Again And Again! How Repetition and Muscle Memory Helps Your Child Swim

Children Swimming

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March 05 2019

I’m sure you’ve seen your child do things over and over and over. Like how they know all the words to every Frozen song, every page of The Little Prince, and you can now quote line for line The Parent Trap with Lindsay Lohan. Face it, your little one loves to repeat – far beyond the point that you would have given up.

As we grow, we begin to favour the new, the bold, the exciting! But your little one keeps doing the same thing. 

Why? Because it helps them learn.

Kids aren’t born with the ability to walk or talk, it’s something they develop as they get older. And while walking and talking are very simple tasks for you, they are still a complex thing for your tiny tot.

And it’s exactly the same for learning to swim. As you sit by the water, you’ll watch your little one kicking, paddling and breathing. Again and again and again. But this simple repetition is what makes them learn. This is because they are developing their muscle memory.

Muscle memory is a form of procedural memory. This is where you remember the process of doing something. Like riding a bike, muscle memory skills are the skills that you don’t forget! 

And because swimming is such an important life skill, you need your child to recall the skills when they need them most. That’s why muscle memory is so important.

What can be confusing about muscle memory is that it’s not actually stored in your muscles. Rather, like all memory, you store it in your brain – in your cerebellum.

There are three steps to building muscle memory in your little one.

Laying A Foundation

Like building a sturdy house, strong swimming starts at the foundation. It starts with getting your child used to the water. They then move onto the basic building blocks of paddling and swimming strokes. 

Your child will learn to break each action into separate movements – from floating, to moving their arms, to kicking their feet. They can then add each action to their memory. These begin to connect with each other, into the full stroke movement. After time, this full action becomes automatic – this is muscle memory forming.

Fixing Errors

Once they’ve formed a rough base for muscle memory, their teacher can begin to fix their technique. It is important to catch mistakes early. Otherwise, this can be much harder to fix down the line. Much like forming good eating habits as a child being easier than trying to lose weight as an adult. 

A good instructor will be able to correct the mistakes that your child makes when they swim. This can be adjusting the way a stroke hits the water to focusing on the way they breathe. This will still take mental energy from your child. By ironing out these problems early, your child will add the right technique to their muscle memory.

Improving Muscle Memory

This is where repetition comes right back in. Now that your child has the correct technique, they can begin repeating the steps. This will ensure that their swimming response is automatic. So whether they’re at the local beach or in a pool across the country, they’ll still be able to swim. Because, they understand the process. 

 

By using repetition and muscle memory, you will see progress in your child. They will learn which skills they are good at, and which need work. It also means they’ll have a new challenge every time they get in the water, which helps make learning to swim fun.

So when you see your child doing the same thing over and over, rest assured they are developing important life skills that will serve them well into the future.

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