.

For any child ages 1½ to 5, an adult is required to be in the water. We called Citywide Aquatics and confirmed that if you must accompany your child in the water, you also need to be a member of the recreation center. However, if your child is old enough to swim on his or her own, you do not need to buy a membership. Find out how to become a member on the Parks Department's website.

Below are the programs that are usually on offer. Locations and schedule info are available on the registration page. If you run into registration issues, call Citywide Aquatics at 718-760-6969 ext. 0.

Free Saturday Learn-to-Swim Lessons
All ages
Off-season Saturday learn-to-swim lessons are organized into three age groups: 1½ to 5, 6 to 17 and everyone else. Children ages 1½ to 5 must be accompanied by an adult, who is a member of the recreation center, in the water.

Free After-school Learn-to-Swim Lessons
Ages 6-17
Indoor pools across the city offer classes after-school on weekdays, usually starting at 4pm. Visit the website to enter the online lottery.

Free Swim Team
Ages 6-18
More advanced swimmers can hone their skills by joining a team. These sessions emphasize technique, endurance, speed and sportsmanship as participants train for the Borough Cup Championship. Tryouts are held on an ongoing basis. Kids must be able to swim 50 meters in reasonably good form to try out, and are required to submit a completed application and a copy of their birth certificate. Fill out the online form and you'll be able to schedule a tryout. Questions? Call Citywide Aquatics: 718-760-6969 ext. 0.

Free Adapted Aquatics Instruction
All ages
This program for people with special physical needs offers adapted workouts for those suffering from ailments resulting from injury, disease or aging. It's offered at a handful of sites.

The Parks Department also offers learn-to-swim lessons during some school breaks so keep that in mind. There's no lottery, instead you contact the recreation center of your choice to vie for a spot.

For more information about the Parks Department's swim programs, call 718-760-6969 or visit the website.

Top photo credit: egarc2 via Flickr.

This post was originally published in 2009 and is updated annually.