We live in an era that has benefitted from research into the capabilities of babies. No longer seen as little lumps, babies regularly astound scientists with their innate abilities. Once we add gentle, child-centered baby swimming that brings early learning into the mix, scientists can measure some very remarkable developmental advantages.
It is important to note that gentle and appropriate lessons bring on these advantages and traumatic, aggressive, intimidating lessons negate them. Two brain chemicals help account for those distinct differences. When a child is learning under gentle conditions that foster laughter, calm, and pleasure, the chemical oxytocin is released. Often dubbed the love hormone or the bonding hormone, it creates a sense of well- being and trust. In direct contrast, when a child is in a stressful situation, tearful, fearful, anxious during learning situations, the hormone cortisol is released to the body—creating the fight or flight syndrome. We know what stress chemicals do to the organs of our bodies. The best kind of early learning and calm focused attention takes place in a stress free environment.
The first study conducted from 1974-1976 by Professor Liselott Diem (German Sports College in Cologne, Germany) found that children who learned to swim at an early age demonstrated advanced development in:
• Motor skills
• Reaction time(reflexes)
• Power of concentration (focus)
• Social behavior
• Social interaction
• Coping with new or unfamiliar situations
Overall, children were found to be more well-adjusted than their peers who had not participated in early swimming programs and the increase in self- esteem and independence due to baby swimming were cited as contributing factors. The study also concluded that children who swam from an early age benefited from positive interaction and bonding with their parent. (Learn to Swim, Rob and Kathy McKay, DK Publishing, 2005, page 10)
More recent studies from both Norway (Dr. Hermundur Sigmundsson of Norwegian University of Science and Technology) and Australia (Professor Robyn Jorgensen of Griffith University) concur with the earlier findings. In the Norwegian study benefits include better balance, fine motor skills and grasping, movement/mobility and endurance compared to the control group. The study also notes that the benefits of the advances continue into older ages. The Australian study in 2012 concludes that visual-motor skills (cutting, coloring, drawing lines) as well as mathematically related skills scored higher in baby swimmers. Oral expressions in the areas of literacy and numeracy were higher than in the non-baby swimming group.