practising swimming on his back and kicking
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Swimming and learning plateaus

So, swimming. I think, after having 2 to 3 weeks of dubious attitude, behaviour and lack of attempt to show any interest in what he should be doing, that we’ve hit a swimming learning plateau. That depressing phase where young children all of a sudden stop progressing, have a change of attitude, and it makes you feel like you want to give up.

I know that N’s been through several major times of this, with the main one being his almost year-long water wobbles. Well, we came out the other side brilliantly, and it was a bit of a surprise when it happened. I’m really hoping the same happens again this time.

The past few week’s he’s been moaning about going swimming, but once we get in the car he’s fine, and in the changing room and sitting at the side of the pool waiting, he’s ok with being there. In fact, he talks about the activities he does in swimming, and what he’s going to do to try and get a new tractor ted DVD. Well, I did tell him that if he did a star float properly and worked hard at trying one, then we would restart his button jar we previously used for toilet training, to build up to his star float reward.

Where in the past he’s loved jumping in off the side, or ‘diving’ in from sitting and swimming a bit to me on his own, now he’ll sit on the side and call me over to him. He’ll not want to get in on his own, wanting me to hold him as he jumps in. He’ll do certain activities – he’s happy swimming (or drifting) with his woggle, and he’s brilliant at his breathing and blowing bubbles while swimming. But he doesn’t seem to want to do anything with his arms – just wants to hold on to me or the woggle. So no big tiger arms going on!

practising swimming on his back and kicking

What we’ve found is that he does want to be the demo, and Mr Shark when they play games. So he’ll swim from the teacher to me, but not in reverse, and he’ll like to be used to show what activity they’re doing….well, likes to be with the teacher, but then doesn’t necessarily do what he’s meant to be showing. Oops.

And jumping off or falling off a mat into the water doesn’t seem to be a problem either, so he’s not lost all of his confidence.

It is so hard when you know how well they’ve been doing prior to the learning plateau, and also not knowing how long it’s going to last. In a way it’s good that we’ve only got a few weeks until the Summer holidays, so less pressure to do specific activities, but hopefully we’ll manage to get swimming to fun places like the outdoor pool and the big leisure centres. And maybe coordinate with his friends going too so it’s different people to swim with.

Water Babies explain the learning plateau

Children can seem uncooperative, don’t want to do things they used to like, and may seem to not progress or go backwards. The teacher last week explained that it’s a case of them having to absorb everything they’ve learnt up to that point, and it takes a while to process and reinforce the skills, before their brain accepts they can move on. All makes sense given the amount of information that toddlers are absorbing all the time; it can happen both in and out of the water.

The recommendations for coping with learning plateaus are:

  1. staying patient and positive with what your child does (bizarrely, N has tried a star float – fleetingly – each week he’s had a grouch on, so there is hope)
  2. allowing your child to work at their own pace
  3. keeping them close to you, and try doing the activity with them to help reinforce the skill
  4. encouraging your child to lead the activity or take part in other ways, e.g. by helping to demo or hand out woggles
  5. even if they’re not taking part, encouraging them to watch others – they’ll still pick up what’s going on
  6. if they resist an underwater swim, hold off on the submersions until they’re ready to try again
  7. take them along to other swim sessions (for example, at your local public pool) and just let them play independently

We know from experience how important it is to keep going swimming. However frustrating it is at the moment, I’m hoping that N will show a good progression again once we get over this plateau…maybe he should stop concentrating on learning to write millions of N’s and a’s and get back to swimming instead!

Disclosure: We blog for and swim with Water Babies. All words and opinions are my own

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  1. You know, it’s funny but my just turned two year old who has ALWAYS loved the water suddenly decided it was really, really scary for no reason at all one morning. She’s regained her skills and confidence and more. But she still doesn’t like going down the slide, which was her very favorite thing before. I had no idea it was common for them to stall or regress!

    1. It comes on so quickly and surprisingly. Exactly the same with N. He’s now jumping in again, but still is nowhere near he was before…he likes to take his time through plateaus. Hopefully by September, he’ll start to enjoy it again

  2. Bless him. Bet he’s just storing it all up ready to amaze you in a couple of weeks time with his leap in ability. Best get him signed up for the 2016 Olympics now I think 😉 Hope he does start to progress again soon. I think kids hit these brick walls in learning in all sorts of things. He’ll get through it 🙂

    1. Here’s hoping it doesn’t last too long. His last serious water wobble lasted almost a year, which even surprised Water Babies! He doesn’t do things by halves, so hoping the holidays gives him a breather

  3. So funny that plateau thing isn’t it? You watch, give him a few more lessons and you will be totally sick of it and he will suddenly want to go every day! 😀

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