We all want what's best for our child and to offer the tools for what’s ahead in life. Too often, I feel, hobbies might be focused on eventual competing rather than having fun and self-development. Swimming, however, shouldn't be one of the hobbies solely focused on competing. I'm all in if that's the case but swimming is much more than one of the most popular sports in the world (well, second most popular at least in 2008!).
Here's my take on why I believe swimming is one of the best (if not THE best) hobbies for your child:
1. Water safety
Not everyone needs to be able to skate or kick a ball. However, everyone needs to be able to be safe in the water, especially in a country with thousands of lakes such as Finland. The skill of swimming is defined in Finland as being able to swim 200m after falling into water with one's head below the surface. This is something every healthy 7-year-old is able to do if you expect them to. Today, this isn't really the case here. But that's about to change.
2. Motor development
This is where I pull my baby swimming card. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can support the muscle-nervous system development as much as baby and toddler swimming. The water gives the child, among other things, enough support to do different types of balancing activities that will help them sit, stand up, and walk faster than without the water. Plus it's a perfect way to connect with your little one, after all this is your first hobby together.
Worry not, if you aren't or weren't able to do baby or toddler swimming, it's truly never too late to start!
Remember, if you are scared of the water, the child will pick it up. It's important to deal with your own emotions before coming to the water with the child or let your partner go until you feel comfortable.
3. Social development
Swimming courses are intended to be fun when learning with a group of children about the same skill level and/or age. This is a perfect time to learn to play new games and interact with others.
In my classes there are always two rules for every child; we never push anyone under the water and we must always have fun! These rules make even the nervous child feel visibly more comfortable and when they're comfortable, learning happens effortlessly.
For some however, it might take a bit of time to get used to the idea of a pool, the group, and the teacher, so please please please always follow and support the child's wishes. Forcing them into the water, even when you paid for the course, will only work against the child and they will inevitably develop fear towards the whole thing.
Imagine yourself in the 5th grade and you're going swimming for the first time with your school. You already feel uncomfortable in your changing body, the swimsuit doesn't fit and you're one of the few who can not even blow bubbles in the water let alone move in the water. How would that make you feel? Now think of yourself as someone who's been swimming more or less weekly up until this point. You know the drill: you've been there, you have got the right swimming suit and you're comfortable in the water and you know how to move. Do I need to explain more?
Childrens' or teenagers' lives are already characterized by internal turmoil and being able to swim and being comfortable in a swimsuit is a good foundation for healthy self-esteem. I know--I've been there. Now, I know right now it seems that you can only swim as a hobby if you compete but I really want to see Finland move in a direction towards offering 10+year old children regular swim courses just for fun and for all the reasons above. More often than not, we have a separation of swimmers and non-swimmers, wherein one group swims 6 times a week and the other none. There needs to be a golden middle, too!
Strong swimming skills will enable you to later try more cool sports, from scuba diving to surfing and from water polo to water skiing and sailing. Now, who would say no to these?