In an age of electronic entertainment and plugged-in play, many classic childhood games are being pushed aside. However, these classic games provide key benefits for child development. In this series of posts, we will explore how these “unplugged” activities are more than just child’s play.
Swimming is a favorite summertime activity for many families and is one of our most recommended activities for children who seek proprioceptive input. Being in the water provides uniform deep pressure input over large areas of the body which many children find to be organizing. Jumping into the water provides a great opportunity for more intense deep pressure and proprioception. Studies have shown that proprioceptive input causes the release of neurochemicals such as serotonin (involved in mood, sleep and appetite) and dopamine (involved in the sleep/wake cycle). Many families at the clinic have reported noticing positive changes in their child’s ability to sit through an evening meal, participate in family activities and transition to bed after a long day of swimming. The deep pressure of the water is also helpful to children who struggle with body awareness and motor planning, as the water provides a higher level of feedback than moving oneself on land. All swimming strokes, from simply propelling oneself by kicking to the doggy paddle to formal swim strokes, require efficient bilateral coordination, which is the ability to use the two sides of the body together to complete a larger task. Swimming also addresses strength, endurance and the cardiovascular system. Time to dig out the bathing suits and sunscreen!