Friday, July 19, 2013

Playground Swings and Monkey Bars

Parents usually put up swing sets in their yards. Swinging back and forth is an easy way to amuse a child (though maybe not so much for those who have to keep pushing). A sign of growing up is when the child learns to push themselves, pumping the legs and pulling back on the swing’s chains in order to swing higher and faster. I remember trying to swing as high as I could, almost feeling as if I could fly.

Our summer cottage stood on a small rise of ground next to a massive oak tree. My father hung a tire swing from one of its branches and we were able to swing out over the front yard on it. At some point my older brother replaced the tire swing with one of the water ski ropes and we had a wonderful trapeze. All the neighborhood kids came to swing on that. The backyard swing set at home couldn't compare to that. So, when we were home, my sister and I moved on to the playground.

The playground in my neighborhood when I was growing up was at the end of my block. The swing set was enormous to my eyes, with several swings and even a couple of trapezes (ones I could sit on! And hang upside down from!). There were also the monkey bars, teeter-totters and merry-go-round. My sister and I spent many hours at the playground and on our own swing set, getting exercise before that term became popular. I wondered how many of the items my sister and I enjoyed still existed at modern day parks and playgrounds, so here is what I found in my town.

Monkey or climbing bars are still popular. I loved to climb trees, but branches had a habit of breaking. And twigs would get in the way or break off in your hair or clothing. The bars were sturdy and solid and placed at almost the right distance for swinging. There was only one set of monkey bars at my playground when I was growing up - you climbed up, swung across and climbed down. The modern sets allow for so many differences in height and approaches.
I hadn't seen the rings version of the monkey bars before, but with the popularity of gymnastics viewing at the Olympics, I shouldn't be surprised. This playground also had a very low balance beam for budding gymnasts.

I like the idea behind this spiderweb. I've also seen nets for climbing. Nowadays I see climbing walls in malls and school gyms.

Playground swings haven't changed much over the years, but the one great change I have noticed at public playgrounds is the addition of seats for infants and for disabled children.

Teeter totters and seesaws come in styles ranging from basic (two seats and a fulcrum), fanciful (with many sorts of animals) to downright odd.

Slides used to come in only two styles - high or low. Now there are spirals and they can also be connected to forts and towers, allowing for much more imaginative play.

The merry-go-round hasn't changed much from what I remembered. So, even if I was creating a playground in a futuristic world, I might still include this along with swings and slides and monkey bars.

What playground features do you remember? Have you come across many mentions of playgrounds in YA? Usually, if the character is nostalgic, there is a scene of the character coming across a playground and swinging briefly on a swing. Has that become almost a trope by now in books as it has in television?


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  2. I don't remember going to a playground when I was a kid. (Guess they didn't have them in the cave man days.) When I was teaching, though, my students had a great time with everything. They seemed especially to like the giant tractor tires painted school colors that they could climb on and sit inside. Great pictures.