I must admit, after a couple of hours of research on the benefits of swinging, I rushed outside to the workshop and stated, ‘You have got to build me a swing!’ If the research is right, I want to test it out. The 2 statements that particularly grabbed me were:
- Students are more focused and ready to learn after a break for a swing.
- Swinging lifts the mood – have you ever seen a grumpy person get off a swing?
…well maybe if they have been told to come inside and do that maths….
Okay, so those titbits got me to thinking, why we should put a big focus on ensuring our children get to swing (and maybe me too if I can be persuasive enough!)
Whether at the playground, park or in the safety of one’s own backyard, the steady metronome-like squeak of the swings is a sure sound of childhood contentment. Swings can be both relaxing and exciting for children. They create an inspiring sensation of flying or a thrilling sensation of falling – depending on how hard you’re pumping your legs. But swinging on a swing set is more than just fun. This enjoyable activity also has many health and developmental benefits.
These are some of the benefits I came up with:
When children take that risk of trying something new and overcoming the challenge, they develop a sense of accomplishment that leads to higher self-confidence. There are SO many opportunities to do this on a swing. From the initial breathless feelings of when the swing begins to move under them to the exhilaration of feeling the wind in their hair as they pick up speed, swinging is a generally enjoyable experience that builds confidence.
Feeling loved, happy and safe
When one thinks of swinging, we come up with the terms comforting and calming, at the same time as exhilarating and exciting!! Maybe summed up, we could say swings bring contentment with life and this is why they are so popular. When feeling safely ensconced in a swing, a child will want to connect and communicate with others, being eager to seek approval of actions and communicate – ‘Look how high I can go!’.
Linked in with the above would then be the opportunities that play creates to name experiences (‘Wow, your hair is blowing in the wind!, ‘Yes, push down with your feet to get moving…’), constantly expanding children’s vocabulary and creating opportunities for them to communicate their experiences (‘Look I can make myself move Mom!’)
Developing physical skills
Swinging develops a child’s core muscles which in turn helps with balance. It also helps them learn how to co-ordinate their various muscles in a sequence to allow the correct movement – they need to isolate certain muscle groups and use them sequentially – fundamental to any physical process. They are also learning about rhythm and heightening their sensory perception. On a swing, they can hone their reflexes, develop body control and endurance, body awareness (proprioception) and the ability to isolate certain muscle usage as well as build muscle strength.
Swinging develops stamina. Being able to swing for longer and longer periods of time develops endurance as well as being a whole lot of fun for children. Practicing will develop their upper body strength. Endurance levels will increase significantly as upper body power and strength improves.
So many opportunities for physical development!
Promoting cognitive skills
Swinging especially helps with sensory integration. Sensory integration incorporates spatial awareness and inner ear balance. Stimulating the senses through swinging gives the child’s brain practice at organizing and interpreting spatial information, providing a foundation for complex learning and behaviour later. In fact, the rocking motion of swinging stimulates the part of the brain that helps you focus, the cerebral cortex. Experts explain that during swinging, the three semi-circular canals in the inner ear are responding to movement and acceleration in the horizontal, vertical, and diagonal planes (vestibular stimulation). For us, it just feels great, especially with closed eyes.
Beyond vestibular development from swinging, is the natural effect on our proprioceptive system, our sense of locomotion or sense of muscle location and position. Swinging helps us develop and maintain the body’s proprioceptive system which draws information from our muscles and joints. This movement creates signals to our central nervous system, which cause us to react to the stimuli. If I swing too hard and cause that “bump” at the top of my swing arc, then I readjust by slowing my legs and reducing my torso lean to create that beautiful rhythmic motion.
Learning about caring for others
It has been said that empathy for others is the cornerstone of successful interpersonal relationships. This type of growth can be stimulated by providing the right context. Through teacher/parent mediation, a swing is a great place to learn taking turns and caring for others.
When children use their imagination in play, they are developing crucial psychological and emotional capacities that help them understand the world in which they live and their relation to it; they are learning to solve problems, create new possibilities, even change the world. From flying an aeroplane to sailing over the sea, the imaginative opportunities are endless on a swing.
So…when you notice yourself or someone else checking out, it’s time to hit the swings for a quick pick-me-up. Swinging for just a few minutes can raise endorphins and wake up a sleepy brain and body. Just a few minutes of playing or rocking on a swing can change a mood. Hey, I’m all for getting that swing for myself organised now, let alone one for my children!