Saturday, October 3, 2009

Children and Movement

My God daughter Haley Cope Clark, 2004 Olympian and new owner of Water Sprites swim school in Chico, recently sent me some interesting information. She put her young son in a dance class called "Brain Dance". They have a great web site listing the benefits of their dance classes (

It made me think about just some of the incredible benefits to swim lessons...

A baby's first breath starts brain connections and synapses immediately. Breath is the first and last thing we will do in our lives. Swimming creates the best opportunity to develop lung capacity and breath control.

Tactile stimulation in water is wonderful for babies. Skin is the largest organ in the body. Water lapping the the skin, especially in babies moving through water, creates the most development of synapses in the brain.

Swimming of course is not a land activity. Balancing and buoyancy in water takes more effort and yet, water gently cradles the body. Soft tissue is protected just like it was in the womb.

As babies become toddlers and movement patterns become more organized, water acts like soft resistance, increasing strength in a safe way. Skin is the largest organ in our body so movement in the water is "felt" by the brain in a big way.

Crawling is a profound skill for young children. The oppositional patterns help create brain connections across the mid-line of the brain. This is the very kind of action that allows children to read from left to right. Dog paddle combines the best support for mammals (children) for rhythmic, healthy breathing. People find they use dog paddle variations in recreation far more than strokes.

Immune systems are enhanced by exercise and deep breathing (we are a society of shallow breathers). Both are essential for the mind, body, spirit. Children with asthma are greatly helped by the deeper breathing of swimming.

Of course, safety is an imperative. Children who swim and whose family receives safety information, especially during "Summer Safety Week" at La Petite Baleen, respect the water more. Their information keeps them from unsafe curiosity. Note: This is not true for a small period of time for toddlers who just love to swim. They must be diligently watched since they are so mobile and lack any judgment.

And, we cannot forget a basic element that all children (and grandparents) relish.....FUN!!! Swimming allows for creative movement. Where else can you float, be upside-down, or splash?

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