According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children ages one to four are less likely to drown if they had formal swimming lessons. Meanwhile, Emily Leaman of Fitness Active Philly starts classes for children as young as five months old. One of the main reasons behind infant swimming, which is supported by both the APP and Leaman, is that the earlier the child is in the water, the more comfortable they become in the water.
According to Jim Reiser, Founder and Executive Director of Swim Lessons University, the speed of how a child learns any sport skill is limited by their motor skill development. Naturally, he says, children’s motor skills improve as they age. This means that a six year old child may be able to master a specific skill set (ie. distance swimming of fifteen feet with their faces in the water) in about ten to fifteen lessons, as compared to a three year old who might master the same skill set in twenty-five to thirty lessons. However, there remains a disadvantage of learning how to swim at a later age: that is, a child who starts to swim at a later age may not be as comfortable in the water as compared to the child who has been immersed in it as a toddler.
Two benefits of being comfortable in the water:
1) Safety from drowning
Infants and toddlers that are immersed in swimming lessons and are progressively learning new skills are able to respond wisely to potentially dangerous underwater situations.
“Infants (between six and twelve months) can learn to hold their breath long enough to buy a parent a few valuable extra seconds in the case of an accidental water entry. By nineteen months, a toddler can learn to return to the side of the pool, and by twenty-four months, the skill can be executed with ease if you've kept your young swimmer exposed to swim lessons.” (Reiser)
2) Continued motivation to swim
Although it is true that children who start swimming lessons at a later age (ie. six years old) may learn how to execute the backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle quicker than those who start at a younger age, the child’s motivation to continue swimming may highly hinge on their confidence in the water.
On the other hand, a child who has been swimming as a toddler can master the swimming strokes as they age. When their knowledge of the strokes and their confidence in the water complement each other, then it becomes much easier to enjoy swimming whether in open bodies of water like the beach or at the pool. Furthermore, other water activities like surfing or diving won’t seem as intimidating to try out. This is indeed a benefit for the long term.
Aside from comfortability in the water, learning how to swim as infants and toddlers highly benefit overall child development:
BENEFITS OF SWIMMING IN CHILD DEVELOPMENT:
1) Improved cognitive functioning
The Griffith University in Australia conducted a four-year study of over 7,000 children. According to their conclusion, children who swim have improved physical and mental development as compared to those who do not swim.
“On average, these children were eleven months ahead of the normal population in Oral Expression, six months ahead in Mathematics Reasoning and two months ahead in Brief Reading. However, most amazing was the difference in Story Recall (17 months ahead) and Understanding Directions (20 months ahead). These are absolutely staggering results, especially when you consider the average age of the swimming kids we tested was just 50 months.” (Professor Robyn Jorgensen, lead researcher)
2) Improved self-confidence
A study was conducted by H. Sigmundsson and B. Hopkins on baby swimming. One of their findings concluded that four-year old children who had taken swimming lessons from around two months to four years old dealt better when needed to adapt to new situations. There was also evidence in increased self-esteem and independence as compared to non-swimmers. These benefits are very useful, especially when adjustment is needed during pivotal transition periods (ie. transition from home to formal schooling).
3) Improved coordination and balance
As motor skills are developed through continuous swimming, the child’s coordination and balance improve simultaneously.
“Children experiencing a regular programme of baby swimming at 2 to 7 months of age manifested superior motor performance on a standardized, age-appropriate test as 4-year-olds relative to a matched group of coevals without such experience. As predicted from the fact that the programme targets activities promoting eye–hand co-ordination and the provision of vestibular stimulation, outcomes converged on abilities associated with prehension and static balance.” (H. Sigmundsson and B. Hopkins)
4) Improved muscle strength
Even infant and toddlers can gain muscles from swimming. These muscles have a holistic importance in helping children hold their heads up, move their limbs, and work their core in coordination with the rest of their bodies.
It is a good idea to start your children young at swimming because it helps them become more confident in the water, which is beneficial for keeping themselves safe from drowning and staying motivated to swim as they grow up. Other benefits of infant and toddler swimming include overall child development – this extends to improved cognitive functioning, improved self-confidence, improved coordination and balance, and improved muscle strength.
Lastly, it is important to note that one of the best way to learn how to swim as a toddler or as an infant is by having both their moms and dads with them in the water (aside from the swimming coach). Not only is this a great quality bonding time, but it also keeps the child feeling safe and confident as he or she discovers new skills
Enroll your child as the Noodies Swim School at https://www.thenoodies.com/