How early water play can support development
David Anderson, a leading expert in motor development, professor at San Francisco State University and researcher at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Human Development tells us why you should get your baby moving in the water ASAP.
We all want our children to be able to swim and feel at ease in the water because it is such an important life skill and facilitator of social interaction during childhood. But, not many parents know that water’s buoyancy also stimulates the development of motor skills because it allows babies to move much more freely and explore patterns of coordination that are difficult to do on land under the constant press of gravity. Moreover, an abundance of research shows that motor development is a catalyst for psychological development, too!
Using an infant neck float like the Otteroo is a new and easy way to promote movement exploration in the water and stimulate a baby’s motor and psychological development – all while having loads of fun.
Freer movement and faster development
As far back as the 1930s, researchers noted that a baby’s movements were more rhythmical, organized, and synchronous in the water than on land. Subsequent researchers found that babies who had opportunities to explore their movements in the water were more motivated to move, more confident, and further advanced in their motor skills and social skills.
Babies are capable of performing a wide range of different movements in the womb, like stepping, crawling, and somersaulting, however, they find these movements much more difficult to perform after birth. This is because working against gravity requires more effort than they can muster. However, these patterns are expressed and can be “practiced” easily while floating in the water. Practicing the stepping pattern for as little as 5 minutes a day has been shown to lead to an earlier onset of independent walking.
Promotes early psychological development
Independent mobility during the first 12 months of life drives major changes in psychological development according to Professor Anderson. It is by moving that infants learn about themselves, about the world around them, and about their relation to that world around them.
Early mobility leads to an explosion of choices and goals to pursue in the baby who was previously dependent on caregivers to get around. Pursuing these goals leads, in turn, to dramatic changes in movement competence, perception, cognition, memory, and social and emotional development. Floating freely in the water provides opportunities for early mobility that are simply impossible on land due to the constant pull of gravity.
Advances readiness for school
A groundbreaking 2013 research study led by the Griffith Institute for Educational Research in Australia found that children under 5 years of age who participated in swim classes were 6 to 15 months ahead of the norm in their cognitive skills, problem solving in mathematics, counting, language, and in following directions. Beyond water safety alone, swimming is proven to add social, cognitive, emotional and physical capital to children’s lives. Give your baby a head start in building a positive, lifelong relationship with water before 6 months, when the fear of water sets in for many babies.
Albeit all those benefits, what do moms like you ultimately care about most? Our babies’ giggles and smiles! Your baby will be having such a good time exploring and enjoying his or her newfound freedom that you’ll forget that the time with otteroo playing in the water is so good for your kiddie, too!
David Anderson PH.D, is a world leading expert and researcher on motor skill acquisition and its influence on psychological development and functioning. He is a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at San Francisco State University, a long-standing member of the Institute of Human Development at the University of California Berkeley, and an Active Fellow in the National Academy of Kinesiology.