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Why learning to swim is for more than just safety

Snorkling kid with starfish

Swimming lessons can be pricey and any parent that has taken their kids to a public pool will know all about the chaotic dash to pack the bag beforehand without missing the goggles (why is it always the goggles!) and the faff of getting changed afterwards.

Most parents want their kids to be able to swim because water safety is vital and an invaluable skill to learn. It is liberating to see your child have confidence in water and particularly so on holiday, when opportunities to splash about may well be greater than at home.

However, there are heaps of other positive benefits to swimming which can enhance a child’s development that are not so well known and really impactful. In short, swimming can help keep them safe as well as learn and grow.

There are four main stages of learning when it comes to swimming and knowing these can be a real help when it comes to encouraging your kids to learn to swim, and perhaps justify those lesson prices at the same time!

Stages of learning

Stage One: Getting started…

This stage is when a baby is first introduced to the water. The majority of babies love water. They enjoy their bath and happily make the transition from tub to the pool. Being in the water allows a baby to move independently, much sooner than on land which starts to give them confidence and self-esteem. It can be very empowering as they explore their watery environment and boost their sense of freedom.

For young babies, movement in the water allows them to exercise their muscles and as they get older this will naturally complement their growing repertoire of land-based skills too. Their muscles will strengthen, they will start to build endurance and increase their lung capacity. Also because both sides of the body are involved during swimming, which means both lobes of the brain are too, then swimming increases coordination, motor development and balance at a quicker rate.

Stage Two: Learning to swim aged two and up

Children will become more active in the water as they develop from being a baby to a toddler. The focus is on building up the child's confidence and their muscles so they can begin to swim. They need the freedom to move and strengthen the foundation skills first introduced from stage 1. Make sure you are introducing the skills and moving at the pace of the child so they feel comfortable and ready. Children who are relaxed and happy in the water will respond better and progress quicker than their counterparts who are hesitant and anxious. These children will need more time during the lesson to keep playing so they can work on boosting their courage in the water.

Stage Three: Growing in confidence, aged four to seven

During this stage a child is continuing to develop their strength, confidence and swimming ability in a safe and fun way. Most will have the ability to willingly initiate and practice submersions themselves. Putting your face in the water can be quite scary so patience and having fun are key to continuing the encouragement.

Creating games which encourage the children to dip their own faces briefly in the water will make the child focus on the game rather than putting their head in the water. At this stage we are hoping to see the child moving further and faster in the pool, and feeling truly at home in the water.

Stage Four: Refining those skills, aged seven and up

At this stage the children will have a good level of endurance and both physical and mental coordination. They can link skills together in a sequence.

This is where a child will start learning more complex skills such as focussing on individual strokes and the more complex techniques and swimming posture in the water. Motivation and encouragement are key here.

The benefits of being in the water

Science tells us we learn through our bodies and that a child's brain develops through the process of movement, so an activity like swimming is ideal. The more we move the more we learn. With swimming, different parts of the body can move in all directions with barely any restrictions, in an environment which is both stimulating and yet gentle on young developing bodies.

There is no other sport or physical activity which provides children with the opportunity to physically and equally engage both sides of their body at one time.Water provides an almost weightless environment in which children can move their limbs, torso, neck and head freely.It requires skills to manage balance in the water whilst traveling through it. Children who swim have the best balance which also correlates to increased coordination.

The repetitive nature of movements in swimming will improve performance over time for all age groups. It makes practice predictable and the ability to predict reduces the amount of mental energy required to carry out the skills. Therefore, for swimmers 5 years old and under, repetitiveness is effective because they can predict the actions and do something slightly different without fearing the consequences associated with change.

There are so many positives to investing the time and energy in giving children the opportunity to learn to swim. It is a lifelong skill but also has so many untold benefits too. We hope your children have a great time in the water, and maybe we’ve inspired you to jump in too!

This post was written by Catherine Charlton at Mini Water Adventures

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