If you needed another reason to prioritize spending the day poolside this summer, you’ve got one. A recent study from Australia suggests that kids who learn to swim earlier in life reach important milestones sooner than their landlocked peers. This study looked at 7000 kids under five years old who started swimming at various ages. Researchers first asked parents about their kids’ swim habits and then presented the parents with questionnaires focused on their children’s development.
After analyzing the data, researchers concluded that early swimming is tied to early motor and cognitive skill development. The impacts of learning to swim early in life showed up equally for boys and girls (and held true even after controlling for SES). Researchers suggested that the results of the study are important because they point to swimming as an activity that has the potential to positively impact a child’s development.
If you’ve got an infant and are interested in hitting the pool this summer, check out the tips below to help them get comfortable in the water. Who knows, maybe their early splashes now will translate into serious smarts as they get older.
Start in small doses
Many infants naturally love the water and are content to sit and splash all day but not all babies are naturals. If your little one has voiced a preference to stay dry, consider hitting the pool in small doses and sitting with them in your lap on the side before hopping in with them in your arms.
Enroll in swim lessons
Early swim lessons aren’t designed to teach your tot how to backstroke like a pro. They’re intended to help your child feel comfortable, safe, and happy exploring in the water. A fun, weekly session in the pool with an experienced and caring teacher can set your little one up to love the pool early on. Swim lessons also have a powerful protective factor: a 2009 study showed that kids who participate in swim lessons early in life are at a significantly reduced risk of drowning later in childhood.
Keep a firm hold
When babies fear water they tend to flail their arms, kick their legs, or do their best to get a tight grasp on whoever is holding them. If your baby does any of the above, the key to helping her feel comfortable may be as simple as holding her close. Instead of holding your babe under her armpits and extending your arms outward, try hugging her tightly to your body in the same way you would if you were rocking her to sleep or carrying her down the stairs. If you’re in calm water, you can even utilize a water sling. Often, once babies know they’re safe, they’ll begin to relax, take in their surroundings, and find joy in the water.
Mind their temperature
Newborns and young infants are still learning to regulate their temperature, and because of this you’ll need to be extra mindful of their external comfort cues when you’re in the water with them. While most grown-ups stay comfortable in a pool that’s heated to standard 78-82 degrees, infants often become uncomfortably cold after 15 to 20 minutes. Babies won’t learn to love the water if they find themselves shivering after every visit to the pool, so when you swim, be sure you give your baby frequent out-of-water breaks, keep him wrapped in a warm towel when he’s on the deck, and be mindful of shivering, blue lips, or cold skin. These are signs it’s time to take a break.
Keep coming back for more
When it comes to water, frequency breeds comfort. If you want your baby to learn to love swimming, give him ample opportunities to get his feet wet and make sure not to go too long between visits. Enjoy the water this summer!