What are sensorimotor skills, how do they develop and why do they matter?

Why early years swimming lessons are so beneficial to the development of sensorimotor skills

We receive sensory messages through our sensory systems;  Vision, hearing, sense of taste and smell, touch, vestibular (balance/equilibrium) and proprioception (movement of muscles) From the information we receive through these senses our clever brains process this ‘sensory input’ and produces a movement, which in early years teaching are often referred to as a fine or a gross motor skill.
Swimming pools offer an amazing ‘sensory’ experience from seeing light reflections on the surface, the feeling of water around our bodies, the temperature, unique smells, yucky taste! The distortion of sounds and effect on our balance. We can add to this with different toys, textures, colours and noises to add to the overall experience and create interest in a way which is age and stage appropriate. 
Reaching, grasping, carrying and voluntarily releasing an object are key milestones in fine motor task development for babies. Gross motor tasks include; kicking, throwing a ball, sitting up right. Major contributing factors in to achieving these gross motor skills are strengthening an infants muscles as well as their neurological development. Water offers a natural environment for these essential physical and neurological skills to be developed.
Merbabies offer a wonderfully unique balance of teaching essential swimming skills through the medium of sensory play. Visually tracking coloured balls across the pool and eventually ‘grasping’ ‘carrying’ and then voluntarily releasing the ball is a very simple but highly effective way of achieving these fine motor milestones within the water, and as our babies develop physically the throwing back of balls and kick- kicking of legs and sitting on and jumping off rafts are obvious gross motor skill milestones being continuously achieved and mastered.
However, in order to learn such skills a lot of repetition and  practice is required and as you parents and carers of the very young know, toddlers and pre-schools are easily distracted! Merbabies swim school keep the learning focus and fun beautifully balanced by creating lesson plans are often themed and include a wide variety of body awareness actions and meaningful swimming and safety skills through word association games, props and toys that engage and stimulate babies and young children alike.
Merbabies don’t just chase balls across a pool we gather up snow balls before our snowball fight! We don’t just blow bubbles in the water, we become sleeping hippos snoring in the jungle. Merbaby Kids don’t just practice balance on a noodle, they are cow boys riding through the wild west or become floating astronauts with zero gravity! Merbabies don’t just tummy time on a raft they’re on a beach feeling shells and looking at moving sand pouches…
At Merbabies we don’t just teach your little ones to swim, we create a sensory inspired world of fun in the water, where our little ones skills and confidence in the water will grow along with their imaginations.
Emma-Louise is an early years expert and teaches Merbabies baby to pre-school swim classes in Fife as well as playing a leading role in the development of our themed, sensory lesson plans.

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