The upcoming 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. Listen to what Hamptons Swim School owner Julia Ham has to say and why she thinks parents should rethink this strategy.
Why Learning to Swim in Winter is Important
The dangers posed by water do not abate just because the months are cooler. Queensland enjoys a warm climate that allows for swimming in pools, 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.
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‘. Participation in swimming lessons through winter will enhance a child’s water awareness and safety.
Continuation of Learning and Development
Children need to maintain and reinforce existing skills to advance and develop their ability in the water. Months of summer lessons end up “going to waste” as swimmers lose their “feel for the water” both physically and psychologically. Such maintenance and reinforcement is particularly important for infant, toddler and pre-school aged children when long-term skill retention and muscle memory are starting to develop.
Swimming has been proven to assist in brain development and, for school-aged children, is regarded as vital for the development of academic performance, as well as coordination, motor skills, balance and concentration.
Regression in Confidence and Performance
Six months out of the water across the winter’s break can lead to problems such as fear of the water and a decline in performance.
Continued participation in swimming lessons across winter is the best way to prevent otherwise unwanted outcomes that may include being scared of the water, worried about the depth of the water, or just feeling uncomfortable in and around water. A failure to attend lessons invariably leads to child being unable to perform at the level they were previously able and, in turn, to a decline in confidence and performance.
It may be economically more advantageous to swim all-year round than to pay for additional lessons during summer or for extra lessons within a term to compensate for the decline in the child’s swimming development that has occurred over the winter break.
Higher fitness levels gained through year-round swimming build stronger immune systems that make a child more resilient to stress and illness. Some parents withdraw their children from swimming classes when the temperature drops believing it will help avoid illness – it is an old wives’ tale that children who have ‘wet hair’ or who ‘go out into the cold’ get sick. From my observation and experience, children who swim throughout winter are far less likely catch far less colds and flu. Swimming, along with good nutrition, can help your little ones stay fit and healthy during winter.
A discontinuation of lessons through the winter months typically results in a decline in a child’s confidence and independence in the water, as well as a drop in technique and stamina, within a period of several weeks or even less. Apart from the very important issue of water safety, this is why swimming, and swimming lessons, should be prioritized within the family schedule and budget.