With summer just on the horizon, many families can look forward to the many fun activities that are such an integral part of the warmer months. In addition to picnics, hiking, and riding bikes, one family favorite is swimming. Whether it be in pools or lakes or the ocean, swimming is a great way for kids to cool off and get some exercise with their families or other children.

Now, in addition to the many physical positives, researchers believe that when babies learn how to swim, there are certain physical and developmental benefits. These include better balance and increased dexterity when compared to non-swimmers. In fact, when babies are taught to swim at an early age, the physical advantages appear to persist as they progress into being toddlers.

To arrive at their conclusions, researchers studied a group of baby swimmers and compared them to a control group of babies who had not taken lessons. The researchers attempted to select children who were as evenly matched as possible with the hopes of reducing the impact of such factors as parental education and family economic status. Thus, the only difference between the infants was whether or not they took swimming lessons.

The swimming group had taken part in a swimming class from the age of 2 to 3 months until they were about 7 months old and entailed two hours of swimming lessons each week. Activities in the classes included exercises on a floating mat, diving under water, jumping off the pool’s edge, and reaching for floating objects.

Around the age of five, the two groups were tested for their physical abilities, which included walking on their toes, balancing on one foot, and skipping rope. By the end of the testing, the researchers indicated that the difference was readily apparent: the babies that took part in swimming lessons were now, at the age of five, clearly more proficient at activities that required balance and the ability to reach for things.

The findings, published in the journal Child: Care Health and Development, add to many benefits that a person can obtain through swimming, even early in life. They also highlight the significant impact that early training can have on a child, especially light of the relationship between maturation and development, and experience and learning.

It is important to keep in mind that though there are many good things about swimming, it also has its fair share of hazards as well. Keep in mind certain essential safety measures. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends the following:

  • never let children swim alone or for that matter, be alone near water
  • teach your children (yourself or with lessons) how to swim
  • for children younger than five, always have an adult with arms reach of a child who is swimming
  • keep rescue equipment (i.e., a shepherd’s hook or life preserver) and a telephone near a pool
  • use only officially approved flotation devices
  • when children are done swimming, remove toys so that they will not be tempted to reach in for them
  • construct a barrier around the pool so that small children cannot get close to the water

By taking the proper safety measures, swimming can be a great way to cool off and take part in a fun and enjoyable activity with your child. And now, it may even help them developmentally. For more information about swimming safety, visit the website for Kid's Health.