Guest Post by Greg Olear: Swan Song for Swings?

 Hi Folks! Here’s a guest post from Greg Olear, senior editor of The Nervous Breakdown and the author of the novels Totally Killer (Harper, 2009) and the brand-spanking-new Fathermucker, which concerns a single tumultuous day in the life of a stay-at-home dad. I absolutely adored Fathermucker — soooo funny and soooo spot-on about parenting foibles (every single, crazy one of them!!!!!!) — that I am delighted he’s writing here today! — L.

Swing No, Sweet Preschooler By Greg Olear

Last year, for a variety of reasons, we decided to move from the idyllic Hudson Valley to my hometown in no-longer-idyllic New Jersey.  Our son would be entering kindergarten in one of the best school districts in the country—the main impetus for our move—and it fell to me to find a suitable preschool for our daughter.

This proved more difficult than anticipated.  For one thing, my hometown had become, to my solidly-middle-class astonishment, the sort of tony suburb where you had to fork over 75 bucks to apply to a preschool. As we were new in town and thus late in the application process, this meant we’d quite possibly be paying $75 a pop for fancy letters regretting to inform us that enrollment was closed.  So we had to choose prudently.

One afternoon, my wife and I took a drive around town to tour the various preschools.  It was Sunday, so they were all closed. All we could do was check out the playgrounds.  And that’s when we noticed something unusual.

“These playgrounds all suck,” my wife said.

She was right.  Compared to the glorious expanse of fun our daughter had grown accustomed to at her preschool in upstate New York, these Jersey playgrounds were downright pathetic: small, cramped, and devoid of any remotely interesting equipment.  They looked more like pens for dogs than playgrounds for kids.

And then we realized, simultaneously, what was missing: “No swings!”

It was true—not one of these pricey preschools was endowed with a single swingset.  We guessed at reasons: lack of adequate space was the best one we could come up with (northern Jersey has become, in the years since I last lived there, as densely populated as an actual city).

Ultimately, we opted to send our daughter to a brand-spanking new preschool the next town over, even though it, like all the others, did not have a swingset.  We asked about this deficiency during the interview.

“The state inspectors strongly advised us against it,” the director told us.

“Why?”

“There are concerns that a small child might choke.”

“Choke?”

“You should have seen this great slide I bought for the playground,” she said wistfully.  “I had to return it.”

There are two ways you can get hurt on a swing: 1) The swingset breaks, or 2) You let go.  That’s it.  (Contrary to urban legend, it is physically impossible for a child not wearing a jetpack to swing high enough to go over the top.)  But choking?  How exactly would someone choke on a swingset?  Why are we — that is, why are insurance companies, who charge prohibitive premiums in New Jersey for preschool swings —worried about this?  Has this ever happened in the history of time?*

I thought of my own childhood, the countless hours my two- and three-year-old self spent contentedly swinging back and forth and back and forth.  There was nothing I enjoyed more than that. But kids in my hometown would now be deprived of that pleasure, because of the bureaucratic fear of an outcome that is about as likely as alien abduction.

The school we chose proved terrific — great teachers, ambitious curriculum, etc. My daughter, now a kindergartener, loved it there so much, she likes to go back for lengthy visits during her vacations.  But she may have loved it even more if there were swings.

*Apparently, it has.  According to safekids.org, 147 children perished from “playground equipment-related injuries” from 1990-2000. Most were on equipment at a private home, but about 40 weren’t. (That is, four a year.) And strangulation — usually caused when the pull-cord from a sweatshirt gets caught on the equipment — was the leading cause of those 147 deaths. I couldn’t locate statistics for swingset strangulation deaths specifically, but it seems, to me, highly improbable, way more improbable than being struck by lightning. — G.O. 

Is this child in grave danger? New Jersey says, "YES!"

105 Responses

  1. Oh, Lord.

  2. My son’s elementary school (he’s a freshman now) just installed a new swing set. I smile every time I see kids on it.

  3. sad. if they needed to ban anything sounds like they need to ban pull cords on sweatshirts.

  4. Can you buy hoodie sweat shirts for kids with drawstrings anymore? I noticed the other day that none of my son’s hooded sweatshirts have strings at all. I don’t know about larger sizes or when they are back in use– my own hoodies have strings (that my son plays with).

    And I love the ‘playground-related injuries.’ I mean, that’s such a broad category that it’s useless in scope. Not to mention the small number of children hurt.

    There’s my million dollar idea– I’ll start an insurance company that allows for reasonable risk. I’ll still make millions like insurance companies always have, even with the occasional payout for normal mishaps in life, or on the playground.

  5. Of course swings are dangerous; that’s why kids love them. How are they going to grow if they can’t test (and push) the limits of their abilities?

    Our favorite swing activity in elementary school was to pump to as high as we could possibly get and then fling ourselves off. We learned a lot about the proper way to fall when one hit the ground, picked up an occasional scrape or bruise (of which we were quite proud), and no teacher ever tried to stop us.

    My seven-month-old granddaughter is discovering that it hurts more to hit the ground from standing than from sitting. Is some insurance company going to tell her she’d better not learn to stand, because she might (will) get hurt?

  6. We have the original swings at my campus from 1966. The kids love them. It might be impossible to swing over the top, but it is possible to swing high enough to flip the seat 180 degrees. Yes the kids swing and do a front flip, like on a trampoline in the seat of the swing.

  7. When I was in elementary school they removed the tire swing on the playground because it was too dangerous. Once it was no longer in the way, we would climb out onto the log that used to hold the tire swing and jump down from it. Instead of potentially falling three feet off a tire swing, we were now jumping seven feet down to the ground. Way more fun for my 10 year old self than a tire swing, though I’m sure the younger kids were disappointed.

  8. My kids’ school doesn’t have a swingset, which I think is sad. My only concern with swing safety is people walking in front of them and getting kicked. I used to work at a daycare and the 2s were coming out as the 5s were wrapping up their play time. One of the 2s darted in front of the swing set as a 5 year old was flying high. The two year was kicked in the head and lifted clear off his feet. He went to the emergency room via ambulance that afternoon. I was amazed that we got to keep our swings after that but I was by there the other day and they still have them.

    That is less of a concern when you aren’t mixing age groups and with older kids who have learned to not walk in front of the swings but it can and does happen. In any case, it probably isn’t a severe enough risk to justify taking away all swings but any risk is too much for a school to assume in our lawsuit happy society😦

  9. My son got hurt on a swing at his grandmother’s preschool. I didn’t try to get them banned. It taught him why we kept telling him not to do what he was doing and be careful around swings. No one ever considered telling my mother in law to get rid of the swings.

  10. New Jersey is an oddly overprotective state in general, and in a very cognitively dissonant way. From the perspective of any given individual, the rules are admitted to being silly, but shrugged off as somehow necessary for everyone’s safety. And it is furthermore almost assumed that the rules should be broken at any individual’s discretion. It’s a very odd culture.

    I do, however, have to say that where I live (which is either Central Jersey, North Jersey, or South Jersey depending on whom you ask) there are plenty of swings, slides, and other insidiously looming and fun threats to our children’s lives in nearly every playground. Thank God for that, anyway.

  11. My children’s elementary school is looking at installing new playground equipment. We’ve looked at swings, but by the time we get them installed, it would be $15,000 for 4 swings. You need a huge amount of space for them, to allow kids to go past without getting slammed into, and you run into problems with older people going through at night and throwing the swings up over the top.

    We can get a lot more bang for our buck by looking at other equipment, such as climbing walls.

  12. When my son went to a swingless preschool, I was told that the issue was kids walking too close to the swings and getting hit in the head. I can confirm that’s a real danger — it happened to me when I was a kid, and I blacked out for a few seconds. It happened to my son when he was a toddler, too, and I was standing not more than three feet away from him.

    I’m still a fan of swings, and I’d be the first to protest if they tried to take them out of the playground at our local park. But I do have some sympathy for preschool operators who are just trying to lower the risk of their students getting concussions during school hours!

  13. We have swings at our school here in Australia, but what the students are NOT allowed is hat strings! Yes, the type that gets caught in equipment and “might potentially” choke the child. I offered to put a quick-release catch in my daughters’ hat strings, but was told that the teachers would still be required to cut the string off the hat.

    So what they’re basically saying is that the risk of strangulation is much higher than the risk of skin cancer from their hat falling off all the time during summer! Queensland has one of the world’s highest rates of skin cancer, and they’re worried about a very low risk my child will be strangled by their hat cord? (Nobody can even tell me *if* it has happened at a Queensland public school, or if it’s “risk management”.)

  14. Our parent council just spent about $35 000 on a new nature playground. Now the school, on recommendation of the division, has banned the kids from climbing the trees and playing on the rocks in the school yard. Even after school, with the parents present! My kids have been yelled at twice this month after school, with me standing right there!

  15. Swings were one of my very favorite things when I was a kid — I spent hours and hours on them! We had a small swingset in our yard, but I preferred the really big swingset at the school playground, about five blocks away. All of us kids loved swinging high and bailing out, and swinging standing up on the seat. We got our bumps and bruises, but I don’t recall anyone ever being seriously hurt. Kids these days miss out on so much.

  16. Our daughter was in a pile of about 10 8-yo girls on a tire swing when the chain gave out. They all landed in a pile w/ my daughter on the bottom. We took her to the hospital and had her checked out. We talked to her and her brother about not piling a bunch of kids on something made for 2 or 3. That was it. Let it go.

  17. How about the risk of kids hurting or killing themselves doing something really dangerous because they have nothing fun to do anymore.

  18. Don’t know where you live. I live in Northern New Jersey and all the elementary schools in our town and public playgrounds here and in surrounding towns have swings. One nearby town even has a roller device (kind of like log rolling?), that none of the kids can really do but they do try. No complaints from me.

  19. It’s strange all the comments about “kids running in front of swings”. Except for tire swings, all the swings I’ve ever seen in my life have been carefully fenced in (or even gated!) at one edge of the playground to prevent just that.

    But yes, they do require more room for fewer play opportunities (both in terms of ‘number of kids playing at once’ and ‘creative options’) than many other types of playground equipment. And with small children who cannot easily pump the swing yet (or who CAN but only if you get them started) they might just be an annoyance for the preschool teachers. Equipment that all the kids can use themselves may be a better investment of space, teachers, and money in a preschool.

  20. I know if the kid tries to wind the swing around to make it spin if they get their head too far forward it can get wound up in the chains. I almost did that to myself when I was a kid. It is fine as long as the kid knows to lean their head back instead of forward. No reason to get rid of swings though. That is why you supervise children on playgrounds or at least small children.

    Swingsets are also probably avoided for schools because they might cause fights between kids and teachers would just rather not deal with it. There are always going to be fights over taking turns when it comes to stuff that taking turns is required. I worked in a daycare and the few items we had that required taking turns on the playground had to be oversaw by one of the teachers to prevent arguments. So they can be a pain in the butt for the teachers. Kids need to learn to take turns and all but having to stand there every day and prevent arguments between 3 year olds can get old, you know? So that is another reason why some places might not have them.

    My sons’ preschool does not have swings either, but it is still a fun playground. The kids seem to enjoy it just fine. My kids get plenty of swing time at our home swingset and when I take them to playgrounds around town. It is not a necessity that their school have it.

  21. Also yes, swings can be dangerous when kids walk near them and get hit by them. It is a lesson all kids need to learn, but yes, it might be something the teachers don’t want to have to deal with. My kids had a couple close calls with that but luckily were never wiped out by walking too close.

  22. I kinda got to wonder why the school having swings is such a big deal. Not trying to be a bitch here, but don’t you take your kids to other playgrounds? If you take your kid to playgrounds regularly they can get plenty of swinging chances elsewhere. Every playground in our town has some kind of swings.

  23. Dolly, when people say things like “Not trying to be…”, it’s a sign they should reconsider what they’re about to say.

    We’re about to enter daylight savings. I live in NYC, so I’m going to assume Jersey’s sunsets aren’t that far apart from our own. During the week, the sun in winter and late fall sets around 5 or 6. If school ends at 3 and your kid takes a nap afterwards – no playground for you! (Been there, done that – kid wouldn’t nap in pre-k, but really needed one. STILL needs one!) If school ends at 3, but the kid is in aftercare for an hour, and it takes half an hour to get to a playground – no playground for you! If there don’t happen to be many playgrounds near your home (especially if you rely on public transportation or foot power) such that a simple trip to the playground gets you home at dinner time (forget about MAKING dinner, we’re talking the time when you’re supposed to be eating already) – no playground for you! (That’s the situation we’re in now. The one thing I can’t stand about my neighborhood is we have no playgrounds closer than a 20 minute walk, and that one really sucks AND is in an iffy neighborhood. Drives me batty.) If the temperature is adequate during the day, but cold by the time you reach a playground… well, it’s not insurmountable, but it is a hassle.

    Sure, there’s the weekend, but it’s nice to have something during the day.

    More generally, a lack of a good playground may indicate other, more crucial things – like lack of outdoor time or recess AT ALL. If the playground is minimal because they don’t think active play during the day is a priority for a preschool, you need to know this.

  24. In fact, I just checked, for the whole month of December and most of November and January the sun sets before 5pm in NYC.

    Sure, there’s the weekends, but given the limited outdoor time you’ll have after school (unless you want to go out both in the cold and the dark – some do, but honestly, few three year olds really want to) it makes sense to want them to go out and play during the school day.

  25. Incidentally, I was trying to be more helpful than snarky. Yes, I know, commenting on manners is rude in and of itself. I’m a hypocrite in some ways (which is odd, as I despise hypocrisy).

  26. Well, there goes another sign for “playground” that my kids won’t understand. “Kids on see-saw” is the traditional sign, but my kids have only seen two in their lives. “Kid on swing” is a sign around here. But I am guessing not for long in NJ.

    When I worked at a preschool, I could not count the number of kids whom I taught their alphabet and how to count to 20 by giving them a push and having them repeat after me. There goes one more learning device. Lets make learning totally unfun.

  27. @Linda Wightman, that was also one of our favorite things to do. Since the swings on my elementary school playground were over concrete, you could lose an entire recess the next day for jumping off. This was a big deal, since it was the early 90s and we still had 30-45 minutes for recess. So, instead my sister, a neighbor and I did it at home. We made it into a contest to see who could jump higher or farther. That was great until the neighbor landed wrong and got a compound fracture in her forearm. Still she spent the summer in our yard in a cast watching my sister and I fling ourselves off. Shock and awe, her mom didn’t even mention a lawsuit, just asked her if she learned something. The answer: yes, she did. She didn’t lean as far forward when she jumped so she fell on her behind, not her face if she didn’t stand up when she landed.

    In 3rd grade at that same elementary school, I earned myself a trip to the emergency room when I walked in front of the swings too closely and one of my classmates kicked me in the face with her shiny back dress shoes. It shoved 2 teeth through my bottom lip and resulted in a nasty scar that’s still faintly there. Total consequences? A new battle scar for me, a discussion with my parents and my teacher separately about paying attention to where I was walking, and a very nice “apology gift” from the mom of the girl who kicked me, even though her daughter was completely not to blame. No fence was put up around the swings, nobody else got lectured about paying attention (I think seeing me with my teeth sticking through my face was enough to cement that lesson for everybody else anyway…), no removal of the swings. In fact, as of a year or so ago, the swings are still there, in the same place, although they now have the nifty rubber “playmat” stuff under them instead of concrete.

    In a limited space area, though, I can see where there are other, just as fun, options. I can’t think of a single daycare or preschool in this area that has swings, mostly because they have limited outdoor space and swings take a lot of it. Instead, there are a lot of climbing apparatuses, tunnels, slides, bridges and other gross motor skill developing toys. Several of the local daycares walk to public playgrounds, though, where kids play on swings. Every elementary school around has swings, though.

  28. Uly, I have to say that I’ve never, ever seen a swingset fenced separately from the rest of the playground. On the edge, absolutely, but not fenced.

    Every one of my kids has had to learn to not run too close in front of the swings. My youngest is still in that process, but for the most part it’s painful but not otherwise that bad when it happens.

    I do know how much work swings are when you have a group of preschoolers. My oldest went to a parent participation preschool, and I often helped push the kids at recess, until they learned to handle things on their own. Always called it kid juggling when I had to push 2-3 kids on different swings at the same time, and it could get interesting dodging the middle kid to reach the ones on the side whenever the number got up to three.

  29. Oh yes, you can certainly choke on a swingset, but I was foolishly hoping a pre-school (of all places) would provide some form of supervision to avoid such situations…

  30. Hey, girls. Remember those fancy dresses we used to wear on Sundays? The ones with huge bows in the back, that used to untie if you ran too long, and then just went dragging on the floor the rest of the day?
    Well, guess what. They are now banned (in the EU, as far as I know), because of the choking hazard. There is actually a EU Directive that states how long an ornament can be, on a little girl’s dress.
    Sad, sad, sad…

  31. New Jersey is also the state with legislation whereby bullying behavior in the schools can be anonymously reported to a police hotline. Weird things going on in the Garden State….

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/31/nyregion/bullying-law-puts-new-jersey-schools-on-spot.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss

  32. Uly: Sure I agree you want to send your kid to a school that outdoor play is important. I get that. Actually it is usually a requirement to be a highly rated school that outdoor play be a part of the curriculum. I am just referring to the swing situation. Kids can visit playgrounds on the weekend with swings if they really enjoy swings. It is not a requirement for most kids to have a swing daily. I loved swings too but there are other things to do on a playground.

  33. When I was in grade 5, there was a great playground just off of school property- we couldn’t go there during the school day, but it was so convenient after school! Anyway, it was awesome- it had these huge tractor-sized tires to climb up through, a high balance beam, swings, and these weird horse-shaped swings that were super fun.

    Anyway, a kid my age (so old enough to know better) was goofing around on the horse swings, fell off, and ended up busting his spleen or something. Goodbye horse swings, goodbye awesome tires, goodbye high balance beam. The playground was no fun after that, because of ONE kid acting like an idiot. At least we got to keep the swings.

    I was very pleased last spring when my son’s school opened their new playground. They still have their old equipment (very safe, all boxed in with railings, small slides), but the new equipment is actually really challenging and fun. I like to think that kids are actually learning about physical limitations and keeping themselves safe.

    Oh, and the town put in outdoor exercise equipment for grown-ups in a separate area! Kind of off-topic, but still awesome. A lot of kids abuse it (we’ve taught our kids to stay off, but I don’t think most parents have), but no one’s been injured so far.

  34. Marie: LOL welcome to the mom of multiples world. I am always pushing at least two kids on the swings and usually more since I always end up with some random kid or one of my mom friends’ kids asking me to push them too. It it a good workout for me at least!

    Honestly, I just don’t see lack of swings as a reason to freak out. If there are plenty of other cool things going on, the lack of swings is not a huge deal. Most of the public playgrounds around here have a couple of swings but I hardly ever see the kids on them. Most kids want the big climbing structure with the slides. Those seem to be the most popular. Our elementary school has like 4 swings. They had more but something happened and they destroyed the other playground that included the swings for some reason. I think they are trying to build a new one.

    I too have never seen swings in their own area. They are usually off on the perimeter but they are always just over there so kids can wander over in front of them. That is why you supervise smaller kids on the playground until they learn not to do that. OMG that story about the teeth going through the lip about made me pass out. I don’t do well with teeth injuries.

  35. Here’s some good news: In my northern New Jersey locale — I’d diplomatically point out that it really IS a city, density and all, though I take the writer’s “dense as a city” viewpoint with some respet — we still have swings in our playgrounds. I’m not sure if the pushback from those in favor of playground swings was truly free-range in nature, but they’re still here, for which I’m grateful.

  36. At my kids elementary school they put in a new bus loop 2 years ago. They had to take down the swings to put it in. After they were finished they put up new swings!!! I was pretty surprised to see them back, I thought they may just keep them gone. Within the first 2 weeks of school this year my 4th grade daughter has had 2 kids in her class fall off the swings and break arms. A boy broke one arm and a girl broke both her arms. The swings are still there, and the kids swing everyday🙂

  37. “How about the risk of kids hurting or killing themselves doing something really dangerous because they have nothing fun to do anymore.”

    that doesn’t matter to the schools, city councils, etc. etc. because it doesn’t happen when and where they’re financially responsible or can be held legally liable for it.

    These situations are the end result of the litigation madness in American society, combined with the tendency of people to shove ever more of their personal responsibility onto government agencies, which of course respond with banning everything they can in order to not have to deal with consequences.

  38. WOW! Lots of great comments. In my experience, schools will remove swings and any “moving” playground parts because of maintenance issues. Moving parts wear out quicker and so, need to be replaced more often.

    Rarely is it a safety issue; granted schools and school districts use the “injury prevention” excuse, but maintenance is the real issue here and unless they have trained staff to deal with ongoing maintenance – it is the LACK of maintenance that can cause the potential hazard, not a lack of intelligence on the part of the child . . . on how to use a swing.

    There is a body of evidence that encourages swinging as critical to the retention of new information – like what the child was taught in the classroom just before recess.

    Swinging contributes to increase ability to balance and maintain equilibrium. If you are planning a vacation to Six Flags – be sure to swing for 15 mins. a day for about 4 or 5 days before your trip. You’ll keep up with your kids and you’ll keep your lunch.

    Nicole Stoddard – http://www.playgroundhound.com, an injury prevention program from Slyde the Playground Hound to kids.

  39. Nicole, thanks for that information.

    Dolly, I agree, so long as they’ve got an adequate play space (and that doesn’t have to include ANY stationary equipment so long as they have things for the children to do!) what they have, specifically, is unimportant.

    Often people get hung up on “no more seesaws” or “no swings” and they don’t look and see if the new things are just as much fun.

    But in this case it sounds like the swings were just symptomatic of poor, uninspiring playground design in the first place. They said the playgrounds were small and cramped – and also, incidentally, missing swings. (But if the playgrounds are small, all the more reason to choose equipment that doesn’t require a lot of space.)

  40. “Except for tire swings, all the swings I’ve ever seen in my life have been carefully fenced in (or even gated!”

    Really? I’ve never seen a playground with swings fenced off.

    “Swinging contributes to increase ability to balance and maintain equilibrium.”

    Apparently, you should actually swing some throughout your life to maintain your equilibrium. I loved swinging when I was a child, even up through high school. Then I stopped swinging in adulthood. I can’t swing now. I get motion sick on swings. I’ve also developed seasickness – something I never had as a child.

  41. My daughter is in 6th grade and she tells me relay races are all the rage at recess. She and her friends make up different ways you have to run your leg of the relay: chop down a tree, drive a car, make dinner, etc. It’s spilled over into their birthday parties and my daughter’s is coming up, and she’s having her dad design an obstacle course in the yard along with planning funny relays. Makes me so happy that 1) there is still the concept of recess and 2) there is still the concept of free play in 6th grade girls. Stay young, my duckies, stay young!

  42. Maybe it’s a NYC thing, but I swear, all the playgrounds here have fenced off swings. Even the cheap and shoddy playgrounds have fences around the swings. (Well, that’s assuming they have swings. If they’re cheap enough they have swingsets without swings attached! But still a separate fence.)

    And it’s been that way at least since the 80s, when I was a kid. It’s better than expecting the very little kids to not run in front of the swings – or making Mom chase after them instead of just letting them play.

  43. There is great value in swinging for children. The back and forth swinging movement helps children develop their vestibular coordination. (See The Play & Playground Encyclopedia listing at http://www.pgpedia.com/v/vestibular-coordination to learn more.)

    It is worrisome that children are being overprotected to the point of actually stunting their development. Risk taking, bumps and bruises help a child learn how to negotiate his way in the world.

  44. This past weekend, we were driving through the [beautiful] country and happened upon a tiny (250 pop.) old town. I said to the kids, “I could definitely live here. I wonder where their school is?” A few moments later we came upon it, and my reaction was “Look at all the GREAT OLD playground equipment.” You know, the OLD metal swingsets, merry-go-rounds, high-climbing monkey bars. Nothing beats the old, rusty metal playground equipment from our childhood and earlier. All the times the wind got knocked out of us when we fell off…lesson learned!

    I can’t imagine anyone choking on a swingset with the huge links and the now-a-days plastic coating they put on them. The drawstrings, yes, but I thought all the shirt manufacturers have discontinued making shirts with drawstrings. 🙂

  45. I just had to google “strangled, swing” and apparently it does happen but they all seemed to be rope swings hanging from trees. Honestly, even when I was a kid there were no swings on the playgrounds at the schools in my hometown (Lakewood, OH) and there aren’t any here in Fort Wayne, IN now. I thought it was because of kids jumping from them and breaking arms or knocking each other down though. Swings at schools would be nice but personally, as long as they stay at the community playgrounds I’m happy. This article was really cute, choking on the swings, those insurance guys are nuts.

  46. I still love to swing as an adult. When I was college aged we would get drunk and then go play on the playground late at night-swings included. We didn’t damage the equipment though. I get kinda upset because a lot of newer swings are smaller through the butt area and I can’t fit on them! I am not a big girl. I am normal sized. I have seen middle school girls that are bigger than I am so it is kinda sad that apparently some kids would be too big to swing then. I like to sit on the swing and let the boys sit in my lap and we swing together.

  47. Oh, Dolly, that’s all right. Even though they’ve designed swings now so you “can’t”, by middle school most kids stand on the swings anyway.

  48. I live in northern NJ– and both Bergen and Passaic counties seem to be chock-full of playgrounds with swings, and also with climbing things.

    I only have visited 2 day-cares/pre-schools (both in Morris County) — swings may be present, but I understand why the one we use currently doesn’t have swings; there’s not enough room. There’s also an issue of *little* kids– like my under-3 — not being able to use the swings by themselves or cross in front of swings safely. (Somehow getting bonked in the head hasn’t convinced him running in front of the swings is a bad idea! When we visit NYC, I see the swings separated out in a fenced area, which is sorta logical.)

    Our preschool playground has a monkey bars, but that’s a hassle for parents and teachers because the kids who are really too small to reach the monkey bars still want to ‘hang’.🙂

  49. Dolly, scheduled outdoor play has gone the way of walking home alone. I just talked to a young mom the day before yesterday who is already planning on homeschooling even though her baby isn’t even walking yet. Her 9-year-old nephew is facing school-mandated medication for being disruptive. But he gets no recess at all! The school (in Connecticut) is expecting this kid to spend six hours a day sitting down almost continuously in order to learn what he has to learn to perform well enough on the federally mandated tests that his school will continue to receive funding. Of course he’s disruptive. He’s bursting at the seams with normal, healthy childhood energy that has to go somewhere!

    So: Another school turned into a mental sweatshop and another mom pushed into homeschooling by No Child Left Alone, I mean, Behind.

  50. I have heard about recess being eliminated but have not seen it in my area. I worked in a daycare so I know what is required to get a 3 star rating. We were required BY LAW to take the kids outside 30 minutes a day with rain being the only exception or if the temp was below freezing. Otherwise no matter how cold, wet, or hot it was, we took them out. We had no shade either which kinda stunk. We would bundle up the little ones everyday and take them outside for their required 30 minutes. I felt bad for the 1 year olds who would just stand there in their heavy coats, mittens and hats and scarves as the snot froze on their faces. They really did not seem to enjoy outdoor play time in February.

    So I am not buying it that they are not encouraging outdoor play. With the whole childhood obesity epidemic they are pushing it even more.

    The preschool my boys attend has to follow that same 30 minutes outside every day rule as well and they are only there for 3 hours and they still must work in the 30 minutes outside. If it is very muddy or raining they go to the gym and play for the 30 minutes so they still get exercise.

    Plus you know, outdoor play is not just the school’s job. It is up to the parents too to organize outings to zoos, playgrounds, nature centers, camping, hiking, botanical gardens to get kids outside as well. For example, for fall break I planned a trip with my mother to a nearby city to visit their zoo and botanical gardens with an overnight in a hotel with an indoor pool. I make sure as their parent to get them outside.

  51. My kids elementary school doesn’t have swings and it sucks. But it isn’t for safety reasons. It’s for space reasons. They are right next to the high school and their football field/track butt right up against the playground and have sucked all their space away. Half the area is part of the parking lot and has cars driving through it which causes safety issues, too (my oldest did a project on the safety of the parking lot and playground in 5th grade last year).
    The other 2 elementary schools in town have HUGE playgrounds with big structures, futuristic see-saws and lot of swings.
    Our local playground also doesn’t have swings. It’s rarely used by anyone over the age of 4 or 5. It’s boring without swings.

    I have actually been hurt on the swings, though. I remember my jacket getting caught in the S hook as I jumped off and I almost dislocated my shoulder. But I was like 13 and it was my own stupid fault. I remember recovering and berating myself all the way home at my stupidity and was afraid to tell my parents because I was embarrassed, lol. I had a sore arm for a week but I survived. I also almost kicked a small child when I was a teen because the parents weren’t watching him. The swing area at our playground was raised with steps just feet from the front of the swing set. There wasn’t a lot of room to walk in the area. In fact when you jumped off you landed right at the edge of the raised area and my brother use to try and jump over the walls (never made it but he landed right next to it and took a header over several times landing on his face in the dirt a foot and a half down on the other side a few times).

    I was swinging really high and this toddler walked right in front of me. There was nothing I could do but slam my toes into the dirt and practically fall out of the swing to not hit him. That hurt but I missed him by just inches as he skirted past me. If I had hit him it would have been like a car slamming into him at 30MPH. His parents came running over and gave me a glare like it was my fault their kid walked right into the danger zone. He’s lucky I was paying attention because a lot of times I had my eyes closed while on the swings.

    Oh, and on the subject of strangulation by pull cord on a sweatshirt… kids’ hoodies aren’t allowed to have pull cords any more so if they have them it’s an adult sweatshirt. I haven’t seen a kid one with the pull string… um, ever and my oldest is 11.

  52. My kids’ school has swings. And tetherballs. And cement. And 30 minutes of recess per day that is part of their health program and cannot be taken away without a signed parent permission slip (they can however be required to walk track laps instead of playing as punishment for misbehavior). We do have standards for indoor recess when the weather is inclement.

  53. Oh and Uly — never seen a fence around swings! Interesting!

  54. I agree with the commenter that says that children without fun playgrounds find more dangerous things to do. We recently moved to a military base in Hawaii, and the base housing company is in the process of removing all the swings from all the playgrounds. Additionally, the playground equipment here marked “ages 5-12” is the equipment that in most places is marked “ages 2-5.” My 9-year-old’s legs are longer than the slide. So all the neighborhood kids climb onto the roof for the community mailbox instead. Much safer than giving them something fun to play on, right?

  55. I know one of those 40 children who was killed in an accident on a public playground. An adorable 2 year old little girl who fell off the monkey bars in just the wrong way onto a ground with too little padding. It was a horrible accident and arguably preventable, with the right padding.

    But 10 years later, I let my adorable 2 year old play on the monkey bars because trying to protect them from everything in life leaves them with something less than a life.

  56. I know this is a kinda lame thing to say but I have noticed the handicapped accessible playgrounds end up being less cool than the non handicapped accessible playgrounds. I guess that goes without saying since ramps are not as fun as ladders or climbing walls. I think it is great that they have handicapped accessible playgrounds and all that, but sometimes it makes them less fun or less great at motor skills for the non handicapped kids.

    There is one very nice playground in town that has a handicapped accessible playground and then a toddler playground and then a big kid playground all in one park right next to each other and connected. I really like that style so that there is something for everyone without sacrificing anything. I am sure that park cost a ton though.

  57. That’s really sad, especially since most stores won’t even sell jackets with pull-cords on them anymore. Apparently kids can’t be trusted to not strangle themselves.

  58. Wow choke now that is a new one anything to keep the old insurence rates down. I am so glad we live in a area where All the children run around have (yes) snowball fights play(oh no!!) hockey and my 11yearold knows how to shoot a (get ready) a BB GUN.

  59. […] Swan Song for Swings? (FreeRangeKids) […]

  60. @Dolly: Our local public school assigns so much homework to my mid-primary Sunday school students that they do it every evening and on the weekends as well. I have ended a lot of the old Sunday school programs–verse memorization, self-tests for comprehension, etc.–because the poor kids are about ready to cry when they see one.more.assignment. If their parents organize outdoor activities for them, they fall behind on their homework and their grades drop, which starts a whole cascade of unpleasant consequences.

    I am so grateful that I can homeschool. My early primary students can stay outdoors as long as they want and often go through two pairs of pants in an afternoon because they had a lot of good clean dirty fun!

  61. Even without lots of homework, it IS the school’s responsibility to include some movement during the school day. Children need to move around EVERY day, and they need to do it DURING the day, not just tacked on at the end.

    Plus, think about it. Young kids need 10 – 11 hours of sleep daily. So out of a 24 hour day, they have maybe 13.5 hours awake. Then they spend half an hour each on breakfast and dinner – 12.5 hours. They spend 6.5 hours in school, that leaves 6 hours left. Let’s say they spend half an hour all told getting to and from school, and another half an hour doing the homework, now we’re at 5 hours. Add in bathtime, changing clothes, and chores and we’re now down to 3.5 hours. 3.5 hours before we add in extracurriculars, time-outs, reading, travel time to and from… wherever!, and of course, time-outs and/or naps (my younger niece, in the first grade, still needs at least 45 minutes of nap), and then remember that during much of the school year they only have an hour of daylight after school.

    It’s absolutely the school’s responsibility to give them some play time during they day, not just because they need to move during the day but also because the school is hogging most of the daylight hours!

  62. Thus why I am for the no homework movement. I am going to bring that up at PTA and with the administration and teachers next year when my boys start school. If the homework gets excessive, we will just not do it and inform the school as to why. If it becomes a problem I will homeschool my kids. Either way I will still schedule outdoor playtime for them when they are with me.

    Chores, see to me that is one thing that can be nixed. My mother never made me do any chores besides pick up my toys and do my homework. She told me playing and school was my job. I don’t plan on making my kids do more than just picking up after themselves and school and extracurriculars either. Housework is my job as the homemaker, not theirs. Not to start a big debate or anything, but that is how I personally feel about it. I would rather them play than do chores.

  63. Live in NYC, and here to back up Uly, most swings (possibly all) have a fence, usually with a separate gate, for swings. Bummer is many playgrounds only have the “baby” bucket seat swings, if they have any at all.

    Swings have huge vestibular benefit for kids, especially with sensory issues.

    When my son (evil kinevil type) was almost 4, my husband was pushing him HIGH on a swing while my brother pushed my 4 year old nephew. My son let go when his back was parallel to the ground and flipped to land on his stomach/chest from about 5 or 6 feet off the ground. My brother said he was sure he was hurt, but my son stood up and said, “I coulda died” …he got back on the swing and he didn’t do that again. We didn’t stop pushing him. He didn’t stop asking to go higher.

  64. I’m glad we agree on homework, Dolly! (And it gets doubly ridiculous when you consider that I don’t trust the schools to teach math – check out the NYC math tests for third grade, they’re ridiculously below level, and that’s the standard they teach to! – and spelling adequately. But they have to learn these things. Honestly, were they my kids, I’d teach them at home solely.)

    We don’t agree on chores in principle, but definitely if the choice is between regular chores and no playtime ever, I’d drop the chores as well. I wouldn’t be happy about it, but you do what you gotta do.

  65. (Although funny thing is, my nieces LIKE doing “chores”. I’ve come up in the morning to find one of them snuck out of bed and started washing dishes, or that the other had decided to get up and fold laundry. I. Do. NOT. Understand. My. Nieces!)

  66. My two year old has just started at day care and they have swings there. When he walked in front of the swings the teacher said to me ‘he will only do it once’. He said the same thing about my four year old and it was true. He got kicked (by tiny two year old feet) and never did it again.

    Swings are considered a necessity by Autism NZ as they help with sensory difficulties. The safety people in the US would have a field day at our playgrounds!

  67. @ Dolly- it may be true that accessible playgrounds are not always as challenging or as fun as other playgrounds, but I always try to think of all the playgrounds that are no fun for children with physical disabilities.

    My kids can’t bring peanuts to school because they have peanut allergic kids in their class. Its a pain, and inconvenient for me, but I do try to keep in mind that is a much bigger pain and inconvenience for parents with peanut allergic kids.

  68. Agreed, Taradlion. And honestly, sometimes I wonder if part of the problem with accessible playgrounds is just poor design. Accessible playgrounds aren’t very common, nor popular, so it’s possible that people just don’t have good ideas about how to build them yet.

  69. Yup. Also, in attempting to make equipment accessible for all it has to cover different disabilities (different than adapting equipment for a specific child’s disability).

    I work with children with disabilities, facilitating tolerance in all kids is reaLly important. Talking with kids about why equipment is different can be a good stepping stone…

  70. Also, in attempting to make equipment accessible for all it has to cover different disabilities

    Oh, yes. (Although, to be fair, when it comes to playground equipment most people don’t think further than wheelchair accessible and barely consider that disabled children who don’t use wheelchairs might also need accommodations… wait, that’s not fair, but it’s still the truth.)

  71. Uly — I’ve never seen fenced in swings either. Anywhere. Must indeed be a NYC thing.

    Around here all the playgrounds have them (our local swings are really high — they’re great), some of the schools, and almost none of the daycares and preschools. I suspect the big issue is space.

    Having said that, when someone stole the climbing apparatus from my child’s daycare (which is in a church! who does that?), the director elected not to replace it. She has been studying the Reggio philosophy of play-based early childhood education and is instead providing loose parts: sticks and logs and rocks and pinecones and shovels, with which the kids can play creatively. And they do.

    The idea is that playground equipment pretty much dictates what the kids will do, at least at the toddler/preschool age. Giving them a variety of materials and the freedom to do with them what they will forces them to develop executive function: the ability to plan and execute. And when they walk over to the community playground, it’s an adventure.

    I’ll take that over swings at preschool any day.

  72. All I can say is that if it’s a NYC thing, it’s just proof again that NYC does things right😛

    (No, over here we don’t actually think NYC is the center of the world. Who wastes time thinking about things that are self-evident?)

  73. We didn’t become the domminant species on the planet by panicking about what could happen. America didn’t become what it is now because all children needed to be protected too much. Also why is it better to drug boys up because they don’t sit and be quiet in schools like girls remember boys and girls are different and they have different needs.

  74. Uly: Tell your nieces they can come hang out at my house anytime, lol

  75. Sure, Dolly, but you should recall that just because they like to wash dishes or fold laundry it doesn’t necessarily follow that they do these things WELL.

  76. Uly: ; )

  77. I could repost the long spiel on playground safety that I have amended many times in the past, but I feel that I would only be beating a dead horse; besides, the topic of this post is specific to swings, not to playground safety in general. Very recently I went by a local Christian school, and saw what was easily the best school playground I have ever seen. It had no swings; it was a “modern” piece of equipment in looks… but it was (no exaggeration) at least 15 feet tall; the (plastic/fiberglass… couldn’t tell which one) curvy slide did 3 full 360-degree rotations before the end. The main reason there were no swings had NOTHING to do with safety — the pastor of the church (also the owner of the school) believes very strongly against wimpiness and fear. Rather, it was space — the playground structure would not have been even half the size horizontally if they had put swingsets in as well; as it is, it takes up a large portion of the (fairly large) yard. The point I am trying to make is, that the presence or absence of an individual piece of equipment does not make the difference between a good playground and a bad one. Rather it is the motive behind said presence/absence. This especially applies to school playgrounds, where space may be of the essence. The whole idea of a school playground almost necessitates a modular structure due to sheer volume; whereas parks often have more freedom to add a variety of high-capacity and low-capacity equipment to their playgrounds. By increasing the vertical dimension, a space-conscious school owner can further increase the compactness (capacity per square unit) of their playspace while also increasing the “fun factor”. Oh, and the pastor’s attitude shows… there were kids on the playground at the time, and a few of them were seen crawling across the sideways metal pole which the triangular monkey bars were beneath — a pole that was about 8 feet off the ground. They appeared to be completely unaffected by the height of the structure. As always, I will mention that I am ENTIRELY FOR safe surfacing, especially the new rubberized kind, which is stable enough to actually run on while being soft enough to reduce serious injuries. However, I am AGAINST an attitude that the benefits of playgrounds (mainly the fun factor and the physical activity, but other issues such as the vestibular system come into play) should be skimped upon in the name of “safety” (put in quotes because the risk of deaths on playgrounds has ALWAYS been less than being struck by lightning or abducted and killed by a stranger, and definitely FAR less than the obesity that a sedentary lifestyle can cause). For parks especially, this means a variety of playground equipment, which is tall enough to support the needs of kids of all ages. Swingsets and slides — and even modular structures, which don’t get as much mention here, but they WERE around back then — were taller back before 1984… 12-foot tall swingsets and (straight metal, sometimes as much as 45-degree angle) slides were common in the 60s, whereas today 8 feet is the norm… plus the slides are curved or wavy nowadays instead of straight. The local Christian school is honestly what I had envisioned a modular structure of the 70s to look like if it were made using modern materials (including surfacing — that playground uses the rubberized surface). Also, back then kids could do things many of us would find unbelievable now. For instance, the mere mention of jumping down from anything much over 3 feet up is enough to almost give a heart attack to many who did just that (and then some) in their childhood. Children have a desire to be competitive — both with each other and with themselves. A recent study showed a gigantic correlation between a child being active and adults, ESPECIALLY the child’s parents, NOT being present; also if other active children WERE present, then activity greatly increased. Real-life application: A mother and her 8-year-old son are at the playground, while no one else is there. The best way to get the kid in better shape would be to replace the mother with another boy between ages 6 and 12.

    Well, MANY parents would almost have a heart attack… apparently not the parents of this kid (also notice that the swingset is a (pre-1984-esque) 12-footer according to the video description… it looks more like 10 feet, but I’ll take their word for it because there’s nothing in the video that can definitively say either way.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6O1yR7-YVwg#t=4m16s

  78. .

  79. So true. If we go to a playground and it is just us my boys are semi active. However if we go to one that is full of other especially older boys, my boys go nuts trying to follow the big boys around and hang out with them doing what they do!

  80. I will say that one major problem with the rubber safety surfacing is, ironically, a safety issue.

    In NYC that stuff is usually made of recycled tires. Which means it’s black. Which means it absorbs a heck of a lot of heat and can burn the skin, even badly.

    The solution the parks department uses is to put up signs telling everybody to keep their shoes on, but really, that doesn’t help if you fall onto the surfacing.

    Of course, that whole issue could be mitigated with proper shade in playgrounds. Trees and such.

  81. Dolly: Yes: According to the study, little kids (0-5) were like energy thieves (the authors didn’t use that analogy though). The little kids were themselves a bit more active than older kids, yet when they were around, the older kids tended to be a little less active.

    Uly: Ouch. I never knew such a surface existed… honestly plain grass is better than BLACK rubber IMO. When I said I like the new rubberized surfaces, I was referring to the dark red, dark green, and dark blue surfacing I see here in Tulsa. Look at RGB colors 96,0,0; 0,96,0; and 0,0,96 to see what I mean.

  82. I am a part of the whole let’s either put up shade structures or trees etc to give playgrounds shade.

  83. Oh, yes, it does exist. Some newer playgrounds are using the same stuff but white, and it’s much better.

    (And yes, children have been burned on that stuff. This isn’t just an “it could happen” or “once, ten years ago, in a freak accident” sort of thing.)

  84. This video interview of 16yo boys ‘tricking’ in a town in Australia, offers a simple insight in the tension between youth full of energy and exploration of their body, and community fear. Yet circus arts are increasingly sought after by youth. I have a friend who runs a business just for that purpose. http://www.abc.net.au/local/videos/2011/09/22/3323821.htm

  85. I’m pretty sure this one is going to backfire on the schools. I thought I remembered being told, back in my son’s Kindermusik class when he was little, that swinging/swaying motions are good for brain development. So I just searched “swinging and brain development” and there were PAGES of articles – on brain development….and swinging helping kids pay attention! When trying to keep kids safer than safe on the playgound lowers those “all important” test scores, I bet the swings will be brought back.

  86. Uly: Agreed… that’s why I said plain grass is better than black rubber… still, colored rubber is the best if it can be afforded… I’d put wood chips in second and sand in third. Concrete/asphalt should be avoided at all costs — its ONLY benefit over no surfacing at all (that is, grassy soil) is its lack of water retention; PLUS there are many very real safety-related disadvantages. A two-foot fall in the wrong way onto concrete can kill a child; not to mention it gets VERY hot in the summer, so even a fall in “almost the right way” can result in minor burns on the hands and knees.

    Nicole: Yes, but they might not notice exactly the cause of lowered test scores — they may think that teachers are getting worse, when in reality the American school system schedule is one which puts even the famously intensive Japanese school schedule to shame. A typical Japanese school day lasts from 8:30 to 3:30, shorter for 1st-3rd grade students. There is a 20-minute recess in the morning and a 20-30 minute recess after lunch (not including the 40 minutes reserved for lunch itself — some Japanese schools simply have a 60-70 minute combined lunch break and recess without specifying time allotments for each). Japanese schools do not have janitors or cafeteria workers; at all grades the students serve their own lunch and have a 20-minute cleaning session after lunch. The concept of sitting motionless during a 45-minute class is considered an oddity in Japan. An article in the Japan Times states that “Besides recess and physical education, the students also stay active in the classroom. I observed classrooms wherein students were not just passively sitting still listening to the teacher; they stood up and moved around while learning. They played educational games and learned by seeing, hearing and doing.” That is the real secret behind Japan’s high ranking in education. The fact that Japanese society revolves around the teacher-student relationship and the desire to always get better (seen any good animes lately?) sure can’t hurt either.

  87. I’ve been on some of those black rubber playgrounds. They suck, although the rubber would be nice if not black.

    Trees would definitely be a good addition to playgrounds. Much of my daughter’s school playground is shaded – the school dates back to the 20’s so has lots of old growth trees around it. It’s still somewhat usable in the summer. The rest of the playgrounds in town are all ghost towns from 11am to 7pm in the summer. It’s too hot to be out running around in direct sun and the equipment is all too hot to touch. It’s Georgia for god’s sake; you’d think that even slight common sense would tell you that trees are important on a playground if you wanted it used most of the year.

  88. Same where I live Donna in Tennessee. In summer during the day playgrounds are off limits pretty much. You either go to one late in the evening after the sun goes down or early in the morning. Water parks and pools are where most kids are found in the Summer around here.

  89. A few years ago here in Central Kentucky a little girl (9 I think) did become entagled in a back yard swing and strangled. I remember thinking it was totally bizzare and a freak accident. I also remember it being treated as a freak accident by the media and no “Get Rid of Swings” hysteria ensued. But then again, according to my friend the ER doc the unofficial summer passtime here is wrecking ATVs. Perhaps there is something cultural about how much risk is acceptable, and historically agricultural areas are less flappable due to the risks associated with farm equipment. Just a thought.

  90. It’s strange that the idea of children getting strangled comes up… when I think of dangers involving swings, I think of the same issue mom2cne and Virginia Shea have already posted – young, stupid children walking in front of the swings that are in use and getting kicked, hard.

    When I was something like 7, a presschooler or toddler or something walked in front of me when I was on some swings. There was nothing I could do about it – I slammed into him/her pretty hard. I then ran off crying because I was terrified of the sort of punishment I would receive for hurting a smaller child who had done nothing at all to me. That was the day my parents explained to me that sometimes, other people can do stupid things that result in me hurting them through no fault of my own. I have no idea what actually happened to the little kid.

    It would seem reasonable to not have swings for that reason – that scenario is far more likely to happen in a closed in yard with many small children who are distracted with playing other games (chasing or ball games that may cause them to run in front of a swing without looking), with only a few teachers supervising a marge group of children (rather than in a playground with one parent supervising each child).

    But strangling? Seriously? How hard is it to make a rule that kids can’t wear clothing with strings on it on the swings? You want to swing, take off the hat or the hoodie for that period of time.

  91. The sunlight has a weird property here in the Subarctic due to the atmospere at these latitudes: even though it doesn’t feel very hot, bare metal and black objects heat up very quickly. So all new playground equipment is made of plastic in bright colors or metal that’s been covered in many layers of durable paint. We still have chains on our playground swings, but kids swing with their sleeves pulled over their hands.

  92. I make the kids put any necklaces they are wearing inside their shirts. That is a basic safety rule I was raised with. Every strangling or choking incident on a playground I’ve heard about has involved either hood strings, necklaces, or lanyards.

    My district has a rule that any lanyards worn by staff or students must be breakway types. It was put in place after a death in another district, were a child was strangled when his lanyard got caught on the hook in the bathroom. (They think the boy was trying to climb over the top of the door for some reason).

  93. Has anyone considered what those artificial surfaces leach out in ground water and in gassing out?

    Frankly, they really STINK (literally). They do not compost, they get wet and nasty, stick to clothing, and smell repulsive.

    Is having to refresh soft surfaces less often so important that we want our kids playing in a pit of used tires and other plastic, rubber, and refuse? And, piling non-recyclable materials in great heaps in play spaces? How about mulch? Why the hate for natural materials?

    yuck.

  94. It’s quite possible that the schools are getting rid of swingsets for little ones because the teachers don’t want to get stuck pushing them😉 (as a former preschool teacher I can attest to the truthiness of that).

    Also, I think this is a case of less “fear of kids getting hurt” than “fear of getting sued because a kid got hurt.” Ugh.

  95. Sort of off-topic, but I know there are some commentors here from Western New York. I just wanted to let you guys know that Island Park in Williamsville has swings and see-saws still (in addition to one of those unfun-looking “toys” with the tiny slides and all). It’s a decent little park, and the very pretty Glen Falls park is right across Main Street from it.

  96. There are more than two ways to get hurt on a swing. At least, I have personal experience proof that there is another way besides the two listed!

    In first grade I was trying to pull myself up onto the seat of a swing. I grasped both chains, started pulling up, and slipped back down. Problem was, my middle finger got pinched between two chain links, leaving a wonderfully bloody. gaping wound. It required 15 stitches, in a nice zig-zag pattern, as well as a little skin graft from a different part of my finger to cover up for the piece left behind in the chains.

    As I was never a particularly dare-devilish child, this is my only “childhood battle scar” and I’m proud to say I still show it off!!! The whole experience taught me to be more careful around swings; I’m not going to start advocating banning them! Sheesh!

  97. […] At Lenore Skenazy’s great Free Range Kids blog, I discuss the odd correlation the state of New Jersey has found between swingsets and choking. […]

  98. Maybe I’m nuts, but I thought strangulation and choking were two entirely different things.

  99. @Powers – You’re not the only one thinking that, I am too. I’ve always thought of choking as an internal thing, and strangulation as an external thing.

    If the school was concerned about kids choking on the swings, maybe they’re talking about choking on gum or something else while swinging? I know that’s happened on roller coasters before. Although, if that was the case I’d like to think they’d disallow gum or any foodstuff on the playground before removing the swings.

    I’m 28 with no kids of my own. If and when my SO and I have kids, I’m certain they’ll be free range. One instance jumps to my mind – my SO was watching his niece, who was about 3 at the time. She wanted to go down the slide in her backyard, so he waited at the bottom. He didn’t catch her, not knowing that her parents *always* did, so she sorta tumbled forward upon landing. She wasn’t hurt, got right back up and went down the slide again. Within 20 minutes, she was able to stand up on her own when landing at the bottom of the slide. Her mom was so impressed!

    Also, reading this post and all the comments yesterday really made me want to go to the park after work to swing. Swinging was always my favorite thing to do at the playground. I couldn’t go though because it was raining, but today is sunny. Yay for swinging!!

  100. My 29 year old self has been hunting out kids playgrounds in the late evening in order to have a swing for the past 2 months… the swingset is either lacking the chains and seat (I hope thats temporary and they put them up in the morning for the kids with clips or something…) or the playground is completely lacking a swing at all…. now I know why I’m having trouble finding a swing set!😦

  101. […] “The state inspectors strongly advised us against it,” said the director of a New Jersey preschool. [Greg Olear at Free-Range Kids] […]

  102. […] And then we realized, simultaneously, what was missing: “No swings!” […]

  103. Incidentally, I was trying to be more helpful than snarky. Yes, I know, commenting on manners is rude in and of itself. I’m a hypocrite in some ways (which is odd, as I despise hypocrisy).

  104. This reminds me of when I returned to my elementary school and walked around the playground. There were two playgrounds, one for the kindergarteners through second graders and one for the third through fifth graders. I had been going to these playgrounds far before I even went to that school, so I actually cried when I saw what they did to the little kids playground. It used to be wooden, with these little hidey-holes I had loved, but now it was metal and plastic and it was only one level. The whole underside was opened up, the awesome slides were gone. The swings survived somehow. It just saddened me to know that the kids who got this terrible playground would never have the same fun I had.

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