In the Swing of Things
As a child, I always loved Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “The Swing,” from his A Child’s Garden of Verses. It spoke to me, even at a young age, about the joys of soaring through the air and of the unique perspective a swing offered otherwise-earthbound wee ones. Several decades later, the swings are the first thing my three-year-old wants to try when she hits the park — any park, in any part of the world. And last year, “The Swing” was the poem my seven-year-old memorized and recited the first time she participated in her school’s wildly popular Poetry Night.
How do you like to go up in a swing,
?Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do! ??
Up in the air and over the wall, ?
Till I can see so wide, ?
Rivers and trees and cattle and all,
Over the countryside —
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown —
Up in the air I go flying again, ?
Up in the air and down!
As the weather gets chillier and after-school play moves at least partially indoors, it’s a great time to reassess interior play spaces and consider making a few changes. Like adding a swing! It won’t quite afford the same views as an outdoor swing, but swinging in and of itself is just plain fun — and it helps kids work on gross and fine motor skills (swinging engages abs, arms and legs, and develops hand and finger control and strength), as well as a host of other skills like cooperation, balance and confidence. I’ve added trapeze swings to my roundup, too; they offer the same kind of fun, and can be used as sit-upon swings by all but the smallest toddlers, too.
Adding a swing inside isn’t as out there as it may seem (but keep safety top of mind, see a list of tips at the bottom of this post). Plenty of parents have gone before, and even made the apparatuses look rather winsome in the process, coordinating with — or at least not clashing with — their decor.
Here are some of my favourites.
In our house, I’d consider something simple like this. A basic swing — a small plank and a couple lengths of rope, much like the one in our front yard — mounted in a wide doorway between the living and dining rooms. When ceilings are iffy (like our decades-old plaster ones that won’t even hold a screw), doorways can be a great alternative.
This swing is made with $17 worth of supplies from Ikea. (Basic directions are posted here.)
Fun at Home with Kids blogger Asia Citro went above and beyond when creating this no-holds-barred playroom for her two young kids at their Seattle, Wash., home. A trapeze swing with rings and a boat-shaped swing (the Ships See Saw swing by Haba) are complemented by a climbing wall, art centre, and loads of toys and storage.
Among other fantastical decorating and lifestyle options (I’m thinking of Tom Hanks’ character’s place in the film Big or Ally Sheedy’s in St. Elmo’s Fire), high, roomy converted lofts afford loads of space for a swing or even two. They give kids a coveted place to play near their parents — and exposed beams make it easy to install one.
I’m not certain how one gets up onto the higher swing here… but it sure looks like fun!
For younger kids, consider a swing with a back and handlebars — like this one at journalist-stylist-designer Jennifer Jansch’s home in Stockholm — and hang it close to the ground so it’s easy to get on and off.
It might be tough to keep kids at the table during meals with a swing in the kitchen — but I give these Helsinki parents (Mom is Finnish fashion designer Tuula Pöyhönen) bonus points for style: the crafty swing is an old tire cut and styled to look like a horse.
Then again, installing a baby swing in the kitchen may be just the ticket for cooking dinner and keeping baby happy simultaneously.
A standard tire swing has an authentic 1970s playground aesthetic. In a black and white bedroom, this one looks graphic and bold.
Live in an old Victorian or farmhouse with big rooms and high ceilings? Then you’ve got space for a trapeze, as A Cup of Jo blogger Joanna Goddard’s friend Sophie Demenge (of children’s furniture and clothing company Oeuf) did in her Brooklyn, N.Y., homes. It’ll be especially popular with kids who want to keep their skills brushed up between summers at Circus Camp.
Of course little ones embracing their inner princesses (like my two) may want to put their own personal touches on a swing or trapeze — ribbons, bows or glitter, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the workings or pose any dangers to kids — to zhoozh it up a little bit!
Exposed beams are a natural spot for a simple swing bar in a nine-year-old boy’s room in Copenhagen. (I love how the beams also act as a display spot for favourite outgrown toys!) Be sure to mount swings and trapezes nice and low for younger children.
Like trapeze bars, busy preschoolers and grade-schoolers can have no end of fun with a basic set of rings — especially when paired with an ad hoc climbing wall and partially hidden built-in bunk beds. Call it a private playground!
A swinging bed at golfer Greg Norman’s house in Hobe Sound, Fla., is an over-the-top take on the indoor swing. Obviously, construction would entail an engineer and load test as opposed to just a screwdriver and a couple screws — but your child will undoubtedly have the best room in the house!
You’re the best judge of what’s safe for your children, but here are a few things to consider.
• Use sturdy rope and screws or hooks to mount swings; consult hardware-store staff for suggestions.
• Give a swing a wide berth: leave enough space on all sides so that kids won’t bump walls or furniture.
• With smaller kids, set rules about not using the swing when you’re not around. Consider a detachable swing that fastens to hooks high up on the ropes so you can detach it when you’re not in the room.
• If you’re worried about spills, add a plush carpet or gymnastics mat underneath, and don’t hang a swing near stairwells or areas where kids could have long falls to the ground.
• If you’re uncertain about where your ceiling studs/beams are or whether aging plaster or drywall can stand to have anything mounted on it (ours certainly can’t!), sturdy door frames can be a great option.
2. Real Simple
3. Fun at Home with Kids
4. This is Glamorous
5. Rafa Kids
6. Photography by Lena Granefelt from Sköna Hem
7. French by Design
8. Photograph by Mikkel Adsbol from KML Design
9. The Boo and the Boy
10. Coming Kids
11. Photo by Stephanie Deleau from A Cup of Jo; Photo by K.Balas from Milk magazine
13. Architecture Art Design
14. Adore Your Place