The following article was posted at the Daily Mail:
Teaching babies to swim from just a few months old helps them to develop impressive physical skills later in life.
A university study found baby swimmers balance better and grasped objects more easily than non-swimmers.
This difference persists even when children are five years old, according to the research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Three-month-old babies can hold a standing balanced position in the water, scientists reported
Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson from NTNU and Professor Brian Hopkins from Lancaster University, compared 19 baby swimmers against a control group of 19 children who had not participated in baby swimming.
The only factor that separated baby swimmers from the control group was swimming. All other factors, such as the parents’ education and economic status, were the same.
The baby swimmers had participated in swimming classes for two hours a week from the age of 2-3 months until they were about 7 months old.
A typical session might involve helping the baby do a somersault on a floating mat, having the baby dive under water, jump from the pool edge, and balance on the hand of a parent while reaching to pick up floating objects.
When they were five the two groups were tested with a number of exercises such as balancing on one foot, skipping rope and catching a beanbag.
The researchers said the results were startling.
‘We saw very clearly that baby swimmers were the best in exercises that related to balance and the ability to reach for things,’ says Professor Sigmundsson.
Professor Sigmundsson says he was simply overwhelmed by what the instructor was able to get the babies to do.
‘The instructor was able to bring three-month-old babies right up to a balanced position, standing on his palm. The babies locked joints – it was amazing to watch,’ he said.
He believes that the survey shows that specific training in young children gives results.
‘It’s incredibly exciting that specific training for young babies has an effect later in life. Development is a dynamic interplay between maturation, growth, experience and learning.
‘Our study shows that we must never underestimate the learning aspect.’
The study was published in the May 2010 issue of Child: Care Health and Development.