If you ever notice that your child has stopped progressing and has had a change in attitude to their swimming classes, it can be bewildering and frustrating. But don’t be too surprised! It’s quite common for children to hit ‘learning plateaus’, when their rapid progression can slow down or even stop altogether. They may seem uncooperative, or resist going underwater when they’ve swam quite happily in the past.
Why plateaus happen
Learning plateaus are a natural part of life, regardless of when they occur, and can happen both in and out of the water and for all sorts of reasons. Your child might experience a learning plateau when they've been doing an activity for a long time; after a period of rapid learning; or when they're beginning a new activity or learning experience. After a period of learning, your child's brain needs time to make sense of all the new information and reinforce the skills learned. This period of time is completely natural and a vital part of learning any new skill. The good news is that once your child's brain is able to process the information and has decided how to use it, they'll be able to easily perform the new skills.
When they happen
Generally, you can expect to see plateaus for the first time between 11 and 15 months old, and toddlers can experience several during their early years. Plateaus can be short-lived or could last for many months; but however long they last, rest assured that they’re a normal - and vital - part of learning.
Eoin's caught the fish!
Hit a plateau?
As with everything at Water Babies, we always recommend that you remain positive and patient with your child at all times, and try the following:
- Gently encourage and allow your child to work at their own pace
- Keep them close to you, and try doing the activity with them to help reinforce the skill
- Encourage your child to lead the activity
- Even if they're not taking part, encourage them to watch others - they'll still pick up what's going on
- Encourage them to take part in other ways; for example, by helping to hold the mat for 'wibble wobble'
- If they resist an underwater swim, hold off on the submersions until they're ready to try again
- Take them swimming out of lessons (for example, at your local public pool) and just let them play independently
Most importantly, carry on swimming! Stopping your child's lessons would mean they wouldn't have the chance to reinforce the skills they've already learned. And if they're away from the water for too long, there's every chance those skills will be forgotten and may need to be re-learned.
At Water Babies, we'll work with you to help your child through what can be a frustrating and bewildering time for you as a parent - and remember, no one learns in a straight line, so your child may go forward, then back a little, then forward again!