With an entrance to the world’s largest surface freshwater lake system sitting in Chicago’s backyard, a preoccupation with water is natural around here. If your little ones’ love for H2O extends beyond beach days and running through the sprinklers, give them an opportunity to expand their watery horizons with an introduction to scuba diving.
A variety of underwater adventures are available to water lovers age 5 and up at the Scuba Emporium. Its facility in Orland Park, one of the largest of its kind in the Midwest, is equipped with a dive shop, repair center, classroom and heated pool and has licensed instructors on hand for one-on-one instruction, group lessons and parties.
The youngest set, 5- to 7-year-olds, can get their feet wet with the SASY program, in which they learn to use all the usual scuba gear but don’t submerge in the pool. A jacket with a built-in buoyancy compensator keeps kids from sinking while giving them a feel for what scuba diving is like. Snorkeling and swimming lessons also run on a regular basis to get kids comfortable in the water.
Kids 8 and up are eligible for the PADI Seal and Master Seal programs. Seals meet for five sessions and Master Seals for 15 sessions to learn the basics of scuba plus some fun extras for the Master Seals like night diving, navigating and reef creatures. Certification programs are open to kids at age 10.