Article

Function and Value of Swings: The Benefits of Playground Swings

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Abstract

Background Children's swings have endured over the ages and continue to be among the most popular playground components. Despite their popularity with children, many maintain that swings are not valuable for children's development and some consider them hazardous. Research demonstrates that swings are beneficial for physical, social, and cognitive development, and they offer certain therapeutic benefits. They promote movement and perceptual skills, spatial awareness, general fitness, social interaction, mental representation, and sensory integration, including vestibular development (balance). The safety of swings has been markedly improved by using light weight, flexible seats and installing resilient surfacing material. The extensive space requirements specified by national safety standards preclude swings in many small child-care centers. Research Questions The questions guiding this study included: 1) What type swings are most popular with children? 2) What gross and fine motor skills do children use and develop when swinging? 3) What is the developmental progression of skills when playing on swings? 4) What are children's motivations for playing on swings? Methods Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. Quantitative methodology included the use of coding forms to quantify frequency of swing use and to document children's choices of swings. This included identification of fine and gross motor skills and documentation of the developmental progression of skills when playing on swings. Qualitative methods included general anecdotal observations for determining types of motor skills and progressive developmental skills. Both observation and interview data were used in determining motivations for swing play. Anecdotal records, videotaping, field notes, interviews of children and teachers, videotapes, and digital photos were used for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data. Children were observed on four playgrounds designed for toddlers, preschool, primary school and upper elementary grades. The swings were of several types: full bucket swing, half bucket swing, strap swing, solid flat swing, tire swing, and adaptive chair swing.

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