Why do we do what we do in nursery classes?
The importance of learning to swim at an early age cannot be disputed. With accidental drowning being the leading cause of death in under-5s, it makes good sense for all young Australians to develop water safety skills from a very early age.
Further, Australia is a nation whose national psyche is based on water activities, whether enjoying the water through personal recreation or through cheering on our elite swimmers in the pool. Participating in swimming has rewards too for health and fitness. But unlike other physical or intellectual pursuits undertaken by children in the years prior to schooling, formal swimming lessons can commence at a much earlier age than other activities. Water familiarisation activities can start soon after birth with baby’s first bath and formal lessons start in many swim centres for babies as young as four months. No other baby-centred leisure activity commences at such an early age.
Everything we do in our nursery classes has a purpose. We structure our program to trigger:
Gross motor skills such as stationery (floating), locomotion & object manipulation
Fine motor skills such as grasping & visual motion
Oral Language, listening comprehension, reasoning, verbal ability, and cognitive efficiency (including emotional)
Teaching practices are one of the most crucial factors in children’s success learning. We look not at the teacher but at the practices (program & structure).
Let us look a little more at how activities translate to skills:
Hello song – aids in socialisation and communication
Humpty Dumpty – waiting & entering on cue as well as safely entering by leaning forward
Back Floats – assist in floating and balance in the water (gross motor skills) , aids in propulsion when we move the child through the water and help them kick their toes
Rotation front to back – water safety and survival skill, aids in balance in the water
Front Floats – balance in water and propulsion when moved through the water with supported toes kicking
Spider crawl with exit – builds upper body strength aiding in support and exit skills, critical water safety and survival skills
Running across mat & jumping – balance & focus, submersion and surfacing skills, and when coupled with a float or swim back to wall; critical water safety and survival skills
Swimming through hoops – submersion and breath control skills as well as propulsion and floating skills
Chasing toys- focus and propulsion skills whether coupled with a noodle or swim rings, grasping skills (fine motor skills)
Head first entries jelly on plate – submersion awareness, breath control, taking instruction, familiarisation with surrounds & checking for safety
Blowing bubbles on the surface – cognitive awareness through cause and effect even with children of 6 months
As previously stated children that commence swimming from a young age may experience numerous developmental advantages over those that don’t. Independent research has used the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) milestones for comparison purposes. The CDC has identified the age at which children should be successfully achieving the milestone. This research has shown that swimming children have achieved some milestones three age bands earlier than the CDC target, at a rate of at least 50% in participants studied. These milestones and the benchmark of swimming children have been illustrated in the table below.
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