The Benefits of Swimming Lessons
By Erin Anderson
As a pediatric occupational therapist for fifteen years, I have always recommended swimming to my clients. Regular swimming works wonders for many skills that occupational therapists focus on, including gaining muscle strength and development. Being in the water helps kids learn where their body is in space and it is very calming to feel the water around them. Swimming also helps with motor and bi-lateral coordination because kids learn to use both the right and left sides of their bodies AND the top and bottom parts of their bodies together to move. Using your body as a whole to move through space helps anyone to gain a better sense of self while experiencing a calming sensation.
When I had my own daughter, I knew we should sign her up for swimming. I understood how important this activity is for motor development plus I also had a personal awareness of safety for my daughter. My husband and I have always enjoyed beach vacations so with the addition of my two year-old daughter, we did not want this to end but I was acutely aware of the anxiety I felt when we were around water. I knew that teaching her how to swim needed to become a priority. We wanted her to be safe and comfortable around water. I found Goldfish Swim School online and I had heard about their swim lessons around town so I decided to sign her up.
My daughter has always loved paddling in the pool with us on trips and going in lakes and oceans so I anticipated this to be an easy transition. I signed her up for a class on her own, with two other kids and a teacher. She was excited to go but when we got there she proceeded to get in the water and cry for the entire half hour! As a mom, I couldn’t believe she disliked it this much. It was hard to watch her screaming and looking at me with that look of despair! As a therapist I knew she was safe, that this was new and being around water most likely made her feel vulnerable. The staff was wonderful. They saw my panicked look through the glass and gave me a reassuring smile. At one point my daughter had the teacher in the water with her and her own lifeguard sitting by her side trying to distract her with a toy.
When the session was over, they all cheered for her and celebrated her first swim lesson. The next two weeks continued with her crying and the Goldfish team suggested that we try doing a parent class and swim with her to get her comfortable. She loved this and we did it for seven months. Then we moved her to the next level on her own and she has moved up two levels since. It has been a great success!
Now as a 3 year old, my daughter swims on her own during her lessons at Goldfish. She can also can do a back float all with a smile on her face! We continue to work on her confidence when practicing at our local pool and her skills are coming along. Because Goldfish Swim School often incorporates play into their lessons through toys and over-the-top reactions (my daughter loves giving a high five and knocking over the instructor), the children in lessons truly have fun. This play-based type of teaching helps children feel comfortable in a vulnerable setting while working towards learning new water safety skills!
Overall the school is flexible with our busy schedules as working parents. When we need to reschedule, there are always available make up classes. Family swim gives us a chance to practice with her. Goldfish has allowed us to continue to take sun-filled family vacations in addition to working on her motor development and building her self-esteem as she continues to conquer new goals all while having fun at the same time.
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Ever wonder why your therapist insists on rescheduling an appointment that one of you may have missed? Ever wonder why it is so important to continue your therapy over the summer? Well, here is the answer! Consistency is the key to success! It is crucial in your child’s progress that they receive consistent therapy as well as ongoing support and work at home. This is a lot of work on your part, but it will pay off in the end. Think of it as exercise for your child. If you work out for one hour a week, you will not see the same progress as compared to working out 4-5 days a week. You also, would not see any progress if you took a couple of months off. We are working on similar things with your child and strengthening their muscles and their brain to help them to function better. As your child’s therapist, we want your child to achieve their goals as fast and as well as possible. This is why continuing in the summer and doing the home program is crucial to faster improvement and decreased time in therapy.
Do your children ever ask “why do I need to say please or thank you?!” Manners are an important part of our daily life and help us to get along with one another. It is an important tool when engaging with and getting along with peers and adults. Here are some ideas to try and work on:
- Practice greeting friends or family members with eye contact, a smile, and a handshake. The parent can pretend you are a new friend and your child can practice these tools.
- Practice sincere apologies to anyone if they do something wrong or make a mistake. Do this in real time if your child makes a mistake and as a parent, you can model good apologizing behavior.
- Giving and receiving compliments is an important tool. Practice giving your child a compliment and having them give you a compliment.
- Saying thank you for nice things other say or do.
- Phone etiquette is an important thing to talk about as well. Discuss how to answer and how to hang up. In the age of our phones being everywhere it may also be a good idea for parents to set an example of when you should have the phone or when you cannot. These can change depending on how your house runs, but maybe you do not want phones at the dinner table or when you are having family discussions…etc.
Thank you for your time!
We hope you are all doing well! We all know it is important to keep our routine and schedule in our lives. It helps us to feel in control and able to expect what our day is going to be like. It helps our bodies and minds to perform at their peak. Did you know, the same is true for our kids?! It is just as important for us to keep a bedtime, sleep and morning routine for consistency. Try to start your evening routine early and get them in bed at a decent time. If your child is 4, they need 11.5-12 hours of sleep a night. If they are 5-6, years old they need 11 hours, and if they are 7-8 years old they need 10.5 hours of sleep a night*. It is important to know that all children wake during the night, but should be able to put themselves back to bed*. Children can become sleep deprived to the point of it impacting their learning within a couple of days*.
A good way to make sure they get a good night’s sleep is to keep your evening routine the same as much as you can. An example of an evening routine would be to change into pajamas, brush teeth, being tucked in tight/getting squishes/tight hugs from mom and dad, read a book, soft music, then lights out. If having a routine, start out slow take your time to acclimate your child to a new schedule.
Have a wonderful week! Sweet Dreams!
*Information obtained from Nancy Birkenmeier, BSN, RN, 2010, St. Luke’s Hospital, Chesterfield, MO