Many parents see swimming lessons as a summer time activity, but it is advisable to keep going with swimming throughout the year.
Apart from needing to be water-safe as early as possible, children also have to reach other key developmental and emotional milestones. Regular swimming lessons will help them hugely, and the sooner they start, the better.
how swimming lessons facilitate a child’s development
3 months old
Your baby will start playing with their fingers in their midline, propping onto their forearms during tummy time. They should be able to hold their head in place when pulled into a sitting position.
At this age, swimming lessons will provide postural muscle exercises. Playing with toys in the warm water will stimulate midline development. These movements use their amphibian reflex (kicking reflex), strengthening leg muscles in preparation for crawling.
4 months old
Your child will now be playing with toys in midline on their backs, bringing their feet closer to their mouths. They will roll from their backs to their sides and back again, reaching with both hands and grasping items, propping on their elbows for longer periods of time and able to sit unsupported for a few seconds.
Swimming lessons at this age should encourage rolling-over activities on a water mat as well as specific activities to stimulate grasping to develop the hand muscles. Children should be encouraged to do the ‘humpty dumpty’ exercise, jumping into the pool from a sitting position on the edge.
5–6 months old
By now your child will be pulling their toes into their mouths, moving both left and right legs individually and pushing themselves into a good crawling position with outstretched arms. They will be rolling from their back onto their front and pulling themselves into a sitting position as well as purposefully reaching for things.
Swimming lessons will provide lots of back floating, allowing the baby to use their abdominal muscles to pull their legs up against gravity, and kicking exercises on boards, with a parent’s help, to exercise the child’s legs and encourage dissociation. Other exercises include four-point kneeling across the mat to strengthen limbs and core in preparation for crawling; rolling on the mat towards a toy to encourage rotation and sitting independently during a ‘humpty dumpty’.
Dee Lourenco and Chelynn Dee Shone