Not only is swimming a great way to beat the summer heat, but it has many other benefits! First and foremost, it gets the kids away from video games and the television and gets them moving, which is heart healthy! It is a great life skill, as it keeps them safer when they are near water if they know how to swim. Swimming is a great social activity, too! After all, who doesn’t enjoy a good game of Marco Polo?
Therapeutically, I recommend swimming to strengthen a child’s core, improve endurance and increase bilateral coordination. In addition, swimming provides tactile input. I often hear parents tell me that their child with sensory issues loves to sit on the bottom of the pool!
Now, just what is bilateral coordination, and why is it important? Bilateral coordination is important for children as many daily activities require the use of the two sides of our body. Sometimes, a task requires both sides of the body to do the same thing, like in jump roping, rolling playdoh into a snake with a rolling pin or playing with a zoom ball. Other times, our body must alternate the movements on each side, like when crossing the monkey bars, bike riding or swimming. At times, a task requires the two sides of our body to work together to perform different skills and movements on the opposite sides of the body. Examples of this level of bilateral coordination would be: cutting, placing toothpaste on a toothbrush, buttoning a shirt, tracing around a stencil and writing.
Whether your child is doing the doggy paddle or mastering the butterly, you can be assured that the two sides of his brain are "talking", and thus, the two sides of the body are learning to work together. As well, he is experiencing all of the other benefits that swimming has to offer. So, while your child is excited to cool off and go diving for those dive sticks, sit back with an ice cold lemonade and a smile knowing he is reaping the therapeutic benefits, too!
Michelle Yoder, OTR/L