Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Need to Develop Physical Fitness? Head for the Pool: In This 12-Part Series, EP Explores the Benefits of Aquatics Therapy and Recreation for People with Special Needs

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Need to Develop Physical Fitness? Head for the Pool: In This 12-Part Series, EP Explores the Benefits of Aquatics Therapy and Recreation for People with Special Needs

Article excerpt

Swimming pools aren't just for swimming! Because any and all movements done while immersed in water are accomplished against the resistance of the fluid, activity in water not only builds strength and endurance, but also, over time, will increase flexibility and contribute to cardio-respiratory efficiency. Gaining and maintaining physical fitness can make a big contribution to overall health and wellness, as well as facilitate optimum growth and development during the critical childhood years.

Your child doesn't need to know how to swim to participate in and enjoy aquatic fitness activities. For children who do not particularly enjoy physical activity, water can entice and stimulate participation in even the most reluctant. Individuals exercising in water do not feel overheated or sweaty. Fun activities engage the mind in positive thoughts. This reduces focus on how hard something is and creates an "I CAN do this" outlook that is so important to self-esteem. Here are some fun activities for the pool.

Water Dance. Take that love of music to the water. If the pool is in your own backyard, put on music and let it rock! Encourage your child to do whatever the music tells them to do. Varying music choices will help your child vary movement patterns. Don't be afraid to put on a polka. Join your child by holding hands and dancing all around the pool. If you are at a public pool, and no music is playing, sing. Popular children's songs like Hokey Pokey have actions. Do those actions against the resistance of the water. The longer you dance, the more endurance will develop. The faster you dance, the more aerobic the activity will become, supporting cardio-respiratory fitness.

Follow the Leader. Give your child the chance to be in charge. Set boundaries, such as "you can't get out of the pool or go onto the steps/ladders." Then, let the child lead and you follow. Encourage your child to stump you with movements you can't follow. Try animal walks, vehicle rides, monster moves, robot enactments, clown stunts, or holiday actions. Involve other family members by giving everyone a chance to be leader. This is the time to challenge your child by choosing more difficult movement patterns or by picking up the pace thus increasing the demands on the child's flexibility, strength, endurance, and cardio-respiratory capabilities.

Story Time. Children love being read to. Take those favorite stories to the pool. As you read the story, ask the child (in the water, of course) to act out what his or her favorite character does. For example, if the story is about a puppy, ask the child to show you what the puppy is doing in the story. As the child races around the pool like a puppy chasing a ball, endurance and cardio-respiratory development is taking place. As the child reaches to climb the tree like the monkey in the story, shoulder flexibility is improving. As the child pushes and pulls water just like the dump truck in the story is moving earth, strength is building. Will the book get wet? Probably. Laminate pages, put the book into a plastic bag, or select a bathtub book for best results. As a last resort, copy the story onto another piece of paper and laminate that. A child working on printing/ writing can help with the task of making pool storybooks.

Clothing Swim. Usually, a swimsuit is not only attire of choice for pool activities, but mandated by operators. However, there are advantages to, on occasion, being able to add an article of clothing over a swimsuit. Wet clothing adds weight and drag to arms and/or legs. It is harder to move or swim while wearing clothing. Select an item that will not fade. Be sure the fabric will not drop lint into the water. It should be clean. Also, if going to a public pool, ask permission to wear something over a swimsuit. Then, proceed as usual, just adding the attire. The heavier the fabric, the more the activity workload on the individual will be increased. Wearing a sweatshirt and/or sweatpants will make moving harder than will wearing a light cotton T-shirt. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.