Children’s swing sets are one of the most popular pieces of equipment on the school playground, yet some schools leave them out of the master playground plan because of space requirements or a perception that swing sets don’t accommodate enough children to be useful. However, it is important to note that swings are beneficial in so many ways, and offer developmental opportunities that are difficult to duplicate with other playground equipment. Swing sets should be considered a valid component in today’s school playground.
Swings develop coordination as children master the skill of pumping their legs and leaning their body weight in order to propel the swing forward and backward. As children become familiar with the skill, they often play cooperative games with a child on the next swing, matching cadence and timing of their swinging motion, further developing their coordination and timing skills. Swinging promotes fitness of the core muscles, and also stimulates vestibular and proprioceptive functions, which can lead to a more centered sense of balance.
School swing sets can benefit children both socially and emotionally too. Swings often encourage cooperation between children, because of the limited number of users they can accommodate at one given time. Children will often strike “deals” with each other and learn to negotiate by taking turns at swinging or pushing, and counting out an amount of time that is “fair” before switching users. Tire swings can promote social skills as children share the tire and often converse while at play. They can also provide a fun opportunity for adult and child interaction as the adult pushes the child in the swing. The lessons in cooperation learned on the school swing set can often carry into the classroom as well.
When considering the type of school playground equipment, it is important to note the ages and abilities of the users. School children who are ages 5-12 will generally utilize belt or flat swing seats, where preschool aged children will require a bucket type seat that supports the user, since they are still developing the skills to propel the swing. Toddler swing seats and school age swing seat must never be in the same swing bay, though adjoining bays are acceptable. There are also many choices for adaptive swings that provide users with more support, which are especially useful for children with special needs to give them the feeling of freedom and movement that swings can provide.
School swing sets are a great way to provide your school with fun, developmentally appropriate fitness opportunities that are unique. Remember, children find the act of swinging very enjoyable, which can lead to prolonged use and maximum benefits!