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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Swimming is the physical movement of a person propelling themselves through a liquid, most commonly water. Swimming is commonly participated in for the purpose of recreation, sport, exercise, or survival. Swimming is considered to be an early specialization sport because it needs to be learned early in life. [1]

Swimming’s Long Term Athlete Development

To gain physical literacy, athletes need to learn fundamental movement skills. Once these skills are learned they can be used to build upon and for one to become competent in the specific sport or skill. If the foundation of these skills is not strong it will be difficult for the athlete to excel and continue further in the sport. The long term athlete development stages emphasis the steps to mastering a skill at different ages in life. To focus on the motor development of children we will discuss the first three stages. [2]

Active Start [2]

Male and female’s ages 0 to 6.

  • During this stage children should learn the fundamental movement skills incorporated into swimming such as, kicking, floating, and spinning
  • Skills should be linked together into play
  • Instructors should provide appropriate water safety skills

FUNdamentals [2]

Male’s age 6 to 9 and female’s age 5 to 8.

  • During this stage overall physical development should be promoted
  • Becoming comfortable with movements in and out of the pool

Learning to Train [2]

Male’s age 9 to 12 and female’s age 8 to 11.

  • This stage aims to progress and fine tune movement skills
  • Develop all swimming specific skills


Swimming has many benefits, including movement development in children when participated in throughout childhood, physical benefits, and mental benefits.

Movement Development

Swimming is considered a fundamental movement skill, therefore when learned not only does it teach and practice other movements such as kicking, floating, and swinging of arms to name a few, it also adds to one’s physical literacy. By learning the skill of swimming it allows a building block to participate in other aquatic sports such as water polo, diving, and synchronized swimming and more. Swimming also allows for the development of the ABC’s of physical literacy, agility, balance, coordination and speed. [3]


There are many physical benefits to physical activity in general. Swimming is a great way to contribute to a physically active lifestyle and to meet the 60 min of moderate activity per day recommendations. Some specific physical benefits from swimming are improvement of muscular endurance and muscular strength. Swimming is great for improving the cardiovascular system, one’s lactic acid threshold, and lung capacity. Swimming is a great form of low impact exercise which provides a great mode of physical activity for people with injuries, whether they are rehabilitating have chronic injuries. Swimming can improve posture and act as a stress reliever. [4]


Swimming is a lifesaving skill so one of the mental benefits that comes with swimming is being able to be comfortable around water without the fear of drowning. Swimming also builds self-confidence and in many cases team work and communication skills when applied to team aquatic sports such as water polo or synchronized swimming.


The largest risk when swimming is the possibility of drowning. Drowning can occur from a variety of different reasons some being panic, exhaustion, hypothermia leading to heart failure, or dehydration. The last two reasons may not always lead to drowning but may result in death from being in water. A specific risk for children is that, unlike adults who have natural buoyancy, a child has negative buoyancy and will sink faster or requires more effort to stay near the surface. Some other risks to swimming are chlorine inhalation in pools, and infection from water-borne viruses. Obtaining an injury is also a risk factor of swimming.

Common Injuries

Although swimming is considered a low impact activity, if swimming training regiments become intense enough, fatigue leading to improper stroke techniques and over use and repetitive motion may result in injuries. Swimming injuries most commonly affect the shoulders, knees, hips, or back. [5]

Upper Body [5]

Upper body injuries from swimming are generally in the shoulders. The most common one is known as swimmer’s shoulder, which involves pressure on the rotator cuff from the scapula or part of the shoulder blade when the arm is being lifted. It also involves tendinitis in the biceps and shoulder instability resulting in a dislocated shoulder as the ball and socket joint is weakened.

Lower Body [5]

Some lower body injuries occur most often in breaststrokers, where the knee tendons and ligaments are weakened or injured commonly known as breaststrokers’ knee. Breaststrokers can also experience inflammation in the hip tendons causing hip pain. Back problems generally occur in the lower back and can be induced by the dolphin kick.

Swimming for Children with Chronic Conditions

Regular exercise is important for all children. Children with chronic conditions face more obstacles than healthy individuals, making it more difficult for them to participate in physical activity. It is important that we help the youth develop healthy habits at a young age so they can continue it throughout their lifetime regardless of these barriers. [6] Swimming is great form of exercise for this population because it is a weight-less baring exercise. Children that have trouble walking, running, jumping, and coordination movements feel much more comfortable in a water based environment. It improves overall physical mental while giving them the confidence to conquer more challenges in their everyday environment. Before and child starts physical activity, it is important to seek a physician and make sure the activity is safe.

Stroke Patients

A stroke occurs when blood vessel within the brain has ruptured and an area of the brain experienced a lack of oxygen. The most common complication among stroke patients is altered motor function. Children, who have experienced stroke, usually develop gait disorders. This makes it difficult for them to engage in weight-baring physical activity (walking, running, and jumping). Water walking exercises in the can also help children regain with gait control. Swimming allows children to participate in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity with confidence. Getting in the pool with stroke patient helps them get comfortably back on their feet with all the additive benefits of a healthy lifestyle. This is a great way to get the youth involved in activity after a traumatic event.

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

Juvenile Idiopathic arthritis is a disease that causes inflammation of joints. Idiopathic meaning that the cause of this disorder is unknown. Almost 300,000 children in the United States suffer from this type of arthritis. [7] Swimming is beneficial for children with juvenile Idiopathic arthritic because it decreases the amount of stress on the joints. This result in improved range of motion, increased strength, and increase flexibility.[6] Swimming also allow these children to engage in more vigorous activities than they would be able to on land. This will additionally benefit their cardiovascular health, aerobic endurance, muscular endurance, and improve their overall mental health.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects the respiratory and digestive systems (lungs, pancreas, kidneys, and intestines). The autoimmune system generates a thick sticky mucus in these organs, making it especially difficult to breathe. It is important that the children with cystic fibrous participate in physical activity to improve cardiovascular and lung function. Swimming increases heart rate, lung strength, and the muscular that controls that force and rate of breathing.[6] Swimming has shown to improve self-esteem, improve digestive function, and overall aerobic capacity in children with cystic fibrosis.[6] Children and youth with cystic fibrosis should not engage in scuba diving.[6]


  1. McGraw, Myrtle B (1939). "Swimming behavior of the human infant". The Journal of Pediatrics 15: 485–490. doi:10.1016/s0022-3476(39)80003-8
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Swimming. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from
  3. ABCs of Movement. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from
  4. Cooper, Kenneth H. (1983)[1968]. Aerobics (revised, reissue ed.). Bantam Books.ISBN 0553274473
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Wolf, BR, Injuries in swimming. Sports Medicine Update. 2-5, July/August 2009.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 "Physical Activity for Children and Youth with a Chronic Illness." Physical Activity for Children and Youth with a Chronic Illness. Accessed February 28, 2015.
  7. Brescia, AnneMarie. "Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis." KidsHealth - the Web's Most Visited Site about Children's Health. January 1, 2012. Accessed February 28, 2015.