By Kimberly Bradley, MS, LOTR

As the summer months approach and children’s camp plans are being made, it is important to inquire about the frequency of swimming opportunities at summer camp. Swimming is an all around great activity and exercise for children of all ages. It is also an excellent way for kids to exert extra energy and incorporate physical activity into the day. For children with ADHD, swimming can be highly beneficial and effective in decreasing unwanted behaviors and improving more desired outcomes, including social skills and attention.

Many children with ADHD require extra physical movement throughout the day and will seek this out involuntarily. For example, children with ADHD are often fidgety, wiggly in a chair, and frequently in constant motion. Children with ADHD seek out physical activity in an effort to self regulate their body’s needs throughout the day. When swimming is provided as part of a child’s routine, it can often assist in the child seeking less inappropriate movement activities during their day.

Swimming provides sensory and motor input into every part of the body, especially to the joints and muscle. Instead of children with ADHD trying to meet their body’s needs by literally bouncing around, swimming can achieve this need in a much more acceptable form.

Swimming is also a whole body workout. In addition to the physical benefits of swimming, it taps into every single sensory system in the body. Many children with ADHD often seek out auditory, tactile, and visual stimulation, in addition to the movement in attempts to focus and regulate their attention throughout the day.

For a child with ADHD, a summer camp that provides swimming every day is a huge perk. Not only is swimming one of the best physical outlets for some of these children, but swimming can also assist a child in improving attention. After considerable amounts of physical activity in a pool, children with ADHD are more likely to attend to conversation and activity in the moment because they will be seeking out less movement, and in turn, less distractibility from the movement to engage more appropriately in the present moment.

Swimming can also assist in creating connections with adults and peers as improved attention can also happen during swimming while physical and sensory needs are being met. Increased reciprocal language and social engagement are often observed due to the additional movement benefit from swimming in a pool. Swimming is also an excellent opportunity to improve gross motor skills and motor planning skills.

From a socio-emotional perspective, children who may struggle in the classroom due to attentional difficulties can benefit from swimming because it can directly impact self confidence and self esteem. For a child who is always struggling academically, swimming can be an activity to give them a feeling of success. Enrolling in individual swimming lessons versus group lessons can aid in even bigger gains of confidence.

For a child who has ADHD, it is important to keep in mind the amount of physical activity and opportunities that can be provided throughout the day. A summer camp that provides swimming scheduled daily is an excellent option for a child with ADHD to aid in meeting the physical and sensory motor needs while also improving attention.

Join Our Playdate

Get our parenting e-newsletter and they won’t run with scissors.

Latest NOLA family-friendly stuff

Special needs in NOLA