Dealing with water wobbles :: Toddler swimming*

How to deal with the water wobbles via Toby & Roo :: daily inspiration for stylish parents and their kids.

I’ve always been a little bit neurotic about making sure that I get time with each of the kids individually, special time where they get the opportunity to enjoy one on one parent time and the opportunity to miss their siblings. It has become a bit of an impossibility with Roo at the moment with school (I really must work on that) but swimming with the kids has been one way that I have been able to ensure a bit of special one on one time – especially with Toby. I always resent the implication that, being the middle child, Toby will feel left out and neglected (I wrote about it here) so I really value the one to one time I get with him during swimming. It is one of the most special times for me, especially as Edith is such a clingy baby, I don’t really get time with the boys alone anymore.

I was really upset and I started to think that this might be the end of our swimming journey as it’s something that I have never wanted to push swimming on the children, I want them to relish getting in the water and they have such a passion for swimming that I would be devastated to take that away from them. I remember going to class one day and I honestly felt drained before we even started. It felt like I was fighting an uphill battle of frustration and irritation on both sides – I ended up getting cross with his silly behaviour and, in turn, was just as silly! I think because Reuben came to the end of his water babies journey about the same time that this new attitude came from Toby I was worried that we were all going to have to hang up the flippers (no we don’t wear flippers really) and move on.

It turns out that I wasn’t alone in this feeling or experience, in fact around the age of two to three most little ones start to get frustrated with their swimming lessons, even if they have been the most confident swimmers in the past. It’s not uncommon for them to suddenly decide they don’t like going under water (even if it’s never bugged them in the past), don’t like diving, being on their backs and refuse to allow you to hold them during the lesson, instead preferring to mess about and ignore every request you make. Like I said before, this is so common that Water Babies gave it a name – water wobbles. It’s nothing more than a case of testing limits and finding feet, the best thing to do, in my experience with Toby and the other little ones in his class who had the same sudden, inexplicable attitude change towards swim class, is just to persevere. I thought it might be helpful to jot down a few tips:

Do keep going! Keep going to your swim class, the very worst thing you can do when a 2 – 3 year old starts getting water wobbles is stop, it only reinforces the current state of mind that swimming is a bad thing and they are correct to dislike it. Keep. Going.

Do remember swimming is meant to be fun! I made this mistake with Roo all the time – being heavily pregnant and experiencing all these things for the first time, I just lost my temper with him – which made us both feel dreadful and really sucked the fun out of his toddler swimming classes. Try not to get cross if your little one isn’t participating how they should, it’s only a toddler swim class after all.

Do roll with it. Toby despised being on his back, we’re only just coming out of this phase, a few weeks away from turning three and it can still impact our lessons. I’ve learnt you’ve just got to roll with it, they don’t want to be on their back? Fine, do the exercise on their front or just swim them along – chat to your swim instructor and tell them that you suspect the good ole’ water wobbles and you don’t want the lesson to be upsetting so you’re going to try it on the back and if they get upset, flip them over. Same applies with under water or other wobbles – just do as much as they are confident with, once they see all the other kids doing it and coming out the other side, they’ll get over it.

Do try to remember it’s not just swimming classes for your toddler, but it’s valuable time with you. I *wish* I could go back and re-do my swim classes with Roo. I really do, I was so frustrated so easily, I would frequently storm out and say to Adam (after the kids were in bed, obviously) “It’s so much money and he’s not progressing because he won’t do what he should!!!” That’s true – it’s a lot of your hard earned cash, I get that, but who cares if they aren’t Tom Daley yet, they are toddlers learning the basics of swimming and water safety FOR KIDS, not passing the lifeguard challenge. More importantly you can’t put a price on one to one time.

I really hope your water wobbles are easy going if you get them, you can always have a chat with your instructor or maybe talk to your little one before class. Just don’t let it put you off, it’s such a wonderful skill to learn and take it from someone who has already come to the end of one Water Babies baby swimming journey, you don’t want it to end too soon!



  1. Avatar
    February 17, 2018 / 11:57 am

    Thanks for this blog post, it was just what I was looking for. We are definitely experiencing the ‘water wobbles’ & it’s really frustrating, but I’m going to persevere & remember to enjoy the one on one time!

    • Harriet February 17, 2018 / 3:57 pm

      Ahh I’m really pleased it’s helped!

  2. Avatar
    Alison Cole
    October 6, 2015 / 10:18 pm

    We’ve had exactly the same thing recently with my older son after having a break from Water babies while my second son was born/very small. (We were in your class a few weeks back and I said to you ‘oh you’re ‘Toby & Roo!’ whilst Toby was talking to my baby son Jack).
    Anyway, my older son had a meltdown this morning all the way to swimming and declared he wasn’t doing it/didn’t like it/couldn’t do it etc then we had the best lesson we’ve had in months and he listened and tried everything and got his Level 1 today, hurray! I’d almost given up as he seemed to have lost all confidence and it wasn’t fun for him anymore. Hopefully his new badge will remind him it is!

    • Harriet October 7, 2015 / 9:34 am

      Oh bless you Alison – the meltdowns suck! It’s so frustrating as a parent because you don’t want to force them to do an activity that they *should* be enjoying and you don’t want to ‘put them off’ but you won’t, perseverance and gentle encouragement plus a bit a flexibility is all you need! I hope he loves his new badge! xx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.