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  • Antony Edwards

How does normal development impact your child's swimming development

While I have many ideas of my own, I am endeavouring to back up some of my theories with science based articles written by academics who are studying these fields. Now, please understand that I’m trying to be balanced and get articles that have many different thoughts.Why? Because every child is different and that’s the first thing we must all recognise, comparing children doesn’t benefit anyone.

Every child develops differently over varying periods.

While we are mainly talking about school age children, it is worthwhile to look at the variances of maturity and maturation of 15 year olds, studies being done at the moment by the University of Sydney is showing there can be a 4 year difference between some boys maturity, if we take this back to a 6 year old, I believe you could at times find a 2 year difference in physical and mental maturity of 2 children of the same age.

This can be affected by many things, physical and mental development don’t always mature at the same rate, A child may be physically mature but mentally immature or vice Versa. As parents and teachers we need to understand the child and help them to develop in all facets of their lives at their own pace, sure we will try and manipulate this, but we can only push so much before a child will push back.

It is our job as educators to understand when to push and when to just work on other aspects of the child’s development.

In a paper from the department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries from the Government of Western Australia in a paper headed Physical growth and Maturation, the following is highlighted.

Developmental Process

The development of a child is driven by three distinct processes; growth, maturation, and adaptation.

These have important implications for training and competition.

Growth is the increase in overall body size with changes in muscle, bone and fat and this affects motor skills. Growth is complicated because:

• Different parts of the body grow at different rates

• Periods of growth start and stop at different times.

Maturation is the genetically programmed series of changes leading to maturity. These changes occur in the same sequence in everybody, but there are great individual differences in:

• When puberty starts

• How long it takes (it can be 18 months to five years)

• How much growth occurs in the adolescent growth spurt. The growth spurt in height happens first and is followed by the growth spurt in weight and then the growth spurt in strength.

What is Maturation?

Maturation is aging, it is the process in which we develop, grow and change throughout our entire lives. Maturation is multi-faceted; there is mental, physical and emotional developments in a child.

This is different from learning as learning comes from experiences and practice.

An important factor here is that if learning precedes maturity, it can be a wasted effort.

Even in prep today we can find up to 18 months difference in children’s birth ages, this isn’t to say there is 18 months difference in their physical or mental maturity, but this will always be changing throughout their entire lives.

At the same time we need to also be aware of gender differences and social ability which can play it’s part in a child’s maturity.

So are we allowing our children to develop at their own pace?

Are we focusing on other children’s abilities and not were our own child is in their development?

Are we stopping activities before a child understands what they have learnt?

We have so many changes in both our physical and mental states over the period of our lives, some tasks become natural, while some tasks seem a never ending battle. We are however forever learning from the experiences in our lives, sometimes the things we struggle with the most later become our favourite activities.

If we apply this to swimming, it is important for teachers and parents to be mindful of not comparing a child’s ability of another child in the same class or of the same age. Children are individuals, be aware of their differences, physically, mentally and emotionally. We need to be aware of these changes throughout a child’s entire development and not rush them through levels.

A child may be physically ready to move up, but are they emotionally ready?

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