Kids who start swimming at a young age achieve several milestones in areas of cognitive, physical, and language development earlier than the normal population.

The finding came from a team of experts from the Griffith Institute for Educational Research who interviewed parents of kids aged 5 and under from New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, over a three year period. The parents were given an inclusive list of milestones and asked to identify their child’s achievements.

Since there was a possibility of parental bias, the scientists also observed 180 children aged 3 to 5 who participated in intensive testing. This made the research the world’s most comprehensive study on kids and swimming.

According to the leading researcher, Professor Robyn Jorgensen, children who engage in early-years swimming attain a variety of skills before the normal population. “Many of these skills are those that help young children into the transition into formal learning contexts such as pre-school or school.”

Regardless of socio-economic background, the differences between the kids who participated in swimming and those who did not were significant.

Results showed that the two higher socio-economic groups performed better in the testing than the two lower groups, but all 4 groups had better scores than the normal population. There were no gender differences seen between those studied and the normal population, the team pointed out.

As expected, the kids who took part in early-years swimming accomplished physical milestones faster. A study in the journal Current Biology demonstrated that certain activities, such as swimming, assists in the development of motor behaviors.

The researchers were surprised to find that these children also performed significantly better in visual-motor skills, including:

  • cutting paper
  • coloring in lines
  • drawing lines
  • making shapes

They even had better scores in mathematically-related tasks. In the general areas of literacy and numeracy, their oral expression was better as well. Oral expression is the ability to speak and explain things.

The authors concluded: “Many of these skills are highly valuable in other learning environments and will be of considerable benefit for young children as they transition into pre-schools and school.”

Written by Sarah Glynn