SILVER SPRING, MD, December 13, 2012 – While the intelligence boost delivered through music learning is often touted, it turns out swimming can give your kids an intellectual and developmental boost as well.
While many parents want their kids to learn to swim as a safety measure, getting your children into the pool can help them in other ways. An Australian study conducted by the Griffith Institute for Educational Research followed more than 7000 kids under the age of 5 and found that the skills learned early in the pool translate into real world application.
The study found that the younger the child began swimming lessons and the longer they continued, the greater the benefits. Benefits come not only in the form of reaching physical developmental milestones early, but also those involving language and mathematics. Swimming helps with coordination and visual motor-skill development, but also with more intellectual skills, like counting or following verbal instructions. Researchers say that the strong correlation between language and action that are inherent in swimming lessons are crucial to the development of both cognitive and motor skills. In fact, the researchers found that kids started making the connection between language and action before the children were old enough to be able to verbally communicate.
So how early is too early to get your baby in the pool? There are programs that start as young as 4 months-old, but before you enroll in the first program your child is eligible for, check the program’s lesson-plan and get info about the instructor. If possible, arrange a visit or intro class so you can decide if you are comfortable with your child in the class and with the things your little one will be doing in the water.
For most swim classes there is an age and skill level required to be eligible. For infants and toddlers, these classes are normally “mommy and me” classes. These are great for a first intro to water and swimming because having a parent with a child can be reassuring and comforting when entering what might otherwise be an intimidating or scary experience. It also gets you in the pool, and by participating in the activities as directed by the swim instructor, it sets a good example for your child to overcome whatever apprehension he might have, or might make him more willing to put in the extra effort to keep trying something that he might otherwise find difficult.
Where can you find swim classes for your child? There are normally a number of different options available to most people. The YMCA offers a wide variety of swim classes, including mommy and me classes that begin at 6 months-old and are designed to get very young children comfortable in the pool. As the child ages, they begin to learn skills. As they progress, they can move through the levels of lessons until they qualify for the swim team.
Another option is to check your local parks and recreation department. Some counties have indoor or outdoor pools and offer swim classes. They may or may not offer infant and toddler programs, but it is worth a check. Since they are supported by the county, they are usually less expensive than other options.
Look for private swim schools. There are companies across the country which specialized in swim training. Some of these are dedicated to younger children, some are general swim instruction, and some specialize in developing competitive swimmers. Check online and around your local area to see if there are any such swim schools that might have programs that fit your need.
The last swim instruction option is private lessons. There are Red Cross certified swim instructors all across the country. You can generally find them working at local pool clubs, public pools, or by contacting your local Red Cross Office and asking if they can put you in touch with qualified instructors. If you have your own pool, or have access to a pool where your little one can be taught, hiring an instructor for one-on-one instruction might be a good option for you. Aside from getting a more personalized experience, if you have multiple children of similar age and skill level, it might be more cost effective to hire your own instructor than to pay the course fee for each child individually at another institution. You can also consider asking parents of children in the same age and skill level if they would be interested in splitting the instructor’s fee with you to help defray the cost. But before you organize a class, find the instructor first and ask how many kids she will take at a time, and establish fees and expectations for the lessons.
While it may never be too late to learn how to swim, your child may get benefits beyond water skills if you introduce him to the pool at an early age. As your child ages keep him in the pool. Remember, just because you start your child swimming early, does not mean that the benefits do not continue as he gets older and starts to explore other activities.
Follow Brighid on Twitter a @BrighidMoret and receive updates when new columns post on Facebook. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.
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