Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Swimming, Development and Academic Excellence

Summer is coming, and many parents begin to look for summer activities for their children.  Swim lessons are one of the most popular options.  Swim lessons are valuable in general, but is there more value in swim lessons for young children than one might initially realize? 

According to a study by Griffith University's Institute for Educational Research, there is definitely a developmental bonus for kids who take swimming lessons early in their development, regardless of socio-economic background and gender.  The study's findings included:

  • Kids who learned to swim early tended to reach physical milestones earlier than non-swimmers
  • Significant differences were found in visual-motor development
  • Academic advantages were found in mathematics, reading and numerical literacy
  • Children who began swimming early also seemed to express themselves better than non-swimmers
The Griffith University study results are not unique.  According to the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential, swimming has these developmental benefits:

  • Swimming improves speech
  • Reduces stress
  • Increases blood flow to the brain
  • Enhances large or gross motor skills
  • Increases coordination

This blog post is brought to you by JumpStart Toys, a woman-owned, internet educational toy business focused on learning toys and games that may enhance child development and academic performance.

*Sources:   redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
and Super Swimmers Foundation

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Connection Between Crawling, Learning, and Toys

It seems that there is an increasing push for children to interact with electronics or toys that resemble electronics or have electronic components and less emphasis is put on physical activity and understanding the important connection that exists between physical developmental milestones and learning.  While much is known, much is also unknown about how the achievement of developmental milestones, such as crawling, impacts higher learning skills.
According to Heather Haring, OTR/L, benefits of crawling include stimulating cognitive development, hand-eye coordination, cross lateral movement, and binocular vision.    In a nutshell, when a baby learns to crawl, the baby develops many skills needed for higher learning – reading and copying from a blackboard, communication skills, comprehension, memory, hand-eye coordination for writing and other tasks, and the trunk strength to sit upright while learning.
How long does a baby need to crawl?  She suggests six months.  How do parents and grandparents encourage crawling and learning and how does this relate to toys?  We have these suggestions:
·         Be sure babies spend adequate time on their tummies to strengthen their upper bodies in preparation for crawling.  Introduce brightly colored toys to attract their attention and stimulate their desire to reach or move toward the toy like the melody snail.
·         Encourage babies to reach and scoot toward a brightly colored toy, such as our Sassy crib and floor mirror or our Edushape Hug-A-Bug cushion with brightly colored bugs that make noise and vibrate.
·         Purchase toys that encourage children to crawl, such as our fort or tunnel.
·         If your child is already past the crawling stage, consider toys and games that are entertaining and foster the development of memory hand-eye coordination, use of the upper and lower body independently, or that require coordination of both hands or both hands and feet to stimulate different parts of the brain.  View our toys in the fine motor skill and cognitive skill categories.
·         For older children, encourage physical activities that build upper body strength and hand strength, such as swinging on monkey bars or lifting small weights (be sure the weight is appropriate and the lifting is done correctly).
Suggested learning toys and educational games from our website, www.jumpstarttoys.com, include:

We invite you to share our blog with friends and families with babies and young children.  View Heather Haring’s full article about the importance of crawling and its connection to learning at http://www.medcentral.org/main/Whatssoimportantaboutcrawling.aspx.