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Water babies

Don’t think twice before putting your infants in the baby pool. A new study shows it helps them improve their balance and grip.

health and fitness Updated: May 06, 2010 14:31 IST
Body&Soul team

During summer, children make a beeline to the swimming pool. They splash around, play throwball with their friends and do several lengths under the stern gaze of their moms. Swimming is one of the best exercises for children, which is why, many parents wait impatiently for their children to turn old enough so they can enroll them for swimming classes. Turns out, they shouldn’t. Wait that long, that is. A recent study has shown that teaching babies how to swim helps improve their balance and their ability to hold and grip objects, as they grow older. It also helps reduce their fear of water.

Infants in the pool
Researchers from Norway and the United Kingdom found that children who had taken baby swimming classes did better on tests involving gripping and reaching. The study participants included 19 four-year-olds from Iceland who had taken part in baby swimming lessons for two hours a week for at least four months when the children were infants. They were matched with 19 other four-year-olds who had not done any baby swimming.

The four-year-olds were tested for manual dexterity, ball skills and balance. Researchers found that the swimming group did better on prehension (seizing or grasping objects) and static balance. Parel-resident Deepa Kochhar (36) had to wait till her daughter Yashi, now nine, was three and a half feet tall before she could enroll her for swimming lessons, as that was a criteria set down by the swimming club. When Yashi joined, she was the youngest in her class, but she was no stranger to water. Kochhar had bought her daughter a baby pool, which she made Yashi stand and jump into when she was one and a half years.

Baby swimming lessons typically include a warm-up session with parents moving the children through water and encouraging them to stand supported on a hand. The babies also dive under water, pick up floating rings and jump into the pool from a supported position on the side. “She also used to swim in her playschool, which had a kid’s pool,” said Kochhar. “When she started her lessons, there was no fear of the water.” Now, Kochhar says, her daughter is rather proud of her fielding skills while playing cricket. The study appears in the May issue of the journal Child: Care, Health and Development.

(With inputs from MCT)