The report was produced by child development expert, Dr Amanda Gummer, and FUNdamentally Children, an evidence-based consultancy for the children’s industry, in partnership with baby swim school, Water Babies, surveying 3879 parents and 50 teachers.
Hannah Smith, Director of Aquatics at Water Babies, said: “There’s no doubt that I have the best job in the world – empowering parents, carers and teachers in the water with their little ones is amazing and something I never get tired of!
Swimming is so unique in its ability to nurture the natural development of children on every level, whilst also teaching the life-saving skills of water safety.”
Some key findings include:
• 85% of respondents viewed water safety as the most important benefit of the Water Babies aquatics programme for both parents and children. Parents reported feeling able to develop their own confidence and minimise stressed feelings whilst their children learned not to fear water.
• 60% of parents said the Water Babies aquatics experience had the biggest impact on the children’s psychological development, building resilience in the face of potentially stressful situations.
• Teachers strongly agreed that the classes developed strong emotional bonds between parents and their children.
• Teacher insight said Water Babies classes help to develop breath control, lung function, stamina, strength, coordination, balance, and said that it’s a rare opportunity for younger children to develop all muscles at once.
• Parents and teachers observed how children learnt to listen, build patterns, follow instructions, and accept new experiences in a safe and fun environment. Parents felt the children were encouraged without feeling overwhelmed by pressure. The classes helped to prepare the children for more formal education such as nursery settings.
The research identified a strong bonding between teachers and parents/carers and the children with other peers. Socialising with peers is a key development stage in the early years (0-2 years).
For 3-5 year olds, the Water Babies aquatics experience teaches the importance of sharing toys, tidying them away after their class and handing them out to peers. This demonstrates increasing levels of ownership over a task and social conscience to share fairly.
A Water Babies Parent said: “I have noticed that compared to his peers who don’t attend swimming, my son is much better at responding to instructions and is better at responding to new or surprising experiences. I think that this is due to the regular repetition of “[name] are you ready? Go!” Followed by going underwater. We do this in the bath as well as swimming, and as a result, my son is very confident and excited when it comes to the water. He is also much more agile for his age, which my husband and I also attribute to swimming (eg. He was crawling at six months, pulling himself up at seven months etc).”
Child Development and Play Expert at FUNdamentally Children, Emma Lockard, commented: “Play is an essential element of a healthy childhood and lies at the heart of what we do at FUNdamentally Children. We equip adults with powerful insights on the importance of play and the tools to encourage it. Recognition of the role of swimming lessons in the psychological, emotional, physical and cognitive development of young children is one step forward in our mission to demonstrate how we can help children develop vital life skills.”
Founded in 2002, Water Babies is the UK’s largest baby swimming school in the world led by a network of expertly trained swimming teachers. Today, it helps 52,000 babies every week learn the lifesaving skill of swimming across the UK, Ireland, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands and China. Water Babies offers a world of purposeful aquatics quests and adventures tailored to every stage of child development. It is dedicated to nurturing the natural development through aquatic discovery, adventure and purposeful play to give children the best start in life.
Dr Amanda Gummer is the founder of The Good Play Guide and is now widely considered as the UK’s go-to expert on play, toys and child development. With a PhD in Neuropsychology, the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education and over 20 years’ experience working with children and families, Dr Amanda Gummer is committed to ensuring every child can develop the skills they need to thrive during a happy healthy childhood.
Moving forward, a follow up study on the therapeutic effect of the Water Babies swimming programme could be beneficial to investigate the specific benefits of the programme for children with specific emotional challenges.