Why Swimming is the Best Sport for Children

by Mihai Pinzariu on October 28, 2020

Learning to swim is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. The physical and mental benefits that this exercise has on the development and growth of a child are astounding, and children who start swimming from infancy are more advanced than their peers in many ways.

On top of that, swimming is such a fun adventure for kids and lets them build confidence, social skills, and spend hours exercising without even realising it. Here we’ll talk about why swimming is the best sport for children, and how you can make it easy, fun, and safe for your child to learn how to swim.  

The benefits of swimming for children

There are so many physical and mental benefits to teaching your child how to swim. From the teeny tiny age of six months, even before they can walk, children can start to splash and play in the water. In turn, this can help to improve their development in many ways.

Especially for infants, splashing around in water uses the brain in a different way than usual, which helps to create billions of new neurons that can speed up a child’s development. Get ready for a bit more science talk as we learn about the benefits of swimming for children.

It’s really good for their brain development

Teaching your child how to swim can help make them better talkers, readers, and listeners. A study of more than 7,000 Australian children over four years found that those who swam were more physically and mentally advanced than those who didn’t.

Infants from the ages of 3-5 were almost two years ahead in understanding directions, more than a year ahead in story recall, and 11 months ahead of other infants in verbal skills. They were also six months ahead in maths and two months ahead in literacy. And these are some amazing stats!

How does it all work? Well, firstly, when both sides of the body are being used in movements (like splashing in water trying to stay afloat), it helps a child’s brain to develop.

These kinds of movements are called bilateral cross-patterning, and they help to build neurons in the brain - especially the part in charge of communication and feedback. What does this mean for your child? They can develop better language and reading skills, learning abilities, and spatial awareness.

Being in the water is also a very unique experience for the senses. As a child splashes around and moves their arms to stay afloat, their brain is registering the feel of the water on their skin as well as its resistance. All of these tiny calculations and experiences can help improve your child’s brain development.

It gives them more confidence

Learning how to swim can help kids build confidence in more ways than one. Firstly, most children are afraid of the water when they first start swimming. They may feel anxious or scared, but over time, will learn how to be comfortable in the water. Overcoming this fear helps a child build confidence from a young age and teaches them not to be limited by their fears.

Swimming classes are also a social activity that often uses games and lots of interaction with other children and instructors. Kids are often thrust into a new environment, meeting and communicating with strangers, playing different games, and learning how to be in a group.

On top of all that, they’re also learning a valuable new skill - swimming. All of these factors combined can help your child to develop more self-confidence and self-esteem.

Studies back up these theories, showing that young children who have been swimming from infancy were better adapted to new situations, more independent, and more confident than those who didn’t swim. They were also found to show more drive, ambition, and self control.

It’s a great workout 

Swimming is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise for people of any age. Teaching your children how to swim can help improve their heart and lung function, build strength and flexibility, increase their endurance and stamina, and improve balance, posture, and coordination.

While swimming gives the body a great workout, it also puts less pressure on the joints and connective tissue thanks to cushioning from the water. That makes it a safer form of exercise that puts kids at less risk of injuring their bodies, compared to some other sports. Swimming has also been shown to be a great exercise that prevents childhood obesity, which has been linked to juvenile diabetes.

It helps them sleep better

We’ve all seen this one work in action. Being in water really tires children out, and this in turn helps them to sleep better. It uses a lot of energy to go to swimming lessons and play around in a pool or beach.

Children are constantly moving their bodies to stay afloat and continuously releasing energy, and at the same time they’re adapting to a new and different environment, using their body in new ways, and working hard to stay warm in the cold water. After swimming lessons or any time spent in water, your child will fall asleep much quicker. You might even have to schedule a nap time!

It can keep them safe

Drowning is the leading cause of death for toddlers, and the second leading cause of death for people aged 5-24. Teaching your child how to swim at a young age can help them learn how to be safe in the water so that they are better prepared for dangerous situations. Knowing how to navigate the water and stay afloat can help reduce a child’s risk of drowning if they accidentally fall into a pool or get pulled into a rip at the beach.

It’s especially important to teach your infants how to swim if your home has a pool. Most cases of young children drowning happen in home pools, and swimming lessons early in life can help reduce this risk if you have a swimming pool at home. Of course, even if your child is attending swimming lessons, you must supervise them at all times. We’ll discuss more child swimming safety tips later in this article.

7 ways to make swimming lessons easier for kids

The benefits of swimming for children speak for themselves. Ready to give your kids the greatest gift and enrol them in some swimming lessons? Here’s a little warning: they might not be as excited as you are!

Some children will be afraid of the water, others will hate getting wet, and some just plain don’t want to go to swimming lessons. In a dream world, you’d be able to explain all the benefits to your kids and they’ll see the value. Instead, we’ve got some tips to make swimming lessons easier and more fun for kids. Keep these in mind and you’ll keep your kids happy.

Sign up after the summer

If your kids are already splish-splashing at the beach and pool with friends, try to sign them up for lessons right after summer is over. They’ll have all these fresh memories of great times in the water, and cooler weather means there’ll be less opportunities for fun at the beach. So enter swimming lessons! Saving the day by letting your kids continue to enjoy time in the water, only this time they’re learning how to swim…

Pack them loose clothes to change into

Sometimes it’s the small things that make a difference. Make swimming a less uncomfortable experience for your children by making sure they have some loose comfy clothing to get into afterwards. There’s nothing worse than trying to put on tight-fitting clothes or leggings after you’ve been for a swim! Pack light clothes that are super easy to put on and take off so your kids won’t associate swimming lessons with struggles in the change room.

Let them wear gear if they want to

If your kids hate getting water in their eyes and ears, or hate getting their hair wet, then let them wear gear that helps get rid of that problem. Swimming caps keep your child’s hair dry - make sure to go for a comfy silicone fit that’s easy to put on and take off or you’ll be asking for trouble!

Swimming goggles are a must-have for children who hate getting water in their eyes. They’ll be able to see underwater as well, which can help dispel some children’s fears of swimming. Earplugs are also a must for children who suffer ear infections and sensitivity, and will make swimming a lot more bearable for those little ears.

Sign up with a friend

If you can, try to sign your child up for swimming lessons with a friend or family member. This will make the idea of swimming lessons seem like a social activity for your child, and they’ll be more excited about attending. They’ll also feel less alone knowing someone else is being dragged to swimming class every week, which gives them less to moan about!

Make swimming lessons a positive thing

Whenever you talk about swimming lessons with your children, make sure you’re using a positive tone and facial expressions. Try not to leave for lessons in a stressful rush, and don’t yell at kids as you’re heading to swimming class. All of these things will make children build a negative association with swimming lessons, in turn making them less likely to want to attend. Keep things happy, fun, exciting, and adventurous!

Make sure they stay warm afterwards

This is especially important if your kids are going to swimming lessons during the winter! It helps to choose a swim centre that has hot showers for after the swim, but if not, make sure you’ve packed enough clothes for them to warm up after the swim. You don’t want your kids to feel freezing cold as they walk back to the car. Pack them beanies and scarves to keep their head, ears, and neck warm, and also fluffy slippers or shoes for their feet.

Let them skip a week if they want to

Now don’t make a regular habit out of this, but if your child desperately wants to skip a week of swimming lessons then you should let them. Everyone hates being forced to attend things against their will, and the same goes for your child as well. This is another way you can stop them from having a negative association with swimming - if they don’t tell you they don’t want to go, then be understanding and ask them the reasons without being forceful. Let them know that it’s OK and they’ll be more inclined to want to go the next week.

Pack snacks for after the lesson

Swimming uses a lot of energy and kids will often feel hungry after a lesson is over. To stop them from grumbling in the backseat on the way home, make sure you always have a couple of snacks ready for them to eat after the lesson.

How to make swimming more fun for kids

The above are great strategies for making swimming lessons easier for kids. But if your children aren’t attending swimming lessons, or have stopped, then there are still many ways you can encourage them to get in the water and practice their swimming. Make swimming more fun for your kids by trying the following tips…

Let them use fun equipment

Children need stimulation to keep them interested, and equipment will draw your child’s attention to the pool. Pool noodles and kickboards are great pieces of equipment that can make scared swimmers feel more comfortable in the water.

They’re also a lot of fun to play with - pool noodles have endless options when it comes to playing, and kickboards let children swim faster and easier if they lack confidence in the pool. Having these options available for your children will make them more likely to have fun in the pool as they’ll feel safer and have sources of entertainment to keep them engaged.

Goggles, fins, and snorkels are also fun pieces of equipment that let your children interact with the water in different ways. Goggles let them play more pool games without hurting their eyes, fins let them swim faster and easier, and snorkels let them breathe easier so they can focus on staying afloat.

Keep them motivated 

Sometimes children will lose interest in the pool if they have nothing to motivate them for being there. Fun and games are great, but some kids will get bored eventually (especially children who have lots of drive!) Try to keep your kids motivated in the pool by encouraging them to improve on their swimming skills and even build new ones.

If your child can’t dive, encourage them to keep practicing until they get it right. Let them see if they can practice holding their breath for longer, or practice swimming deeper. Kids will do almost anything to prove themselves - the key is to find something that keeps them motivated and holds their attention.

Stay up-to-date with pool activities

If there are local swimming pools in your area, stay up-to-date with any news or events that they may be hosting. Swimming pools sometimes host fun activities for children, like huge inflatables that they can play on, slides, diving boards, and even pool discos!

These kinds of events can be a great way to let your children build positive experiences with swimming and the water. Some swimming centres also have exclusive sections for kids that can have wave machines, water slides, waterfalls… it’s like a heavenly playground for children! Have a look in your area and see if there are any pools with fun children’s areas or activities where your kid can let loose and learn to love the water.

6 swimming pool games and activities for kids

Source: freepik.com

Not everyone has the time or budget to take their kids to the beach or local swimming pool, but there’s lots of fun to be had in your own pool at home! Swimming pool games and activities are such a great way to get kids engaged in the pool and have them spend hours in the water without even noticing. A lot of these games and activities are not only entertaining, but also teach kids how to swim better and work within a team. Let’s go!

Marco Polo

This classic swimming game is for more advanced swimmers and needs at least 3 players. In Marco Polo, a child is chosen to be ‘it’. They must go to a designated area of the pool and start a countdown while the other kids scramble to hide around the pool (but they can’t leave the water!)

When the countdown is finished, whoever is ‘it’ will yell “Marco!” and the other players yell back “Polo!” From their voices, the ‘it’ child will try to find them in the pool and tag them. Whoever is tagged becomes the next “Marco”. This is a great game that teaches kids how to move quickly in the water, dive underwater when possible, stay quiet, and work within a team.

Find the ping pong balls

This is a great pool game for children who are still learning how to dive and need to practice. It’s also great for helping kids to learn how to hold their breath for longer.

You’ll need a pack of ping pong balls for this game, and most kids will feel more comfortable with a pair of goggles as they’ll have to look underwater. Take your balls and throw them all in the pool, and instruct the children to jump in. Whoever collects the most ping pong balls from the bottom of the pool wins!

Red light, green light

This is a great game for young kids who are just learning how to swim. They may not have the full confidence to be in the water yet. Sit with them on a pool step, hold onto their arms, or have them hold onto the edge of the pool with their legs out.

When you say ‘green light’, get them to kick their feet quickly. When you say ‘red light’, they have to stop. If you say ‘yellow light’, let them do slower kicks. This game will help your child learn better kicking and propulsion so that they can learn to swim faster.

Shark and minnows

This is a good game for kids who might not be confident enough to swim much but can still do a lap. You can play it with as little as two players! Pick one child to play the ‘shark’ and have them stand in the middle of the pool. Everyone else should get out of the pool and line up along the edge. When the shark says, ‘Jump!’, all the kids have to dive into the pool and try to swim past the shark without being caught.

What’s the time, Mr. Wolf?

This is a classic children’s game that’s usually played on land, but is even more fun in the pool. Little kids love this game! Again, you’ll want to pick a child to be Mr. Wolf and have them stay by one side of the pool while everyone else is lined up on the other side.

The kids who aren’t ‘it’ will yell, “What’s the time Mr. Wolf?” and Mr. Wolf will yell back a number. The children will have to move that number of steps / strokes towards Mr. Wolf. At any point, Mr. Wolf can yell that it’s “Dinnertime!” and all the kids will have to scramble back to where they started as Mr. Wolf tries to swim at them and catch them. Whoever is caught becomes Mr. Wolf for the next round.

Floatie race

This is another fun one for little kids who may not have the confidence to swim yet. If you have floaties, pool noodles, and kickboards, let each child pick their equipment of choice and line up on one end of the pool for the grand race. Of course, you want to make sure that less confident swimmers have their tool of choice. When you say ‘Go!’ everyone has to float along the pool on their floatie or pool noodle to the finish line.

Safe swimming tips for children

If your kids are just starting out in the pool and haven’t yet built the confidence that comes with years of experience in the water, you want to keep them extra safe. Taking the appropriate safety precautions and measurements for your kids will help reduce the risk of accidents. Your children will feel safer knowing that they’re taken care of, and you’ll have better peace of mind when your little ones are splashing around in the water. Here are our top tips for children’s safe swimming.

Know the depth of the water

You should always know how deep the water is before you let your child get in, and never let them jump or dive into a pool if you haven’t checked the depth. Children should never jump into pools that are shallow than 2.5 metres and or dive into pools that are less than 3.5 metres deep. If your child hasn’t yet learned how to confidently tread water or stay afloat, then never let them get into a deep pool where they won’t be able to stand.

Clear the pool of any toys

If you have a swimming pool in your home, make sure that there are no pool toys floating around in the pool. When your kids are done swimming, clear them out of the pool. Leaving toys floating in the middle of a swimming pool can attract children, who will try to get them out so they can play. This can lead to accidents and even drownings, so make sure that there are never any toys enticing your child to the pool.

Teach your kids to only walk near water

A lot of kids get excited near pools and naturally want to run and sprint around, but this is very dangerous. The area around swimming pools is usually wet and slippery, and if kids are running or walking too quickly they can easily slip and hit their heads, fall into the deep end of a pool, or injure themselves.

You must teach your kids from the very beginning to always slow down near pools, and only walk. It can also be helpful to have special non-slip slippers for your kids to wear around the pool.

Noodles and floaties aren’t life jackets

Yes, they float, but noodles and floaties aren’t substitutes for life jackets. If your child is still learning to swim, or hasn’t yet learned how to swim, then they must always be wearing a lifejacket or puddle jumper in the pool.

Never let an inexperienced swimmer into the pool with just a pool noodle or arm floaties. Neither of these pieces of equipment are approved for safety, and they can actually make children feel more secure than they really are, which is dangerous in itself.

Have designated water watchers

If you have a pool at home and children are often splashing around during a BBQ or other occasion, make sure you always have a designated adult water watcher. At least one pair of eyes has to be on the pool at all times.

Drownings and accidents can happen silently and quickly, and you don’t want to peel your eyes away for even a minute. You can assign water watchers to be on duty for 15 minutes at a time so that they don’t lose concentration. Whoever is watching the water should have no distractions around them, like phones or books.

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by Leanne Chalkley on November 26, 2021

My little boy has been swimming since he was 3 months old!

by Bianca on November 19, 2020

My son loves swimming!

by Tana on November 19, 2020

Our kids love swimming.. So glad we have easy access to areas for swimming all year round

by mo naranath on November 19, 2020

swimming is the main dad time for me with the kids

by mo naranath on November 19, 2020

swimming is the main dad time for me with the kids

by Danielle Allen on November 18, 2020

As a swimming teacher it is wonderful to see children returning to pools in Melbourne last week. However it is scary to see the skill level, fitness and confidence drop from being out of lessons for 6 months due to Covid restrictions. Most schools have cancelled swimming lessons 2020 so this leaves many children vulnerable heading into summer.
It is more important than ever before to get children into swimming lessons for safety as well as all the reasons discussed above.

by Rachel Melder on November 17, 2020

My kids are real water babies and have been swimming since they were both 3 months old.
It’s one of the greatest skills they will ever learn and one of the most important especially living in Australia.
So glad they love to swim.

by Xandra Williams on November 16, 2020

My two eldest love their swimming lessons but my son (8yrs old) just refuses to go so we just play in the water and make it fun. One day he’ll change his mind.

by Gemma Delatorre on November 16, 2020

Both of my kids have done swimming lessons since they were 1. There is such a difference between them and they’re friends who haven’t done swimming. It’s so important because even if they can’t swim well they have the confidence to not panic and breathe in water and can apply their skills in those sticky situations.

by Kev Mcdougall on November 13, 2020

Interesting read

by Jessica Hensley on November 13, 2020

My kids have been in swimming lessons since they we 18months old.. Best thing I ever did was put them in to learn to swim. I think it’s such and important skill to have.

by jing on November 13, 2020

Swimming should be learned from a really young age, such an important skill to have.

by Gail Davies on November 09, 2020

Very interesting and necessary information to be aware of.

by Kylie Overstone on November 08, 2020

Swimming is a very important skill to learn for all ages even if you didn’t learn to swim as a child. It could save your life or someone else’s life. It builds up confidence in children but you must always watch your children when swimming as it only takes moments to drown. I remember when younger jumping in the pool when I was quite young and forgot I had taken it off and ended up on the bottom of the pool. I remember looking up through the water and luckily my Dad was watching and saved me. Once you can swim so many great things to do in the water. My favourite is snorkeling as I get too clostaphobic to learn to dive with oxygen. My breathing I don’t think I would ever get. But snorkeling you can still go to great reefs to see all the coral and fish. Just remember it only takes a few seconds of looking away from a young child for them to get into serious trouble.

by Christine Knott on November 08, 2020

Swimming should be a part of every child’s education. Most of our cities are on the coast. Aussies love the sun and the beach. Thanks for promoting swim safety.

by Catherine O’Leary on November 08, 2020

Both my sons love swimming! Great sport for so many reasons.

by Katie Drummond on November 08, 2020

Swimming is a life skill! My kids absolutely love the water, its such an important part of our life, especially living so close to water.

by Nicky on November 08, 2020

Being confident and comfortable around water is essential for young children. It allows them to enjoy swimming without fear and worry hopefully leading to a wonderful array of opportunity as an adult to travel and experience so much of the natural beauty this planet has to offer.
Australian beaches are stunning, being afraid to “dip your toes” would mean missing out on a whole other world!

by Missy Abbott on November 06, 2020

Swimming is one of my children’s favourite things to do. During spring and summer we get a pool pass to go anytime and we live on the coast in Tasmania so we spend a lot of time at the beach.


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The photo is us snorkelling off Amadee Island looking for turtles!