Overcoming Water Wobbles During Baby Swimming Lessons

It only feels like the other day when we started swimming lessons with Water Babies, but we’re actually approaching the end of our fourth Chapter in the pool. To date, we’ve done Chapters 1 and 2, the underwater photoshoot, and Chapter 3 on two occasions. In a few weeks time, we’ll then move on to Chapter 4 (edit: Chapter 4 review here.)

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed splish splashing in the swimming pool – not only because it has helped Toddler L with her confidence in the water, but also because it’s a different type of activity to other baby classes we’ve done and it’s taught her something completely new.

It’s been amazing watching Toddler L develop in the water over the last year. Although you don’t necessarily notice a change each week, looking back over the previous 35 or so classes has seen the sprog grow from a baby unsure of water going over her face to a toddler who can now climb out of the pool and jump back in. The transformation really is remarkable.

It’s not always easy though – by my reckoning, we’ve experienced the dreaded water wobbles on three separate occasions during her swimming lessons. This is the name given to the frustrating, annoying and despairing period when your kid switches from loving the water to hating it. Giggles will be replaced with cries, smiles will be replaced with tears and your baby will develop a death grip so tight that you’ll struggle to breathe as they cling to your neck and chest.

It’s believed that the water wobbles is associated with your child’s development milestones. As they learn to crawl, walk and talk for instance, you might find that they struggle with the balance of being independent out of the pool but reliant on you in it.

For us, I distinctly remember the first six lessons of Water Babies Chapter 3 being particularly painful – she hated going underwater, she’d cry when I put her into a side swim position and there was no chance in hell that she was going surfing on Bubba. It wasn’t until I read about water wobbles that I realised her change in behaviour in the water was most likely down to the fact that she’d become a confident crawler and was standing up by herself when on dry land.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Like most things baby-related, the water wobbles is just a phase. Your little one will make it through and will come out the other side even stronger. But, this will only happen when they’re ready and how you react to the situation is likely to have a huge impact. With this in mind, here’s my five tips on how to help your baby get through the water wobbles when swimming:

Stay Calm

It can be pretty bloody annoying when your kid has spent the last six lessons stuck to you like a limpet. It’s also a little embarrassing when everything you do is met with tears and very frustrating when it feels like you are wasting your time and money. Despite all of this though, you need to stay calm. Getting angry or irritated with your little water baby isn’t going to help. Instead, take a leaf out of Fonzie’s book and stay cool – just maybe leave the leather jacket in the changing room.

Up The Fun

When the mood is low in the water, you’ve got to do everything you can to bring the fun back to the pool. Using a bit of reverse-psychology, I’ve found that going over the top and making everything 100 times more fun and exciting is more likely to turn that frown upside-down during the water wobble stage. This means doing anything to make the swimming experience more positive. I’ve utilized hugs, kisses, tickles, blowing raspberries, making funny voices, pulling funny faces and even letting her drop my glasses to the bottom of the pool, all in the name of reducing the negativity caused by water wobbles.

Go At Their Pace

The temptation can be to push your little one to do everything they used to do as you know that they can manage it. But, in my experience, it’s important to go at their pace when going through the water wobbles. Even if they used to love going underwater previously, trying to drunk them under whilst they’re fighting against you and crying is only going to make things worse. It’s much better to take a step back and just do the activities that they’re comfortable with until they get over the wobbles.

Practice Outside Of Lessons

Much like anything in life, if you’re struggling with something or have a fear, the best thing to do is tackle it head on, try harder and practice. The same goes for the water wobbles. A 30 minute lesson each week isn’t the longest time in the world to get your little one comfortable in the water again, so it’s important to try to make time outside of lessons. This could mean doing familiar songs and actions in the bath or at the local swimming pool, such as “Name, Ready, Go” or “Splish, Splash” to reinforce what’s being taught in the Water Babies lessons. A word of warning though – a canal in Winter is no place for a toddler – I’ve learnt that the hard way…

Stick With It

When things aren’t going well and your little one isn’t enjoying swimming, there’s a huge temptation to pack it all in. But don’t! Try to remember that it’s just a phase and your child will come out the other end with a renewed love for the water. This could be a few lessons, it could be half a Chapter, it could even be a full chapter, but stopping now won’t do your little one any good – in fact, it could even be detrimental and create a feeling of “I don’t like swimming”. You’ve just got to battle through and things will get better for both baby and parent.


So there’s my top five tips for getting through the water wobbles when doing swimming lessons with your baby / toddler. Did your kid get the water wobbles? How long did they last (the wobbles, not your kid)? How did you get through them? Let me know below!

Like this? Then you might also like my other swimming-related content such as 4 mistakes to avoid when swimming with a toddler and baby swimming versus toddler swimming.

N.B. We receive complimentary Water Babies lessons in exchange for sharing our swimming experiences.

  • john adams

    We started swimming lessons with our eldest at about three years of age. As for water wobbles – the reverse was true. We unleashed a fearless mermaid and from that point we just had to keep up with the lessons because if she sees a body of water, she will leap into it. We had to get her to a point where she was swimming independently! Her sister, although not yet having lessons, has a similar mindset. I’ve written about swimming a fair bit. I think it is a vital skill kids need to learn. Keep up the good work with your little one and best of luck !

  • Man vs Pink

    Swimming is something I have really neglected in favour of Star Wars. I should probably address that…

  • Tom Briggs

    Good tips! If I’m really honest, I probably have a grown up version of the water wobbles – I was late learning to swim due to operations on my ears as a kid and never really caught up. I can get from one end to the other with my head above water, but readily admit to hating it. I must try harder, lest my kids end up like me!

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