Many people are aware of the benefits of aquatic therapy, which is regularly used in Physical and Occupational Therapy. The warm water and calming sensory environment is a natural place to creatively help kids work on specific physical or cognitive skills. Swimming is also a GREAT environment for building speech skills – and as a parent, you can help support your child’s language development through activities in and out of the pool!
Before Swim Class:
There are a variety of ways to build language skills as you help your child get ready for swim class. Talk about the items they need for swim class (swimsuit, goggles, swim cap, towel, etc) and have them help pack the bag. Discuss the purposes of the items – for example, swim caps help keep hair out of the pool and the water clean. Have your child help pack the swim bag and talk about each item you tuck into it.
You can also prepare your child for class, build excitement and calm nerves by talking about what to expect during lessons. For example, have your child play in the bathtub and sprinkle water on his/her head or practice blowing bubbles. Talk about each activity as you do it.
During Swim Class:
Swim lessons provide a natural environment to boost language skills. From listening to instructions, answering questions, interacting with peers and taking turns, swim is a great opportunity to develop both social and verbal skills in a relaxing and fun space.
In parent-tot classes and early level swim lessons, pool time includes singing songs, playing water games and a lot of interaction with others. Higher level lessons involve more complicated instructions, encouragement from peers and turn-taking.
After Swim Class:
Take time to talk to your child about the lesson, such as his/her favorite part, and exaggerate your articulation of words like “splash”, “Kick” and “swim”. Ask lots of questions and give lots of praise!
For more information about the benefits of language development and swimming, here are 2 great articles from therapists: