Early Swim Lessons Help Intellectual Development, Study Says

By Julie Rasicot — December 04, 2012 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Get those toddlers signed up for swim lessons pronto!

That’s the message from a new study out of Australia’s Griffith University that found preschoolers who participate in swimming reach a range of developmental milestones before children who don’t.

In what is billed as the most comprehensive study into early-years swimming, researchers from the Griffith Institute for Educational Research surveyed 7,000 children younger than 5 who live in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States over three four years. Another 180 youngsters ages 3 to 5 were also involved in “intensive testing,” according to the university. Researchers had set out to determine whether young children who participate in swimming gain more than swimming skills.

That answer appears to be “yes.”

“Swimming children score significantly better than the normal population on a number of measures that are really important for their transition to school: their cognitive development, their language development, and their physical development,” Robyn Jorgensen, the study’s lead researcher, said in a YouTube video announcing the results.

Researchers found that children “scored significantly better in visual-motor skills such as cutting paper, coloring in and drawing lines and shapes, and many mathematically related tasks. Their oral expression was also better as well as in the general areas of literacy and numeracy,” according to the university.

All of this suggests that the young swimmers are better prepared to enter school than kids who don’t swim, the study said. Researchers also found that some kids who “had been attending swimming for longer periods of time scored better according
to their time in swimming.”

“Many of these skills are highly valuable in other learning environments and will be of considerable benefit for young children as they transition into preschools and school,” Jorgensen said. The youngest swimmers also are much quicker to learn to count, possibly because they are used to hearing teachers and coaches count as a way to get them ready to jump in the pool, she said.

“Parents were reporting that the children were counting to 10 almost two years before the developmental milestone,” Jorgensen said.

The developmental differences between swimmers and nonswimmers weren’t affected by their gender or socioeconomic backgrounds, the study says.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.