Choosing the Right Swing Set for Your Playground
Whether in the backyard, the school yard, or the church playground – kids love to swing!
With the self-propelled alternating sense of weightlessness and higher than normal g-forces, swinging was probably the closest thing to the sensation of flight kids could experience before the Wright Brothers made it actually possible. And, since the piloting of modern ultra-light aircraft seems like a bad idea for toddlers and elementary school-age kids, swinging remains one of the most adult-approved, thrilling, and sought after play events on the playground.
There is a wide variety of swing types available for church and school yard use, from the most common single axis (or to-fro) swings to multi-axis swings.
There are single axis swings for all age ranges from infants/toddlers through the older elementary school-age kids. Most common are the full bucket, the half bucket, the ubiquitous belt seat, the rigid flat swing seat, and various ADA approved swing seats for children with disabilities.
- Full bucket swing seats are intended for use by children under 4 years old – and the adults who will push them. Some are available with a high back that provides additional support.
- Half bucket swing seats are designed for the older toddler through pre-schooler who has developed sufficient fine motor skills that he/she is in training for using a swing by themselves, but requires back support for extra security. These are typically available with an optional front safety chain.
- Belt seats are the most common swing seat of all and can be used by self-swinging children of all ages. Since they made of flexible synthetic rubber or a flexible copolymer, they fold-up around the swinger, helping to hold them securely while swinging.
- Flat swing seats are typically not advised for use on church or school playgrounds as they increase the likelihood of injury from the impact of unoccupied swinging swings. Also, because they to not fold-up around the swinger, there is an increased possibility of a child accidentally sliding off the seat while in use. Increased playground supervision is essential when this type of swing seat is used.
- ADA approved swing seats are available for use by children that require extra support while swinging. They are available in a variety of styles and configurations, and are made from a variety of materials including copolymers, roto-molded plastics, and durable outdoor fabrics mounted to metal frames.
The most common multi-axis swing is the tire swing. It is typically hung horizontally from three chains that connect to a single swivel type hanger which enables both a swinging and a rotating motion that provides crazy fun for any kid! As tire swings are often large enough to accommodate more than one child at a time, they can provide a shared exciting experience. Another type of multi-axis swing is the pendulum swing seat which can be hung to a swivel hanger using a single chain. Multi-axis swings require a great amount of room for safe use and should never be mounted with other swings in the same swing bay.
Swing Set Components
The top-down anatomy of any commercial-grade swing is as follows:
- Swing Beam - Constructed of either wood or metal, the swing frame supports the beam from which the swings are hung.
- Swing Hanger/s - Provides for the relatively friction-free motion of the swing by utilizing a replaceable pendulum that rides on a bronze bushing or, in the case of multi-axis swings, a greased universal joint.
- Connector/s - The connector from the swing hanger/s to the chain is typically either an s-hook or a clevis (shackle).
- Chain/s - Typically commercial-grade swing chain consists of 3/16” to 5/16” diameter welded wire links. The chain is either hot-dipped galvanized (a dull gray) or zinc plated (a shiny silver) to protect from rust. There are several methods to protect from pinching skin between the links including the use of short link chain, which reduces the gap between links, and plastisol coated or soft-grip coatings which cover the metal chain with a protective coating that joins the links together.
- Connector/s - The connector from the chain to the swing seat is typically either an s-hook or a clevis (shackle). The clevis is preferred in this location as the small gap that is unavoidable with s-hooks represents a minor pinch hazard. S-hooks must be pinched closed to a gap not greater than 0.04 inches (about the thickness of a dime) prior to use.
- Swing Seat - Regardless of the swing seat type, it is important to make sure it is of commercial quality. Residential quality swing seats are not sufficiently durable to be used in a church or school playground.
- Play Surface - A protective cushioned surface beneath and around the swing set is essential to protect kids from injury.
There are many other things to consider when creating, modifying, and/or maintaining a safe and fun playground swing set at your church or school. A great and comprehensive source of information on swing set safety are the publications that can be downloaded in .pdf format from the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
So, let’s get swinging!
This article was written by Glenn Stockton, former President and founder of SwingSetMall.com, and was featured in the September 2011 issue of the Religious Products News Magazine.
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