Drowning is the third largest cause of death in children under the age of 14. An average of 390 children drowns each year. In the US, swimming lessons for children generally starts around age 10 to 12.
However, several studies of the benefits of teaching babies aged two to three months to swim shows an 88 percent reduction in drowning deaths among children aged 1 to 4-years including a 40 percent reduction in drowning deaths in open waters. However, some of the other benefits are nothing short of astounding.
1 – Accelerated Cognition
Surprisingly, studies conducted with a large pool of subjects from more than 45 swim schools in Australia, New Zealand, and the US over a 4-year period showed children under age 5 who were taking swimming lessons showed marked advances in both physical and cognitive development. Interestingly, children taught to swim demonstrated a higher IQ at the age of five than non-swimmers. Babies are exposed to increased stimulation through water resistance which is up to 600 times more than air. Stimulation from water resistance also offers increased neurological development.
2 – Physical Benefits
Swimming promotes overall strength and not only exercises all of the muscles of the body through water resistance, but it also strengthens the heart and lungs for a lifetime as well as boosting brain development. For mom’s benefit, swimming also burns about 300 calories.
Strengthening more muscles assists babies to become early walkers, even though crawling was shown in studies to be later than non-swimming babies. Swimming also helps to improve balance and coordination. Another study conducted in Iceland using two groups of 5-year-olds with each group consisting of 19 children tested motor skills between swimmers and non-swimmers where the only difference between the groups was the ability to swim.
Each child was observed through a range of actions to test physical abilities which included walking on tiptoes, jumping rope, and standing on one foot. The swimmers out- performed the non-swimmers in activities gauging balance and eye/hand coordination.
3 – Increased Learning Skills
Responding to the sound of your voice in the context of repeated words, like your baby’s name, quickens his or her mental abilities and increases motor development and social skills. Interestingly, a study at Griffith University showed the early swimmers to be more advanced by as much as 15 months over non-swimmers by the time they start school. Early swimmers also showed an increase in mathematical ability, ability to follow directions and in language development.
4 – Social Awkwardness
Babies who swam from two months up through four years showed, on average, to be less socially awkward in a German study of children aged 4 to 6-years, quickly adapting to a new environment and situations with more self-confidence than their non-swimming peers. Part of the benefits of swimming lessons is learning to share space with others and to participate in interaction with a larger group than would be available in the home.
Experts say that learning to swim prevents the fear of water children exhibit later in life when normal swim lessons would begin and posit that the pool simulates the feeling in the womb so that it seems comforting rather than scary. So, will you give your baby swimming lessons?