Between the ages of 8 and 24 months, your little one might start to become a bit more cautious of the water. They might start to cling to you desperately, not want to participate in activities they once loved and become less comfortable around your teacher. But don’t worry. This is the same natural development stage shared by nearly all children. In the pool, we call them water wobbles.
Why do they happen?
The wobbles often hit at this time because it’s when your baby is learning to walk and explore their surroundings. They are learning about their identity, and is a very positive and healthy part of their development. But as this adventurous side of your little one takes over, something called separation anxiety starts to kick in too. Confusing eh? This newfound independence, coupled with their dependency on you means that when you’re not around, they might start to feel anxious or show signs of distress. It’s pretty tricky. But imagine how challenging it must be for your baby.
Signs to look out for
It might be pretty obvious when your little one is going through this stage, but sometimes there are some more subtle signs. You might notice that you child:
Refuses to go under water. Even though you’re there, going beneath the surface feels like your baby is in a separate room to you.
Doesn’t want to take part in any activities.
Won’t let go of you.
Becomes wary of strangers, including your teacher.
Suddenly seems distressed in lessons when they were absolutely loving it before.
It can be frustrating. Really frustrating. We’ve seen our fair share of wobblers. But you can breathe a sigh of relief because there are plenty of things you can do to navigate through this difficult time.
What can I do to help?
Keep praising. Use plenty of reassuring language and keep encouraging your baby. Focus on the things that they’re good at.
Keep your little one close to you, and avoid stretching your arms out when doing a swim. When you're away from your little one, they cannot hold an image of you in their mind, so keeping in constant contact with them (especially in the pool when they are unable to move independently) will reassure them that you're there.
Adapt the skills you’re learning in the water. Your teacher will help you achieve this with your little one.
Let them use their most loved toy in the activities.
Switch up the swim positions. Sometimes the side swim position might make them feel like you’re letting go of them, so give the extended arm position a go instead.
Give your little one a toy to hold. This may help them feel more secure and give you a chance to negotiate with them.
Your lesson might be interrupting your baby’s sleep schedule or feeding pattern. See if changing up the location, day or time of the lesson helps at all.
If they’ve lost their confidence or trust, it’s okay. Just don’t push them and they’ll soon get it back. Really!
Keep calm and talk to other carers in your class. They’ve either already been there or they’re going through the same thing as you. A problem shared is a problem halved.
And most importantly of all – keep at it. Going forward is one of the best things you can do to overcoming this tricky time. You never have to feel alone when it comes to the water wobbles.