Pumpkin Week starts on Friday, October 23rd, and it is my absolute favorite week of the year. The kids get super excited to see the pumpkins (their Halloween pumpkins) floating around our pool. They get to see the big pumpkins as well as the little ones bobbing and moving with the waves and they see each other hanging on and floating with them.
While Pumpkin Week is fun and exciting and something a little different, it serves a vital importance, and that is in teaching floating. Floating is probably the number one, most important skill to teach your child–not breathing, not freestyle, not treading water–FLOATING!
Floating is so important because it is the foundational building block to actually swimming. Floating teaches you to relax in the water. (You can’t float when you are panicked.) Floating teaches you your own buoyancy. While floating, you can do small movements with your arms and legs and reach a destination. Floating on your back will help you breathe, and good floats with arms and feet added becomes swimming. This holds true for breaststroke and butterfly as well.
The need to be horizontal in the water is essential to good swimming and floating teaches us this. It is why we practice it so much in level 1 and 2, but also reinforce it in level 3, 4, & 5. I’m sure once parents notice their child putting their face in the water and floating on their bellies, all of a sudden, swimming “clicks.” Now, even a two or three year old can “swim” a few feet through the water–it is because the child is completely horizontal and floating. For example, my student Gus, who is 5 years old, just figured this out this week. Gus started as a Red/Orange in the beginning of the Fall Session. He was not an afraid swimmer and had no problem getting splashed in the face or going underwater (briefly) during jumps. Within a few weeks, he was dipping his face for longer and longer periods of time, starting with 1 second and eventually increasing it to 5-6 seconds. Once he became comfortable dipping his face, even for a second, we added it to our crocodile walks, because crocodile walks force children to be horizontal (even though hands are down on the steps, their legs are stretched out behind them). As Gus got more comfortable with his face in and legs out, he was able to start feeling his own buoyancy, which led to him being able to trust the water to hold him up. This was demonstrated in his front floats. He started with holding onto my arms and dipping his face. Eventually, his face would stay in just a little longer and a little longer. Then, his grip on my arms would loosen and I would start to loosen my grip on him. He began to feel the water hold him up. Once he learned to dip his face for longer periods of time, he moved up to Orange. This week, Gus decided he wanted to go underwater and you could see his comfortability in going under (and not listening to me, lol). This week, in going underwater and in putting his face underfor supermans (or torpedoes), he figured out that when his face goes in, his butt and legs come up and he can paddle around like that. And because Gus is now underwater and ignoring me, he graduated to level 2, Orange/Yellow. (That’s how we know kids should be in level 2; they want to swim around underwater; they don’t care what their teachers are talking about =). But before parents get upset that your child might not be listening to us, let me tell you right now, that’s a good thing! Your child knows how to float and before long, he or she will be off swimming around (and being more dangerous in the water because they don’t know their limitations, but that is another post for another time). Gus is an exception, however. Gus is older (5 years old), he was not afraid, he has a natural athletic ability, and he was in a private lesson–which all make teaching him a little bit easier.
So what does all this have to do with pumpkins? Well, pumpkins float. Big pumpkins, little pumpkins, all pumpkins float–even the 800+ pound one sitting out front. Pumpkins float because they have air in them and we float for the same reason. Now, we aren’t just talking about hypothetical theories. We are learning science (Archimedes Principle) and we are experiencing and demonstrating that science to our kids. And hopefully, while seeing these pumpkins, as big as they are, our kids realize that they too, can float.
This month’s blog is a bit different, as we have a video of Reilly over the last 4 weeks in her Intro Parent/Child class. Many 1st time parents ask us what is covered in the Parent/Child Classes, so here is your answer!
The Intro class, (and really, all our swim classes) are supposed to be fun! We sing songs, we play with toys and buckets and mats, and we introduce the water to these little guys in an enjoyable and relaxing way. All skills are done at the parent and the child’s own pace. Our Parent/Child Instructors work with the parents individually and will help you learn how to hold your child the right way to teach a back float or to roll over and tell you when they think your child is ready for going underwater or swimming a little more independently.
All of our classes build upon the ones previous and safety skills are also developed in each class. But the best part is the safe (and sterile) socialization for both parents and baby.
Sign ups for our Winter session will start on October 5th.
Over the years, many studies have been published regarding exercise and academic abilities. Much of what was concluded was that exercise does in fact help academic performance. But this was all generalized, as in any type of exercise or sport would help boost a child’s grades. For instance, if your child played soccer, they would have good grades, just as if he would play basketball, or she would play softball. However, research published in April 2020 has found that swimming is a bit different. Swimming does just a little bit more and kids that keep swimming end up quite academically accomplished.
So why is swimming different and what exactly does it do?
Swimming provides what is called bilateral cross patterning movements, meaning that the right and left side of the body are doing opposite movements. Think about swimming freestyle or backstroke. When one arm is in front of the head, the other arm is down by the side. These cross patterning movements help the brain develop nerve fibers between the hemispheres that “facilitate communication, feedback, and modulation,” according to Lana Whitehead, a lead swimming researcher in her pamphlet Water Smart Babies: Scientific Benefits of Baby Swim Lessons. The more both sides of the brain “talk” with each other, the more efficient neurological development will be. However, if there is poor interaction between the hemispheres of the brain, the slower language development, and academic learning will be. In addition to stronger neurological development, the water provides a gentle resistance that forces the body to work through it, thus further developing nerve fibers and muscle control and coordination.
The neurological development that swimming provides literally sets children up for academic success. A 2012 study out of Griffith University in Australia found that kids who took year-round swimming lessons were approximately 20 months ahead in major milestones, compared with their peers within the same age group and socioeconomic status. This further breaks down to 11 months ahead in oral expressions, 6 months ahead in mathematical reasoning, 2 months ahead in brief reading, 17 months ahead in story recall, and 20 months ahead in understanding directions for the average 4-year-old. The benefits of swimming lessons further extends to better mathematical scores in elementary school. A study out of the United Kingdom in 2016 looked at 6400 children at ages 5, 7, and 11 years olds found those who participated in organized sports were 1.5 times more likely to “reach higher than expected levels in tests” compared with peers who did not participate in sports. And, kids who continue swimming into high school had 89.3% better than typical grades.
Swimming isn’t just conducive for neuro-typical children either. Kids with ADD/ADHD who swim show “improvement in ADHD symptoms and social functioning” according to a 2016 study. Kids with ADD/ADHD have issues with impulse control, processing speed, gross and fine motor skills, and academic achievement due to focus problems, and swimming addresses all these issues through the neurological and chemical responses in the brain. The best example of swimming benefiting kids with ADD/ADHD is Michael Phelps, who’s mother enrolled him in swimming after being diagnosed with ADHD at age 11. On a more personal note, my mother, in her infinite wisdom, had me swimming at age 3-4 just so I would sleep and stop annoying her (her words, not mine. Also, love you mom!).
It doesn’t just stop at high school though either. Swimming at any age provides better blood flow to the brain. A study conducted by researchers from Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom found that simply standing in the water chest deep significantly increased blood flow to the brain, which has been shown to increase cognitive function. (Our instructors might be geniuses!)
Swimming provides some amazing life long benefits and while good grades and socialization are incredibly important during childhood and adolescent years, the health benefits of swimming and exercise pay off in later years as well. If you want to give your child a head start in their education, sign them up for swim lessons. It’s fun, it teaches them a lifelong skill, and it sets them up for a future of academic success.
And for our shameless plug, we are offering Fynn’s Academy for the Fall. Fynn’s Academy is a 3-hour program, in which your child receives academic assistance with online learning by a certified Pre-K–12 teacher for 2 hours and 1 hour of free swim, thus fully linking academic skills with swimming skills. You can sign up for this online, at the front desk, or call us at 610-625-4848.