One of childhood’s pleasures is endangered. Swings are beginning to disappear from school and public playgrounds, mostly because adults worry about student injuries and lawsuits. As someone who has spent thousands of hours supervising recess, I prefer teaching children how to follow a few simple rules so they can enjoy the benefits of swinging while supervised. It’s worth this effort when you think about what children learn while gliding through fresh air.
First, they have to take turns because there are never enough swings to go around. The unspoken etiquette on playgrounds is universal: first come, first served, but don’t hog it. A child has to be fair about the amount of time spent swinging, and there are no better timekeepers than other children waiting for their turn. Already these lessons encompass enjoyment and sharing, patience and restraint, manners and learning to negotiate!
Sets of swings create the perfect laboratory to study the social and emotional development of children while they are happy and autonomous. Children talk, chant, sing, laugh, and get out of breath as they stretch, lean, and pump. I’ve noticed that children’s moods lift when they swing, too. There’s nothing like twirling yourself into dizziness and silliness to feel good and have fun.
Finally, swings teach children what freedom feels like. The wind slaps their cheeks and tousles their hair. They sail up to get a good view of their world and they learn that the harder they pump, they higher they can sail. Teachers know that observations of children at play reveal much about their growth, especially when children play without adult interruptions.
At home, if your swings are gone because you think your children are too old, put one back up and wait. You’ll be surprised to see who rediscovers them.