Babies who learn how to swim have better fine and gross motor skills, better balance, and learn faster how to grab objects, in comparison with children who don’t practice physical activity in the water.
These differences can be noticed even when children reach the age of five, when small swimmers outperform their peers, a study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) shows, and cited by Science Daily.
Swimming is one of the best activities that can boost baby’s balance and physical development. Because much of the baby’s body is supported by water, the main focus for them is on maintaining balance.
“Practice makes perfectʹʹ says Hermundur Sigmundsson, a professor of psychology at NTNU. Prof. Sigmundsson and his colleague, Brian Hopkins, of Lancaster University, have shown that swimming is beneficial for improving balance and movement in infants and young children.
The results of the research were very clear. The study was carried out with the help of 19 baby “swimmers” and 19 other little ones who did not participate in swimming courses. In fact, swimming is the only factor that differentiates the babies from the two categories, the other indicators, such as parents’ education, housing conditions and economic status being identical.
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The 19 children in the first group participated in swimming courses, for two hours a week, from the age of 2 – 3 months, up to seven months. Children in both groups were then tested at the age of five. They were asked to do a series of exercises: to walk on the tips, to maintain their balance on one leg, to jump the rope, to send a ball to a predetermined target or to catch a ball.
The results were as obvious as possible, the researchers say. “We noticed that the small swimmers had considerably better results for exercises that involve maintaining balance and reaching targets,” said Prof. Sigmundsson.
The benefits of swimming for babies and children
Swimming helps improving coordination and balance. Because much of the baby’s body is supported by water, the main focus for them is on maintaining balance. On the whole, babies who swim have a much better balance out of the pool. Kicking the legs, wiggling the body, squirming, splashing the hands, turning and moving the head – all these improve a baby’s strength, flexibility and range of motion.
Reaching and picking up water toys builds baby’s grasping abilities, improves hand-eye coordination, helps develop the muscles in their shoulders, arms and hands. Not to mention the great naps and improved quality of sleep babies experience after swimming.
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