Swings offer many obvious physical benefits for developing children. They increase coordination, develop strength, improve balance, and have even been shown to help autistic children with sensory integration. However, what might not be as obvious are the social benefits that swinging offers. Although swinging can be enjoyed by a lone child, more often, children have to navigate complex social situations to get their turn on the swing. During these situations, children learn how to negotiate, compete within safe boundaries, and cooperate with others.
The playground is a place where children are constantly practicing negotiation skills, because it is often a place where there are fewer resources than there are children. If there is just one swing, but multiple swingers, then children have to learn how to take turns and share resources.
You may be surprised by the creative negotiation skills some young children develop. They learn to divide the territory of the playground, to work together on elements that are traditionally meant for a sole user, and to develop complex ‘timing’ systems to limit turns. One of the best things that an adult supervisor can do to help encourage creative negotiation skills is to let the children sort it out themselves. Try not to step in and offer solutions unless it is absolutely necessary.
Children naturally compete at many things, and swinging is no exception. They will want to see who can swing higher and who can jump further. While this might set your heart racing, your children are actually learning how to integrate their boundaries into competition. They are learning how far they feel comfortable pushing themselves to meet the expectations of their peers while remaining physically and emotionally safe. These lessons in boundaries can be useful years later, when your teen begins to experience peer pressure.
Children not only push each other on swings, but they come up with creative ways to twist the swings or swing in positions that they would not be able to alone. This teaches your children the benefits of cooperation and also teaches them how to communicate their creative ideas to their peers.
As you can see, swinging (and playing at a playground in general) is much more than a solitary experience. Whether you have multiple children or a single child, it is important to give them time playing on various structures alongside their peers. You can either install a swing set from Kids Gotta Play in your yard and let your child invite some friends over for creative play, or head out to the park a little more often.