Why does my child not appear to be improving

The answer is your child has reached a plateau. One of the hardest principles of the learning to swim process for both parents and teachers to understand is the plateau phenomenon. Put quiet simply this means your child will appear to remain stationary (level out), in terms of their skill level development, during the learning process.

Unlike skills learnt on the land, skills learnt in the water require your child being able to:
1. adapt to an environment where gravitational forces are removed or severely reduced
2. learn to control their breathing so that they only breath in when their mouth and nose are out of the water and clear of water.
3. be able to hold the water with their hands and feet.

All of the above skills are foreign to children in terms of their normal day-to-day activities conducted whilst being subjected to the gravitational forces of the planet.

Confidence is the biggest factor that influences your child’s progress through the five stages of the learn to swim process. First of all your child needs to be confident they can put their face in the water and not get water up their nose or breath it in through their mouth. This takes time. Once your child is confident they can do this it will appear their skill progress stands still while they learn to float on top of the water. This is the first plateau your child will experience. They will appear to stand still until their confidence adjust to their new skill level.

When a child starts swimming lessons they need to learn to put their face in the water and control their breathing. A child might do this in the first lesson or it may take several lessons for the Child to acquire the skill. Once they have acquired the skill then the next step if for them to learn the water always holds them up (floating). Developing this skill and confidence can take some time as your child will appear to be at a stand still.

Once your child knows the water will always support their body weight then it is time for them to learn how to hold the water with their hands and feet. As you can imagine the water being a liquid is a difficult substance to hold and the skill of holding the water takes some time hence your child appears to be at a standstill in their skill development. They have reached another plateau.

This sequence of gaining confidence (plateauing) learning a new skill, gaining confidence (plateauing), learning a new skill is applicable to all ages and standards. From babies to adults to competition swimmers.

So please be patient through this process and give your child lots of encouragement while they struggle with adapting to an environment without gravity and develop the fine motor skills required to hold the water with their hands and feet.

See more: Top Tips for Swimming lessons with toddlers

Chris Shapland.