Reschooling Tool #4: Swings

I’d forgotten how liberating it is to go on the swings. My fourth grade classmates invited me to join them at recess, and I was more than happy to. I sat down on a swing and wrapped my fingers tightly around the chains suspending it. Pumping my legs to push me higher was tougher than it used to be, since the swing was designed for kids with legs half the length of mine. I had to tuck them under me so that my feet wouldn’t hit the ground every time I swung over it.

As I swung higher, I felt the breeze on my face, my heart pounding, and the exhilaration of building momentum as I rose into the air. As a kid, I remember wondering if I could swing over the top of the swingset if I tried hard enough, and sometimes it looked as if I was getting close. (I watched a Mythbusters episode that concluded: “Under normal pushing power, whether solo or being pushed by others, there cannot be enough force generated to achieve a full, chain straight 360.”) Being much heavier than I used to be, I didn’t get nearly as much air this time around.

My classmate suggested that I close my eyes and tilt my head back, letting the sun beat down on my face. Closing my eyes while swinging high made me lose connection with time and space for a few moments, as if in meditation. Disoriented, I gripped the chains more tightly so that I wouldn’t fall. After swinging for a few minutes with closed eyes, I began to get a little dizzy, so I stopped pumping my legs and let myself swing close enough to the ground that I could skid to a stop, spraying bark chips.

I walked back to class with aching hamstrings and rosy cheeks, feeling a little more alive. Next time you’re at a school or playground, go on the swings. Get someone to push you, or pump your legs to get some of the best exercise around. Even if you’re in a sour mood when you start, as you rise into the air you’re sure to break into a smile and feel like a kid again.


Your Two Cents: Leave a Comment!

When was the last time that you went on the swings? Do you have any specific memories of swinging as a child?


Comments (5)

  1. Mr. Hsu

    My favorite thing to do on a swing set is to get as much speed as possible and then jump off the swing at its forward-most point, hoping to land flat on my feet but most likely flying so far through the air that I end up tumbling and rolling in the grass/dirt to a bruised and stained halt.

    The last time I was on a swing set was in June, and I did just that. Grabbing the metal chains seemed to hurt my hands much more than I remember it did as a youngster. However, the exhilaration from the jump has not changed, thankfully.

    I too pondered if I could swing fast and hard enough to roll over the swingset, but I imagined I would keep rolling over and over it almost like a horizontal tether ball pole, with me being the tetherball.

    And, I hated those flat wooden plank swings. They were excruciatingly uncomfortable.

  2. lynnie

    Swings were by far, the most popular ride on the playground. Slides (largest to smallest) ranked second in my book then the jungle gym.

    I remember having sores on my hands from those chains pinching me. Have they fixed that? When I swing these days, I usually hold the chains with my pointer finger and thumb to avoid getting pinched on my palms.

    Next time you should see if you can jump off the swing; from a reasonable height of course. Good luck!!

  3. Alicia C.

    About two years ago I went on the swings at Huntington Park on Nob Hill. It was after midnight. It felt wonderful to feel the cool air on my face and in my lungs. Such a different experience than childhood swinging…

    When I was four my family lived on a Coast Guard base and there was a swing set in the park right outside my backyard. Since it was 1984 and a Coast Guard base, my mom used to let me go out alone and “swing” for as long as I liked. I didn’t know how to properly swing yet so I’d lay with my belly on the seat and run forward to start flying back and forth like Superman. Years later when I knew how to swing properly, SV Elementary had Jog-A-Thons once a year at a park in Petaluma and we always had time to explore the playground after we’d run our laps and eaten. I loved to go on the swings and see how close I could get to going over the bar.

  4. Melia

    I totally forgot about my palms being pinched in the chains, or jumping off the swing, or playing Superman on my stomach. I do remember those toddler swings that look like rubber underpants.

  5. Don Berg

    I re-discovered swings at Reed College, where they have a nice pair of college kid sized swings that look out over Portland. That was ’86-’89 but I assume that they are still there. So I didn’t have that much time between being a kid, feeling like I was too “grown-up” for that, and then re-discovering them. It’s also in the nature of Reed that every once in a while some students will make the leap to insisting that they should get P.E. credit for playing on the swings on a regular basis. Which is probably accepted if a sufficient plan is proposed.

    Since college I have had my enthusiasm for swinging periodically renewed when I visit a park with kids friends or even my girlfriend.

    I’ve never been a big jumper, but I do remember that one of my students and I got to debating whether there was a limit to how far he could jump. So we made a bet and I drew a line (based on his best jumps, so far) that I was convinced he could not surpass. After about 5 tries his confidence was flagging, but after 10 or more jumps he eventually did land over my line. I can’t remember what the pay-off was, but I remember that we were both very impressed with his performance.


    Don Berg



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