by Rob Cox, December 07, 2012
In a recent independent Australian study, researchers at Griffith University found that "swimming children scored significantly better than the normal population on a number of measures, including cognitive, language and physical development", says report author Robyn Jorgensen, Ph.D.
They used the contemporary 2012 CDC milestones for child development, which takes into account moden envirnomental factors. Parents of over 7000 young children, located in Australia, New Zealand and the USA were surveyed as to their child's progress in the 170 question survey.
Children from 6 months of age, up to 5 years old were included in the study, which surveyed parents from 2009 - 2012. Swimming kids were found to be particularly more advanced in the areas of Locomotion, or walking, hopping, and running. Stationary skills also showed marked differences in tests like standing on tip toes, balancing or standing on one leg. Visual Motor skills or hand-eye coordination also was higher for kids that were taking swimming skills lessons. On average, the swimming children were about 2-3 months ahead of the non-swimmers.
Motor skills, or "physical capital", as it's called in the study, are not the only distinction between swimming and non-swimming children. Swimming children, as reported by the parents or through testing and observations of 180 children, also performed better in other areas of language, intellectual development and social capital.
Counting to 10 in particular, was much easier for swimming children, and nearly 24 months ahead of non-swimming children. One theory proposed by Jorgensen, is that teachers commonly use counting measures for their swim students. "Teachers are counting - they are saying 1, 2, 3, ready, and this could be why...".
There is one area where swimming kids performed more poorly than the normal population - that of object manipulation, or ball-handling skills.
Nonetheless, the authors of this study state that it appears that there are advantages for young children who participate in early years swimming. Beyong the physical benefits, and a focus on water safety, the research suggests that there are many areas of positive differences between swimming and non-swimming children. Many of these academic, social and personal skills will provide an advantage to children as they enter school.
The authors are careful to add the caveat however, "We cannot conclusively claim that swimming is responsible for the diffrences we have identified in this study - but we can say that children who participate in swimming achieve a wide range of skills and knowledge earlier than the normal population".
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