Swings are a cherished toy for kids and adults alike. They offer an easy and fun way to play and pass the time, and help to soothe young children and babies who are feeling stressed. For that matter, swings certainly aren’t restricted to just being children’s toys for playgrounds and backyard swingsets. Over the years, swings have taken on a lot of different forms, and have provided entertainment and comfort to everyone from Ancient Greeks, to Native Americans, to Victorian ladies, to modern thrill seeking tourists.
The very first swing was presumably just a knotted rope swing, but that would have been far too long ago for anyone to have a reliable record of it. Even the classic swing, with two ropes used to suspend a solid seat, is older than recorded history.
The Classic Swing
Middle Eastern art from over 1000 BCE document modern-looking swings, and the ancient Greeks depicted women and children swinging in their art. In both art and writing, these types of swings are depicted as a fun way for people to spend time outside throughout history, from medieval times, to Victorian ladies, to children at the first public playgrounds in early 20th century America.
Hammocks are a type of swing, even if we don’t tend to swing as energetically with them as on a classic swing. They were invented in central and south America before they were adopted by visiting Europeans, and appropriated for use on ships. Since they hang free, the rocking of a ship wouldn’t translate as roughly to a sleeping person as much as a regular cot.
In the 20th century, modern materials like nylon made it possible to take swings to the next level. In the last century, swings have been adapted to make them safer, bigger, more versatile, and cheaper to build.
The Modern Playground
The classic swing has become the cornerstone of the modern playground. Being simple and affordable to build, swings, slides, and seesaws were some of the first types of play equipment to be set up in public playgrounds with their introduction into the US at the beginning of the 20th century. This helped to popularize swinging even more, and mostly likely helped to drive further innovation in later decades.
Classic swings are relatively simple. They allow people to swing backwards and forwards, which is fun, but leaves some room for improvement. In recent years, swings have become far more innovative. Web swings and fabric swings allow multiple children to swing omnidirectionally, and in different positions. Further, fabric swings also make excellent hammocks, making them a great place to hang out even when you aren’t necessarily feeling the need to play.
For young kids, swings are exciting and provide a real thrill. That excitement doesn’t translate well to adulthood, and some have taken that as a challenge. Massive swings have become common at amusement parks and even more extreme swings like New Zealand’s Nevis Swing have been set up in natural environments to serve thrill seekers.