Monday, September 29, 2008

Get that Baby in the Water

Elizabeth, age 1 month; age 2 months

Last Saturday, we had a great experience at our swim school. We hosted a four hour presentation from New Directions Institute on Infant Brain Development. It was awesome and challenging at the same time. Awesome because it ratified many of the things we believe infant swimming provides to a child. Challenging because it highlighted how quickly an infant's brain develops the internal connections that they will use for their lifetime. Do you realize that a child's brain grows 25% in their first year to 75% by their second year and 90% by age three? Think about that. Ninety percent (90%) of the inner workings of a child's brain are in place by age three! The New Directions presenters and material do support the theory that it is "never too late" to work with a child.....but their research also validates that the road is a lot bumpier.

What role does infant swimming play in infant brain development? The seminar ratified our belief that getting a baby in the water early allows them to further develop those internal brain connections that are stimulated by floating in the water or by having water run over their faces which stimulates nerve endings as well as their breath holding reflexes. There are many things you can do with your infant and water at home, including showering with them, letting your infant float on their back in the tub or simply pouring water over your child's head and shoulders.

Additionally, the bonding and skin to skin contact that comes when you bathe with your child or take them to a parent and me learn to swim class is fantastic. Here at the swim school many of our evening and Saturday classes are predominately dads and babies. What a great chance for dad to get some real quality time with their baby! We view the parent as the student so they are getting the skills to work with their baby at home in the tub or pool. Many times in my parenting days I found it hard to get that toddler to sit still on my lap but when we got in the water, it was a great time to learn together, and to communicate verbally and non-verbally. In the water they certainly paid attention to who was holding on to them!

From the New Directions website: New Directions Institutes suggest that you become mindful of each of the ABC's of Early Learning in order to interact more effectively with your child. ATTENTION. BONDING. COMMUNICATION. Of these three the most basic and influential effects are due to BONDING.

So whether you swim with your child or not - get in the tub or shower with them if a pool is not available. As they grow and become more comfortable you can get out of the tub and organize games for them that they can perfect in the tub on their own. For some on what to do at home ideas, check out this article written by my wife, Kathy. Other may find inspiration from marine wildlife. Recently, I was visiting one of my daughters and her three little girls and had the pleasure of watching them re-enact a seal show from Sea World that they had all seen. I got to experience three little girls sliding into their bathtub on their bellies over the edge, "swimming" across the bottom of the tub with their faces in the water, and climbing out and do it again. Yes, you get a very wet floor but what a great show!

1 comment:

Adriana said...

I don't know if Damond has ever told you, but he credits much of Thomas' strength and athletic ability to his early swim lessons!
Whenever given the chance he explains this to people. You and Kathy have done an amzing job with the swim school and its programs!

That class sounded really interesting! I learned another tidbit: apparently every brain starts out as female :D