THE School of Mum and Dad can be far tougher than the School of Hard Knocks.
But learning to swim? Give my children a headstart on holiday and it is water off a duck’s back.
Out here in Croatia, there are extra incentives.
Swim a length unaided and get an ice cream before tea.
Then swim two lengths to win an inflatable unicorn.
Oh, and did I mention the double Olympic swimming champ cheering them on?
Thomson Holidays has just launched swim schools at 13 of its Family Life Resorts, with professional instructors giving daily lessons for kids aged four to nine.
Dame Rebecca Adlington — winner of two golds in the pool at Beijing 2008 and two bronzes at London four years later — added a splash of star power to last week’s launch at the new Bellevue Resort.
Guests could hardly believe it when she stepped out to take a lesson at the end of our break.
But can you learn the basics in a week?
“It depends on your level of fear,” says Rebecca.
“For an average child who’s not scared of the water, you absolutely can go from swimming with armbands to swimming without in the space of a holiday.”
But you must keep it up when you are back home.
Rebecca has been swimming with her daughter Summer, two, since she was a few weeks old — though getting back in the pool was the last thing Rebecca wanted to do after giving birth.
If new mums feel self-conscious, Rebecca suggests scoping out the pool set-up beforehand.
She says: “Check out the changing rooms and see how far the walk to the pool is.
“I was honestly in a maternity suit for months after Summer was born.”
Has she ever got back into one of her Olympic costumes?
“They’d never fit,” she says with a laugh.
Rebecca is clearly being modest. She is toned and slim when we meet, despite having just taken part in Celebrity MasterChef.
But her shape has changed from her competition days.
She says: “The weight has shifted — from my shoulders to my hips.”
New mums are all in the same boat but dads, of course, can get in the pool too.
While Rebecca is separated from her swimmer hubby Harry Needs, they ensure Summer has time in the water with them both.
For non-pros, swim time will mostly be at the weekend and on holiday. And Croatia is the perfect place.
The Bellevue has three pools and access to a string of little beaches towards the resort of Rabac, a 20-minute walk away.
The beaches are stony but the water is gin-clear with fish everywhere, so bring a snorkel.
But be careful — the current is strong and the beach quickly shelves to a depth of 20ft.
It is for confident swimmers only.
Luckily, there is also a great incentive for getting little ones in the sea: Aqua Splash, a floating obstacle course so hard you won’t want to get off.
It costs £8 for an hour or £6 for half and you have to pay in the local currency, the kuna. I didn’t have any, so the friendly chap in the kiosk let me pay later.
And what fun it is. If you aren’t familiar with these inflatable courses, you owe it to yourself to find out.
Again, it helps to be a confident swimmer but life jackets are available. If children can swim 50 metres unaided, they will be perfectly safe with adult supervision.
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But official figures say 40 per cent of British kids can’t swim 25 metres on their own, while nearly three-quarters have never had a swimming lesson.
That makes Thomson’s scheme all the more important.
At nine, my two were at the upper age limit for the classes.
They were decent swimmers already so the lessons were not really aimed at them.
But for four to six-year-olds starting out or lacking confidence, they are perfect.
At £53 for five 45-minute sessions, it is cheaper than back home — and more fun than the School of Mum and Dad.
As for Croatia, I’d happily go back tomorrow.
I owe the Aqua Splash man 100 kuna for a start.
GETTING THERE/STAYING THERE: Thomson Holidays has seven nights all-inclusive at the TUI Family Life Bellevue Resort from £1,188 per person this August, with flights from Gatwick.
Departures from Bristol, Manchester, East Midlands, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh are also available.
FIND OUT MORE: Swimming lessons can be booked on arrival at 13 Family Life Resorts in Croatia, Sardinia, Gran Canaria, Mallorca, Turkey, Cyprus, Samos, Kos and Rhodes.
A one-week block of five sessions costs £53.