Health, Outdoor fun, Parenting, Special Needs, Stages

Can Swimming Make Your Kid Smarter?

by Erin Cohn, January 15, 2019

While many people are aware of the physical benefits of swimming, new research suggests that it can also be instrumental in early childhood brain development.

Love Swimming, the premier instructional swimming program in New Orleans since 2002, bases their lesson plans on the notion that swimming is a brain-boosting activity and their instructors witness the learning benefits of swimming every day.

Read on for Love Swimming’s top brain benefits…

1. Promotes Hippocampal Neurogenesis

A 2012 study found children who learned to swim at a young age reached many developmental milestones earlier and more easily than non-swimming peers. Researchers believe this is because of the bilateral cross-patterning movements in swimming aid in the development of nerve fibers in the corpus callosum, which connects the hemispheres of the brain and facilitates communication between them. “Being in the water engages babies and children in a unique way. The stimulation of water on the skin helps create and connect neurons as your child kicks, glides, and smacks the water.”

2. Improved Breathing and Communication

With weekly swimming lessons, most children will swim independently by age four. The biggest milestone for kids on this path is independent breathing. While swimming, kids’ breathing becomes deeper. This improved respiration helps the baby to be better at making sounds, which improves communication and overall language development. Babies who can communicate better are generally happier!

3. Better Cognitive Function

A 2014 NCBI study found that immersing oneself in a pool increases blood flow to the brain, which can help improve memory, mood, clarity, and focus. Additionally, swimming activates both brain hemispheres and all four lobes of the brain simultaneously which can lead to increased cognition and an easier time learning. Marshall says, “If you have to choose just one activity for your child before age 6, that activity should absolutely be swimming. Because of the brain benefits and the confidence it builds, it helps kids be stronger, more coordinated, and more intelligent than their non-swimming peers.”

4. Invaluable Therapy for Children with Special Needs

Love Swimming teaches many children with special needs. Marshall notices, “Swimming lessons offer all the same brain benefits for youth on the spectrum, but the experience can be even more special for a kid facing additional challenges.” For children on the autism spectrum, or with other special needs, water on the body can have a calming effect. Additionally, water is a soothing environment that emphasizes gentle and repetitive motions which can help reduce stress and anxiety.

5. For the Love of Swimming!

In addition to all these amazing brain-related benefits, swimming is just plain fun! Marshall says, “Most of our swimmers at Love Swimming would say that swimming is their favorite activity.  When lessons are consistent and fun for kids, it often becomes their favorite activity. It becomes the highlight of their week. It’s all they want to talk about!”

Thanks to our expert, Marshall Love of Love Swimming.


Erin Cohn is an edit intern at Nola Family magazine.

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