London, (IANS) Teaching babies to swim turns out to be more than just fun. Baby swimmers have better balance and are also better at grasping things than non-swimmers.
This difference persists even when the children are five-years-old. Children taught to swim as babies outperform their peers, research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NUST) shows.
Hermundur Sigmundsson, a professor of psychology at NUST, and Brian Hopkins, a professor of psychology from Lancaster University, have shown that baby swimming is good for developing balance and movement in infants and young children.
The study involved comparing baby swimmers against a control group of children who had not learnt swimming while they were babies.
The only factor that separated baby swimmers from the control group was swimming. All other factors such as the parents' education, housing and economic status were the same.
The baby swimmers had participated in swimming classes for two hours a week from the age of 2-3 months until they were about seven months old.
A typical session might involve helping the baby do a somersault on a floating mat, having the baby dive under water, jump from the pool edge, and balance on the hand of a parent while reaching to pick up floating objects, says a NUST release.
At approximately age five, both baby swimmers and the control group were tested with similar exercises.
The exercises included walking on tiptoes, balancing on one foot, skipping rope, rolling a ball into a goal and catching a beanbag. The results were crystal clear, the researchers say.
'We saw very clearly that baby swimmers were the best in exercises that related to balance and the ability to reach for things,' says Sigmundsson.
The study is slated for publication in the May issue of 'Child: Care Health and Development'.