The Easter break marks the end of Queensland’s hotter weather, where many parents choose to forgo swimming lessons in favour of other winter sports or activities. This is what Hamptons Swim School owner Julia Ham has to say, and why she thinks parents should rethink this strategy.
Drowning does not pause
Queensland enjoys a warm climate that allows for swimming in pools and spas and at the beach, even during the winter months, and we are surrounded by other potential drowning hazards such
as baths, ponds, pools, laundry tubs and water features. Whilst the exposure to water play is reduced during the cooler months, the risk of drowning is not. And the risk is even higher when the warmer weather returns (and children are not prepared). Continued swimming lessons play a crucial part in the layers of protection against drowning all year round.
Swimming is the only sport that, when learned, can help save a life. With this in mind, any decision to postpone a child’s swim lessons in the winter months should be considered carefully. A study in March 2009 by the USA’s National Institute of Health concluded that ‘participating in formal swimming lessons was associated with an 88% reduction in the risk of drowning in children aged between 1 and 4 years‘.
Each year we are reminded of how close the water can get, any time of year, with the flood waters at our doorstep. All the extra missed classes due to the pandemic and extreme weather events make it even more important to catch up, not give up.
More than just an extra-curricular
Many people see swimming lessons as an ‘extracurricular’. We know that it is so much more than that. Yes, it is a crucial skill for life. But it has also been shown to improve many areas of a child’s development, including academic performance, language, maths, fine and gross motor skills, memory, confidence, coordination, and social skills.
Researchers from Griffith University were astounded by the results of their four-year study – “The children were anywhere from six to 15 months ahead of the normal population when it came to cognitive skills, problem solving in mathematics, counting, language and following instructions.” Swimming lessons offer another great way to extend their learning and development in many aspects of life. All year round.
Keep progressing & growing
Many families have taken a break before. They only do so once, agreeing that it wasn’t worth having to start all over again. With such a long break, the investment you have made so far in lessons (and the effort your child has put into getting this far) will be lost due to the high regression of skills and confidence. The littlest ones have just begun to gain knowledge of going under water. They have reinforced and increased comfort, confidence, and the memory recall to hold breath. If stopping, on return these skills are gone and awareness becomes an ‘unknown’, which can lead to an increased fear of water.
Think about the brave ones who are preparing for transition! They feel comfortable with their teacher and are almost ready to be in the water without their parent. If stopping, on return the trust in teacher and pool can be gone and replaced with a fear of the whole structure of the lesson. This is such a crucial stage and age group for continuation, as long-term skill retention and muscle memory are starting to develop.
For older swimmers, a break can cause them to fall behind. We have often seen the upset of returning children, realising their peers and friends have moved up to Squads.
Harness them for colds
When it gets cold, swimming may not be the first activity you think of. But trust us and the many studies done in the past: it is actually one of the best activities to keep doing in winter. Swimming strengthens the immune system, making children more resilient to stress and less susceptible to catching cold and flu symptoms. Some people think that colds are caused by cooler temperatures. This is not true. Common colds are viral infections. With a strong immune system, chances are higher your child gets through the cooler months stronger, healthier, and happier! Swimming as an exercise helps the release of endorphins, boosting your mood, and making you feel more relaxed.
Swimming all year round is the best gift you can give your child. On top of the very important issue of water safety, it helps with their development, confidence, physical and mental health, fitness, social skills and more. And it will benefit the parents, with happier kids, safer kids, and an investment that keeps on giving.