A study conducted a few years ago in Australia has come up with data that supports the claim that kids who swim are smarter than their peers who are not in swim lessons.
The study, done as a partnership between Griffith University, Kids Alive Swim Program, and Swim Australia, found that children under the age of five who are enrolled in swim lessons reach significant developmental milestones earlier than their non-swimming counterparts. They are also more likely to do well when taking tests and are generally better coordinated.
The research was done over the span of three years and surveyed the parents of nearly 7,000 learning swimmers from Australia, New Zealand, and the US and inquired about the timing that those children were reaching major physical, cognitive, and emotional milestones. They also put 200 children through a series of tests as a way to cross-check their survey results (because parents are known to brag, on occasion).
The research compared a few different common developmental factors that included counting, walking, talking and playing make-believe against non-swimmers. The study yielded some somewhat surprising findings. Not only did child swimmers reach physical landmarks faster, but they were also more cognitively advanced. Test results found that swimmers are sometimes months and years ahead of the curve intellectually.
As a whole, swim students are able to use building blocks, write, count, and read better than those who aren’t getting aquatics education. They also had greater oral expression, general literacy, ease at working with numbers and other math-related skills, in addition to improved visual-motor skills like cutting paper, coloring, and drawing shapes.
One of the test groups with an average age of three-year-olds was ahead of the curve by more than 15 months in understanding directions. Kids over the age of four were particularly strong in language (10 months ahead), oral expression (11 months) and math (6.5 months).
It should also be noted that out of four socio-economically divided swim groups, the two in the higher bracket had better study results than the two in the lower group. All four groups, however, scored higher than the normal population who is not participating in swim lessons.
The lead researcher, Professor Robyn Jorgensen from Griffith University, theorizes that swim classes are stimulating environments where kids are exposed to detailed instructions, visual cues, and rhyming songs among other experiences that help them learn and connect to the world outside of the pool.
“Many of these differences will be of advantage to children as they transition into school or preschool settings,” Jorgensen said.
There are a few caveats to this study, however. The research findings uncovered a strange correlation between kids in swim lessons three years or younger who tended to fall behind in spelling. In all age groups, kids weren’t as adept at kicking, throwing, or kicking balls.
The study did also not compare young swimmers to other groups of children who may be participating in other sports.
Australia takes swimming very seriously as it is the leading cause of death for children under five in the country. Every new mother in Australia gets a baby package from the federal government which includes a water familiarization DVD. Swimming teachers in Australia are also eligible for tax exemptions.
So, for those with kids in swimming who think their youngster is the smartest kid on the block, you may not be entirely wrong. Young, competent swimmers are proving to be more confident, articulate, and intelligent than kids who are not active in the pool.