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; the lottery for the first two-week session opened on Monday, June 12 and runs through Sunday, June 25.

Summer swimming takes place in NYC's many outdoor pools, which open Thursday June 29, and are held each day during a session, meaning it's a great summer vacation activity to fill up the day for kids out of school.

Read on for the details on where to swim for free, or check our directory of paid kid swim classesmommy-and-me swim lessons for babies and toddlers, including those specifically in Brooklyn and in Queens.

The Parks Department's summer programs are hosted by the city's outdoor pools. Swimming lessons are held at indoor recreation center pools throughout NYC in the spring, winter and fall. 

Summer Programs

The Parks Department offers three summer sessions FREE of charge at select outdoor city pools. There are lessons for toddlers (begins at age 1½ on up to adults, and even an advance swim lesson for kids ages 6 to 17 years old, looking to move to the next level.) Entry the online lottery for the session you'd like to join. Winners are chosen at random, and the Parks Department will add you to the waiting list if you don't make it in that first time. Here are the dates for summer 2017.

  • Summer Session 1: Thursday, July 6 through Wednesday, July 19; lottery registration begins Monday, June 12 at 7am and ends Sunday, June 25 at 11:59pm. Results emailed Tuesday, June 27.
  • Summer Session 2: Friday, July 21 through Thursday, August 3; lottery registration also begins begins Monday, June 12 at 7am but ends Monday, July 10 at noon. Results emailed by Wednesday, July 12.
  • Summer Session 3: Monday, August 7 through Friday, August 18; lottery registration also begins begins Monday, June 12 at 7am but ends Monday, July 31 at noon. Results emailed by Wednesday, August 2.
  • Advance Summer Swim Session: Monday, August 21 through Friday, August 25; lottery registration also begins begins Monday, June 12 at 7am but ends Monday, August 14 at noon. 

You can register your child for every session, or just one. What you don't want to do, is to try to register at multiple locations for the same session. This is not school ranking, folks. The system will remove your application as a duplicate if you apply for more than one spot.

Fall/Winter/Spring Programs

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.

Note: For any child ages 1½ to 5, an adult is required to be in the water. 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.

These lotteries will be announced as the season approaches. 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.

Photo via Bigstock.

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