Water wobbles

It has been a year since I started swimming classes with my baby, and we’ve certainly progressed from my initial nervousness about changing and getting her into the pool, but how is it going now?

You can read all about my initial swimming experience and my top tips for a successful first swim here…


Before people asked me what swimming with a baby is like but now the most frequently asked question I get is…“so can she swim yet?”

“Well no, not really” is the short answer but it’s more complicated than that.

Splashes of water from someone in a pool
Photo by Lavi Perchick on Unsplash

We have just completed Chapter 4 with Water Babies and are starting Chapter 5 next week. That means at 15 months old we’ve done 20 hours of classes, and the progress is remarkable.

In the changing room she is happy to sit and play while I get changed and very rarely gets upset. For a while when she was first crawling she would shoot off at every opportunity and invariably find a puddle so it was difficult keeping her dry. One pool had high chairs in the changing room which was a great idea. Now she is walking she is slightly less likely to end up in a puddle but it’s still a challenge getting dressed and making sure she doesn’t wander off or slip and fall.

In the pool in the beginning I had a firm grip on her at all times, and we just did a couple of exercises per class. Now the repertoire of songs and moves is much more varied, and she can hold onto the side on her own and “swim” a short distance from the teacher to me. I put that in inverted commas because she isn’t exactly kicking her arms and legs and swimming, she’s more floating along in the current and sinking, but she’s gaining confidence in the water.

There are some older kids in the classes that properly kick and use their arms, and for a while I was worried she was too young. The classes seemed to be moving at a fast pace and just as she got one skill it was changed to a more advanced version and she never got a chance to master things. It didn’t help that when she started creche she was sick a lot and missed a few classes. The proud mama side of me wanted her to be one of the best in the class, but she seemed to be falling behind, so I was starting to have my own wobbles about whether to continue.

My baby also went through a phase at the start of Chapter 4 where she didn’t want to let go of me and do any of the exercises, so I was seriously thinking about giving up, as I’d never want to make her do something she didn’t enjoy. Luckily that very week Water Babies handed out a leaflet that put a name to what we were going through – the Water Wobbles.

It is apparantly very common for babies at this age to become more aware that they are independent of their parent and this can make them more clingy in the pool. There is also an online Water Babies forum where parents share tips on how to manage this transition.

The tips I found most useful for me were:

  1. Follow her lead, if she doesn’t want to do something just skip it, but stay in the pool.
  2. Adapt some of the moves so she is closer (the teacher will help with this), my little one liked to be facing me more.
  3. Stay calm and smiling yourself.
  4. Give lots of praise and encouragement.
  5. If she doesn’t like the pool noodle get one to play with in the bath at home.
  6. Talk to other parents, they probably went through something similar.
  7. Don’t compare your toddler to others,. I mentioned to the teacher my toddler seemed a bit behind and she said was very reassuring that there’s plenty at the same stage.

For us it only lasted a few weeks, and she is back to enjoying the classes. She especially likes anything that involves jumping. After a week of working it takes up time at the weekend, but it’s nice time where I’m close to her so it’s enjoyable for me too. I also talked to the teacher and she said in Chapter 5 the pace of change slows down, and there is a bit more repetition and consolidation of the skills, so we’ve signed up to continue.

I ideally want to keep going until she can swim a bit, and I’ll know she is safe in a pool. I’m hoping in this class term she might start using her arms and legs, rather than just enjoying floating on my outstretched hand. At some point it would be nice to able to answer the “can she swim yet” question with a positive answer. Then I really will be one proud mama!

Coping with water wobbles, toddler swimming, text

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