Should my 4-year-old take swimming lessons or gymnastics?

Editor’s note: this story has been edited on March 15, 2017 for clarity.

Q: My daughter is 4, nearly 5. She’s been going to swimming lessons for about a year, which she loves (mostly the free play at the end). We (she and I) are interested in her trying out gymnastics but we might not be able to afford two lots of fees (also she’s starting school soon and I’m conscious of not making her too busy). Her gross motor skills are not her strong point (she’s not delayed but seems to be a bit behind most of her friends), which is why I think gymnastics might be good for her to gain confidence/strength etc. I have been really trying to encourage her to build her skills, which she usually enjoys. If we had to choose between continuing swimming or starting gymnastics, which one would you suggest, or how would you go about deciding?

It’s wonderful to hear that you’re working with your child to help her to develop skills! We completely understand the budgetary and time concerns you’ve expressed.

If you want to focus on her gross motor skill development, we feel the best program for her at this time would be gymnastics. Children develop a wide range of movement skills such as hopping, jumping, balance, falling, landing, running, spinning, starting/stopping, twisting and running, as well as agility, coordination, and speed.

If you are able to, see if you can find a program that will let her try one or two classes before committing to see if she likes it. Swimming is an important life skill, and since you already know that she loves free play time in the water, it would be great to continue to take her swimming and make that an activity you enjoy as a family.

As she gets a little older, you may want to switch her into a multi-sport program which would be a way to expose her to lots of different types of skills and movements.

To give you some further food for thought, here are a couple more articles that might be of interest to you:

4 responses to “Should my 4-year-old take swimming lessons or gymnastics?

  1. My daughter is 3 yrs old. She is interested in playing water so I thought to join my daughter I’m swimming. But so many people are saying that it will get infections at this age is it true. What else we can learn for my daughter other than swimming. Give me suggestions. Thank you.

    1. Hi Vani, if your daughter enjoys the water there is no reason to avoid swimming. We’re not sure what type of infections you’ve been warned about but we don’t know of any reason that a 3-year=old can’t be in the water. We encourage you to swim with your daughter and have fun! Three year olds need lots and lots of unstructured play. Take her to parks, climb, dig in the sand, roll, throw, and kick balls back and forth, and run around together. For more structured activities, creative movement classes can be a wonderful way to get kids moving and using their imaginations. Or try a multi-sport program, like Sportball, that introduces kids to lots of different skills that they will use when they are older and playing sports.

    2. You may or may not get an infection from swimming. I am 14 yrs old and I have done swimming since I was 2 years old. I have gotten ear infections before but that was only because the pool was unsanitary. To avoid ear infections I would recommend that she wear ear plugs they work very well.

      Ps: ear infections can also be caused by water settling in the ear canal causing fungi to develop

      Pss: I would know because my both parents work in the medical field and my close uncle is an E. N. T specialist (Ears, nose and throat Doctor).

      But swimming is a very good sport it helped me with asthma (now I don’t have anymore),and it builds your stamina, endurance, coordination, muscles,discipline and reduces stress( from school or social problems)

      I really hope this helps you make a decision about your child’s future.
      ~♡

  2. My oldest daughter is very small for her age. So small that she’s often mistaken for 3 years her junior. Because of the ‘size’ issue, she’s always had a hard time keeping up with others in her grade level. We put her in a rec gymnastics class in kindergarten and gr 1 and it was excellent for her at that time. She gained confidence on the playground as well as strengthened her core, which translated well to other sports such as cycling, which we do a lot. I commend the outlined response because I think it’s very important to eventually learn to swim as it is a life skill! Well done Active for Life!!

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