Wading through the water wobbles

It’s incredibly frustrating when fear stops us, or those we love, from doing what we want to do in life. Fear is normal and it’s a normal part of development which helps us learn what’s safe, what isn’t and what we enjoy. It’s not any different when learning to swim as a baby… which, not so subtly, brings us to the topic of this blog: the dreaded water wobbles that are said to affect little ones during adult and child swimming lessons.

What are the water wobbles?

Picture the scene. You’ve been bringing your little one to the parent and baby swim classes from six weeks old when at 18 months, suddenly, your child doesn’t want to swim anymore. Your child is crying more, being less cooperative and generally doesn’t want to be active in the pool. It makes no sense because your loved one was always having lots of fun. We’re sorry to tell you but you might be experiencing a phenomenon some swim schools are calling water wobbles.

Why does this happen?

It’s a normal and recognised part of child development for a child’s behaviour to change as it grows. Your little dolphin is becoming more independent and free-thinking than it was on the day it was born – as a result, it’s recognised by child development experts that children can push back against their parents and generally be resistant to doing things they haven’t decided to do all by themselves. Out of the pool, you might have heard of the “terrible twos” where toddlers can be become… difficult; well, think of the “water wobbles” as a pool based version of these terrible twos! It’s a normal and important phase of child development.

The second reason we think it might happen is that your baby can generally be less comfortable than it was when you first started swimming. Teething starts within the first year, growing pains and vaccination regimes (which are also nothing to worry about with baby swimming as we point out in this blog) can all make your loved one feel grumpier than they used to.

Dealing with the water wobbles

It’s very important to remember that being resistant and upset is a normal part of child development at this age. At Our First Steps we have taught many parents and babies in Greater Manchester to swim together. We can confidently say that, in our experience, the water wobbles are a phase. Once our learners become more comfortable with themselves and more independent they quickly want to get back into the water.

It can be very frustrating as a parent if your child suddenly starts crying when you approach the pool. Be patient and stay calm. If your child picks up on your negative feelings they’ll likely feel more negative and it can become a cycle. You’ll have an easier time if you respond by trying to make your child smile and laugh so that they’re distracted from their water fears, or comforting your little dolphin as you would normally. As we’ve said, it’s a totally normal experience in baby swimming and you shouldn’t feel judged or embarrassed.

Finally, stick at it. We’ve taught many adults, children and babies who have initially feared swimming or developed a fear later – giving up has never helped our learners to get over their fears and become confident swimmers. The water wobbles are normal and we’re sure that in good time your little dolphin will be paddling like a professional again.

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