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Water babies

During summer, children make a beeline to the swimming pool. They splash and play around, and do several lengths under the stern gaze of their moms. Swimming is one of the best exercises for children.

health and fitness Updated: May 14, 2010 02:11 IST
HT City Correspondents

During summer, children make a beeline to the swimming pool. They splash and play around, 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 to enroll them in 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.

Researchers from Norway and the UK have 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.

Housewife 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 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. “When she started her lessons, there was no fear of the water.”

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.

Paediatrician Dr P Vaidyanathan says, “With young children, a drowning is the only thing you should worry about. Once you make sure your child is safe in the pool, there is little to fear. Other issues such as water borne infections, aren’t a big deal. But children who have conditions like asthma or epilepsy, need to be closely monitored.”

With inputs from MCT