Getting kids into the pool at an early age could be beneficial for more than just the physical side of their growth, as recent medical studies have shown that children who start swimming at an early age tend to develop cognitive skills more quickly as well.
A team of scientific experts from the Griffith Institute for Educational Research came to this conclusion after conducting extensive research into the effect of swimming on child development. They interviewed a wide sample of parents of children aged 5 or younger from the United States, Australia and New Zealand, over the course of three years. This allowed the team to chart the difference in the development of children who started swimming earlier than those who didn't.
As well as the interview process, 180 3-5-year-olds took part in a direct testing programme which has made the research project "the world's most comprehensive study on kids and swimming". The reason that the researchers didn't rely purely on the interviews was that they calculated that there might be a slight element of parental bias that could potentially skew the results.
Professor Robyn Jorgensen, the project's lead researcher, said that kids who are introduced to swimming in their early years are more likely to gain cognitive and linguistic skills more quickly than those who don't.
"Many of these skills are those that help young children into the transition into formal learning contexts such as pre-school or school," Professor Jorgensen said.
Specifically, these younger swimmers were found to have significantly improved visual-motor skills, compared to those of the normal population. The researchers found that they were markedly better at the following activities:
- Making shapes
- Colouring inside of lines
- Cutting paper
- Drawing lines
Oral expression, numeracy and literacy were also of a higher standard compared to children of the same age who didn't swim. The team noted that these results applied to early swimmers regardless of gender or socio-economic background.
Parents have known for years about the development benefits of taking their young children swimming from an early age but the team has managed to provide quantifiable evidence to support it. This is good news for companies like Splash About who cater their swimwear and swimming aids to babies and young children.
It seems that heading down to the pool with your child isn't only fun, it's essentially giving them a whole host of early lessons!