Doctor Molly Dives Into the Hidden Connection Between Physical Activity & Academic Success

Now that the kids are back in school, and fall sports are underway, we sat down with our good friend Dr. Molly to discuss how extracurricular activities, such as swimming lessons, can help set even the littlest fish up to make BIG waves in the pool, in school, and in life! Read on to learn how you can set your kiddos up for success as your family gets back in the swim of things this school year.

Back to school is a busy time! As families get back in the swim of things this fall, why should extracurricular activities be part of their routine?

Kids put a lot of effort and focus into learning at school! Having an outlet they enjoy and look forward to after a long day of sitting in school is a great way to release all of the energy they’ve built up during the day, while keeping the learning going in other fun and engaging ways. Whether they are building lego robotics, playing an instrument or jumping in the pool after school, extracurricular activities can help enrich a child’s personal growth and development in many different ways.

What are some ways extracurricular activities and after-school sports help support a child’s personal growth development?

There are so many benefits that stem from enrolling children in extracurricular activities!

Not only do they provide a great opportunity for kids to connect and develop friendships through shared interests and activities, kids develop important time management skills as they learn to get their school work done while balancing fun time, too.

But one of the benefits I find most interesting is the hidden connection between physical activity and academic success that helps kids in sports excel in school! Many people are surprised to learn that certain forms of physical exercise can actually help strengthen the part of the brain that is associated with memory and learning.

It’s true! Activities that involve repetitive motions, such as running, cycling and swimming, create connections in the brain, like little highways, that connect to the same areas where other forms of repetitive learning - like memorizing spelling words and mastering math facts - take place.

In fact, studies have shown that children enrolled in year-round swim lessons are more likely to reach a higher-than-expected level in school testing and a range of developmental milestones earlier than their peers. Researchers believe this is because the type of instruction and sensory learning kids are exposed to through swimming lessons support the type of learning that occurs in the classroom. As kids are mastering their swim strokes and exercising their bodies, they’re also exercising their minds.

READ MORE: To Excel in School, Hit the Pool!

That’s interesting! Tell us more. What makes this type of repetitive learning so important when it comes to a child’s growth and development?

We all know that practice makes progress. But what parents may not realize is that repetition is what creates the building blocks that make it easier for kids to learn new skills.

As grownups, we can easily get bored doing the same thing over and over again. Once we feel we’ve got the hang of something, we’re quick to move onto the next task. That’s why it can be hard for us as parents to sit on the sidelines and watch our kids practice the same things over and over again—whether that entails practicing scales on the piano or doing the same swim skill in the pool.

Unlike adults, kids’ brains are still developing. They find comfort in the familiar and gain something new every time they watch, read or do the same thing. That’s because children need to repeat things over and over in order to build a strong neurologic pathway. And while they’re strengthening that pathway, they’re also building more connections - little side roads in the brain - that can help them discover shortcuts that lead to other skills they need to excel in school—like developing their active listening skills or expanding their understanding of the English language.

READ MORE: Why Repetition is So Important in Swim Lessons

With so many activities to choose from these days, do you have any suggestions for parents when it comes to selecting extracurricular activities for their children?

As a parent, it can be tempting to take an interest that your child has when they are playing and turn it into a formal activity. Perhaps they enjoy shooting hoops when they get home from school or kicking around the soccer ball in the backyard. Before you sign them up to join a local team, talk to your child about whether that’s something they’d enjoy. Some kids will love that idea, while others will want to keep their interest more casual and free flowing. Let them lead the way! Offer your kids a few choices and have them pick one or two they think they’d enjoy.

As a pediatrician, I highly encourage families to keep swimming lessons on their list. Not only is it a fun activity kids can do year-round, it helps reinforce important water safety skills and has the potential to turn into a lifelong activity they’ll enjoy.

READ MORE: Why Swim Lessons Should be in Your Back-to-School Routine

EVERY CHILD’S POTENTIAL IS IN THERE! SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED TO ADD WATER!

At Goldfish Swim School, we’ve done extensive research on how kids learn best, and developed our own confidence-building curriculum that incorporates auditory, visual and kinesthetic forms of learning.

Using The Science of SwimPlay®, our holistic approach to play-based learning, we help kids develop essential life skills they can use to make a splash in the pool and in school. The best part? We’ve built our curriculum in such a way that kids don’t even realize how much they’re learning because they’re focused on how much FUN they’re having!

Jump into all the benefits of swim lessons! Not only can it be a fun way to keep your kids active and healthy all year long, it’s one of the few non-contact activities that children can safely participate in and literally the only extracurricular activity that can save their lives!

Contact your local Goldfish Swim School to learn more about The Science of SwimPlay® today. Our confidence-building curriculum, tropical atmosphere and WOW! Customer Service are just a few of the reasons why parents and children love Goldfish Swim School!

Dr Molly O’Shea is a board-certified pediatrician and owner of Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center in Bloomfield Hills, MI and Campground Pediatrics + Wellness Center in Washington Township, MI. Dr Molly has been in practice for over 25 years and has served at the state and national levels for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She was the ‘Ask the Pediatrician’ columnist for the Detroit News for many years and was a journal editor as well. Dr Molly is a lifelong swimmer, former triathlete, wife and mother.

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