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DS2 (age 6) STILL can't swim, and it's becoming a problem

(47 Posts)
gameboy Sun 31-Aug-08 21:39:03

He was 6 in August, and despite having had weekly swimming lessons since he was 4, he still can't swim more than 2 -3 metres.

He loves the water.
Is happy to go to the pool.
Fine with a swim jacket or armbands on.
Without, he clings to DH or I, and refuses to practice with us at all.

We've changed his lessons because we thought that may be the problem, and he enjoys them, but he hasn't really progressed at all this year sad.

It's beginning to upset him a bit as there are more and more swimming parties etc, and he is now visibly the non-swimmer among his peers.

Next school year he will do swimming at school, and it will be awful if he doesn't catch up a bit with his peers before then.

I'm really at my wits end. DS1 could swim 50 metres at the same age, with exactly the same number of lessons etc.

I'm not really sure whether he's just not 'got it' yet, or is lazy, or what??

What can I do? Anyone else manage to jump-start the swimming?

Smithagain Sun 31-Aug-08 21:42:27

No real suggestions, as my daughter is at the same age and hasn't really cracked it either.

But I'm also amazed to hear he is the only non-swimmer among his peers. DD was in the middle group when she did swimming at school last term, so there was a whole group of kids who could barely stay afloat.

Is he particularly skinny? I think that's DD's problem. She just doesn't have enough body fat to give buoyancy and she can only swim if she puts her face in the water. As soon as she starts to breathe, she sinks and has to start again. She's ace on her back, though!

HRHQueenElizabethI Sun 31-Aug-08 21:42:32

We decided last summer that ds1 was going to learn over the summer. He had been having lessons, but had also been very nervous of the water, particularly on his face.

I basically took him every evening I could - sometimes 5 or 6 times a week, and it did work - by the end of the summer he could swim 5m, and was confident about putting his face in (tbh, that was the key - getting him to put his face in - once he did that he was away). He is now a fish.

HRHQueenElizabethI Sun 31-Aug-08 21:43:10

Oh - ds1 is incredibly skinny - and would sink as you say. Dd is more - buoyant - shall we say!

gameboy Sun 31-Aug-08 21:48:53

wow - that's interesting - DS2 is also VERY skinny. Maybe that's it?

DS1 was definitely bigger. Hmm...... hmm

HRH - how did you teach him - did you use a book, or just common sense/ copy swimming lessons.

I think I would have to seriously bribe DS2 though, he just really messes about when I take him.

cmotdibbler Sun 31-Aug-08 21:53:51

When I was a child, it was really unusual to be able to swim without armbands by the time you were 7, and I remember loads of people still only swimming a little by 9.

I'd just relax and let him mess around in the pool - no 'practice', only lessons if he really enjoys them, and stop getting stressed about it. After all, the point of school swimming lessons is to learn to swim after all isn't it ?

Anchovy Sun 31-Aug-08 21:54:27

Gosh, is it really worth worrying if he can't do it?

I ask because I'm in the same boat. My DS is 6, nearly 7. I took him swimming today, and while he is happy in the water, he is not really swimming in any meaningful way. He went down the (small) slide about 20 times, jumped in about 5 times, swam with a float, went underwater, went on his back, got chased, jumped up and down , but if you put him in a pool along side Michael Phelps, then I think he would look a bit...well..lightweight.

(Oh, and he's done weekly swimming at school for the last year!)

I am not at my wits end by any means. I'm not even mildly concerned, frankly. It'll happen when he's ready. It's just like reading, I think, so comparing him to other people/siblings is irrelevant in my book. Some of the other children in his class are like fish, some are like stones. I suspect DS is well towards the bottom end, but its not remotely bothered either of us.

Does it really impact on you/him? (Genuinely interested question). I think it is a very important lifeskill, but not being able to swim hasn't really mattered a lot to us. We have been majoring in the last 6 months on riding a bike without stabilisers and on the road and that feels hugely more meaningful to me, because now he can do that its really opened up a lot more things we can do together. I'm very sure in a year's time he will be swimming fine and putting pressure on him in the interim will be a bit counter-productive I feel.

Good luck!

Anchovy Sun 31-Aug-08 21:56:50

CMotdibbler - yes, I was thinking back to when I was a child this morning and very few people I knew could swim at 7. I only really started learning at 7.

I learnt in the time-honoured way which seems to have gone out of fashion these days which was of your dad putting less air in your rubber ring each time you went, LOL!

elliott Sun 31-Aug-08 21:58:00

I think body fat really makes a difference as to how easy swimming is. Dh is v skinny and finds it a lot of EFFORT to swim - he has to move continuously or he sinks - I can't understand this as I can languidly float with almost no effort at all(!)
ds1 is very skinny and at 6.5 is not a great swimmer - I think he has the same problem as dh.
I'm not really sure you can do much except carry on with the lessons and be thankful he enjoys them!

bozza Sun 31-Aug-08 22:03:33

I see where you are coming from with this one. But DS was just like that at that age despite all the swimming lessons (since 3 1/2). He finally got going after our holiday (where we deliberately spent a lot of time in the pool) when he was 6 1/2. It is still slow progress, but now a year later, at 7 1/2 he can swim 25m on his front, is happy jumping in the deep end, and just (last lesson) did a width on his back. That means he can move up a grade because it was his back that was holding him back. So there is still some time yet.

How is he at other physical things? Our "thing" with DS atm is riding his bike. DS has never been quick or confident at physical things.

Anchovy Sun 31-Aug-08 22:05:40

Interesting. DS also is very stringy and has very little body fat.

Issy Sun 31-Aug-08 22:08:49

Neither DD1 (7.5) or DD2 (6) can swim in any kind of meaningful way. Like Anchovy's DS they can lark around in the water, are happy to jump off the side and put their heads under, swim with any type of flotation aid etc.. They just can't actually make it from one side of the pool to the other. I'm not bothered although I might be if we'd actually taken them to some swimming lessons but I have wearily marked it down as Something We Must Get Sorted this academic year (along with riding bikes without stabilisers and a number of the times tables). Some of their peers can swim, some can't. Their two friends who can swim best have pools in their back gardens making swimming accessible and an absolute necessity.

However, none of this helps you as it does clearly bother you. Would it be worth investing in some one-to-one lessons? I can easily imagine a less confident child failing to make progress in a group lesson.

Oh and I agree about body fat. DD2 is incredibly confident in the water and is certainly very close to swimming but being super-skinny is a huge disadvantage as it's almost impossible for her to float unless moving through the water vigorously. DH, similarly super-skinny, has the same problem.

WilfSell Sun 31-Aug-08 22:10:07

DS1 couldn't swim until 7. Lessons, time, chilling out and grandparents sorted it out

Issy Sun 31-Aug-08 22:11:11

Thinking about the body fat issue I'm not sure how it will resolve itself. I can't see DD2 putting on any more layers of fat (actually any layers of fat) so I guess she's just going to have to go from zero to 100m butterfly without any intervening faffing around.

dollybird Sun 31-Aug-08 22:13:31

Neither of my two can - DS (6) is just about swimming a metre or so. DD (5) wouldn't let you let go in a million years and we feel lucky that she'll get in without screaming! They've never had lessons as DD has loads of ear infections from 4m and now has grommits so doesn't seem worthwhile as she shouldn't get water in her ears. I'm not sure she'll ever learn.

bozza Sun 31-Aug-08 22:16:28

DS has had grommets since he was 2 and we have never been told not to let him swim. He is reasonably skinny but no more so than lots of his friends who can swim.

gameboy Sun 31-Aug-08 22:17:45

Anchovy - to some extent I'm with you on the 'try not to worry too much' front, and I certainly didn't swim until I was about 7 or 8.

However it REALLY is becoming a bit of an issue. There are quite a few swimming parties and he is the ONLY one in his class who still needs to wear armbands or a jacket. I know he has been teased about it at least once or twice (not nice, but it happens). He also sometimes goes to a holiday club where there is a pool, and again he is quite self-conscious. He already hates the fact that he is the youngest in his class - the 'baby' angry - and this sort of stuff just reinforces it.

Obviously I won't push him, if he really doesn't want to, but he seems to want to swim, but just can't !!

CMotdibbler - when DS1 did swimming at school last year (Yr 3) ALL the kids could already swim 25m, so no, I don't think that is really what they focus on - it was more stamina and technique.

tortoiseshell Sun 31-Aug-08 22:20:35

gameboy (am HRH btw) - we did a mixture of 'messing around', putting face in the water, doing LOTS of glides with face in water (this was really helpful actually), swimming with a woggle/noodle, jumping in lots.

At parties, if he is comfortable with a woggle/noodle, it is a lot less 'babyish' than armbands - it can be seen as a 'cool swim toy' rather than 'baby armbands'. You can normally get them from the pool.

Ds1 had about 4 terms of lessons till he 'clicked' with it. He has just done 25m on his front and his back, and could probably do more, but isn't a 'natural' swimmer. Now dd is much more of a natural, but won't go to lessons...hmm

gameboy Sun 31-Aug-08 22:24:25

thanks toroiseshell - yes, woggles are good, but the only problem is that if another child wrestles it off him (as boys are often likely to do) and he's out of his depth then it's dangerous.

I guess it would probably help me a lot if he could swim, as then I wouldn't have to go in the pool with him at parties wink

combustiblelemon Sun 31-Aug-08 22:26:40

I assume he's done all the ducking under the water and just floating on his back without a float?

dollybird Sun 31-Aug-08 22:27:49

bozza - seems diffeent consultants say different things as my friends DS had grommets too and was told fine to swim (although he'd never had ear infections) had them along with tonsils and adenoids. got first ear infections after the grommetts were fitted! then told not to swim. DD always got infections when her ears got wet so that's prob why.

gameboy Sun 31-Aug-08 22:29:57

Yes - he's good at all the slithering off the side like a seal stuff. Not sure that floating on the back has been a big part of lessons - is that an important step?

Having said that, I spent some time with him on holiday getting him to lie back and relax with his head in the water while I held him.

Anchovy Sun 31-Aug-08 22:32:15

I can see that must be hard for him. (Swimming parties not in vogue round here).

TBH, I think I would be a bit selective about going to those parties. I just think swimming is one of those things that cannot for "forced" or even much accelerated, as it relies so much on confidence.

Can he do anything else? DS is the only one in his class doing judo and he "won" a medal at a competiton (as did everyone else taking part, LOL). With no front teeth and an impressive scar on his forehead (unrelated - nasty fall) he looks like Ross Kemp (although he is the mildest natured child imaginable!). He took his medal into show and tell - and a picture of him getting it from the British Olympic coach and the other children think he is v cool. So he has something to weigh up against the swimming, so to speak.

combustiblelemon Sun 31-Aug-08 22:33:52

It's just about confidence Gameboy- just like what you were doing with him on holiday. From the sounds of it he can swim, it's just that he doesn't know it! Anything that helps him relax and trust the water to support him should help.

Milliways Sun 31-Aug-08 22:34:14

My DD used to freak if we took her armbands off, so we gradually let them down until she was, literally, swimming with them on completely flat.

I tried telling her that they were as much use as a drawing on her arm - no good! Take them off and she sank.

The only thing that cracked it for her was when we had a family trip to Butlins with both sets of granparents, and I forgot to pack the armbands. Wegot her to swim her 2m or so between grandparent who very very gradually increased the circle size, until, by the end of the week she was swimming almost 10m, and never looked back!

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