If the Windy City’s winter chill has you aching for warm ocean waters, you may be considering an under-the-sea experience for your child. Several Chicago-area scuba diving shops offer lessons for children—but there is much to consider before scheduling a class for your child.
Children must be at least 10 to earn junior open water certification—but age alone doesn’t mean your child is scuba-ready. “I don’t necessarily train 10 year olds. I have to meet with the kid and the kid’s parents first,” says Ravi Hatamleh, scuba instructor and owner, Scuba Sensations, Chicago. Two things instructors say they look for: maturity and motivation.
Area scuba shops require kids to take a swimming test of 200 to 300 meters—any stroke; any length of time—to demonstrate they can handle the rigors of scuba-diving lessons.
Scuba diving lessons aren’t limited to hands-on instruction. Your child should expect classroom instruction, too, with chapters to read and tests to take.
Children should be in good physical health to learn to dive.
Scuba shops often offer alternative water experiences for younger children—think 6 to 9 years old—such as a snorkel-like class.
Check out the following Chicago-area scuba shops for a child-friendly scuba diving experience.
2338 W. Fullerton Ave., Chicago
This facility offers two scuba experiences for children 10 and older: “Discover Scuba,” a one-time session where kids can learn the basics of diving and suit up in a local pool, or junior certification. Is your budding diver younger than 10? Ask about “Kids Splash.” “We also offer special programs for youth organizations, especially those that serve impoverished youth,” says Sera Sousley, store manager and operations manager.
2425 W. Pratt Blvd., Chicago
Scuba Sensations offers junior certification for kids ages 10 and older, but schedule time to talk with an instructor before registering. “One of the things I consider with youth registrations is the desire of the parent: Does a parent plan to dive with the child?” Hatamleh says. He teaches classes with children and parents, “And those are some of my favorite classes to teach. It’s fun to see a child picking up the skills with a parent—sometimes more quickly than the parent.” Scuba Sensations also offers a “Bubblemaker” class, where kids ages 8 and 9 can use scuba gear in shallow water.
305 Main St., Hobart, Ind.
Fourteen kids ages 10 and older have gained junior certification through Lake County Divers Supply in the past year and a half, instructor Aaron Williams says. Parents can expect two full weekends of instruction, with a combination of classroom and pool instruction, with open-water tests held at Yogi Bear Park in Portage, Ind., or Haigh Quarry in Kankakee, Ill. “There’s a lot kids can see underwater at Haigh Quarry—boats, trucks, firetrucks, and Greek archaeology,” Williams says. A “Bubble Watchers” class if offered for kids ages 6 and older.
2950 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Children ages 12 and older may take part in group scuba classes, while kids ages 10 and 11 must register for private lessons. Underwater Safaris’ junior certification program includes classroom or e-learning instruction on scuba equipment, safety and dive planning, pool dives, and open-water dives. Its certification program consists of four lessons taught over a two-week period.
554 S. Rt. 59, Naperville
Below H2O also offers junior certification for kids ages 10 to 14, as well as a “Bubble Maker” course where kids 8 and older can use scuba equipment in a swimming pool and a “Seal Team” class featuring “Aquamissions”—underwater pool adventures designed to teach kids 8 and older scuba diving basics. Interested in junior certification? Kids must be able to swim 300 meters without stopping using fins, a mask, and a snorkel and tread water for 10 minutes.