Babies and children love movement.
As infants, children love to sway; as they get older, they need to move. Swings have been fulfilling these needs and delighting both children and infants, largely unchanged, for thousands of years. As early as the 5th Century B.C. Greek artists have captured children and women swinging on swings.
Whether it’s the latest hi-tech swing set with all the safety features, or an old tyre hanging from a tree branch, swinging has near universal appeal for children. But it’s not just about fun. This enjoyable activity also has many health and developmental benefits.
- Swinging helps children develop gross motor skills. Running and jumping onto swings, pushing other swingers, pumping legs to gain height and jumping out of swings all aid with locomotion, balance and coordination skills.
- Swinging also gently develops muscle strength and fine motor skills. Balancing on a swing seat can strengthen the core. Holding on to the chain of a swing strengthens grip strength and finger coordination – an essential milestone for children learning to write.
- Swinging helps with sensory integration, or in other words, the body’s ability to organise its experiences with touch, movement, body awareness, sight, sound, and the pull of gravity. Sensory integration incorporates spatial awareness and inner ear balance too. Stimulating the senses through swinging gives the child’s brain practice at organising and interpreting spatial information, providing a foundation for complex learning and behaviour later.
- The rocking motion of swinging stimulates the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that helps us focus.
- Swinging encourages social interaction and development. Although swinging can be a solitary activity, children usually enjoy swinging together. Since there are usually a limited number of swings available, children learn cooperation, turn-taking and sharing.
- The movement of swinging helps develop perceptual skills - the process of extracting and organising information and giving meaning to what we see.
- Swinging is calming!
Even twisting and untwisting on the swing has benefits. According to research, the act of spinning stimulates different parts of a child’s brain simultaneously, which promotes the development of interconnected pathways in the brain. These connections are important for learning skills such as spatial awareness, rhythm, balance and muscle control.
So, keep reminding yourself (push) that all those endless hours (push) at the back end of the swing (push) are making a big contribution (push) to your child’s development (push).
No wonder children never tire of it (push). They’re learning so much (push).