My son stood straddled over the grasshopper, his face beet red, his arms held up straight on both sides of him like some anime character readying a power move. His feet were braced, his head down, his voice strained.
All around him were children pressing in to see the grasshopper that just so happened to flutter into the local playground, alighting on the playground surface.
At first, this simple creature was ignored until my son, an avid lover of all things that creep and crawl, noticed and began to inspect it. A crowd of curious kids quickly swarmed around him when one large fellow, raising his foot, declared, “I am going to squish it!”
My son, generally a peaceful child who doesn’t start fights with other children, took those as fighting words and immediately moved to protect the grasshopper, placing himself over the creature. He would not let this other child, who was larger than himself, squish this bug.
Let’s pause right there. How many different social skills were stretched or presented in this snapshot of a moment?
- Conflict resolution
- Kindness towards animals
- Standing against the crowd
- Caring about the defenseless
- How to diffuse a tense situation
- Respect for each other
And all of this took place on a local playground!
As a parent, you care about your children’s budding social skills. All of us parents do our best to teach and train our children, but the natural, real-life problems a child faces on a swing set can help them hone or practice their social skills in a way that lessons, books, or TV shows (looking at you, Daniel Tiger) can’t.
Learning how to play and get along with their siblings and friends is an integral part of growing up. Though admittedly not essential to the process, a swing set can provide an excellent canvas for practicing and learning!
So, what are some common skills a child could develop and practice on your swing set in the comfort of your backyard?
Here are just a few examples:
- Collaborating and Cooperation
Let’s look at these individually and see how it could play out.
Collaborating and Cooperation
Watching children play imaginary games always amazes me. How do they work out whose imagination is right, whose imagination takes charge? Yes, to Billy, the swing set is a rocket ship but suddenly, Leroy adds in an asteroid. How do these two boys mingle their imaginations?
One thing is for sure. If they don’t collaborate on their imaginative game, the game comes to an immediate end. Not only does it come to an end, but it can come to a unpleasant end with arguing, fighting, and time-outs.
A swing set, especially one with a playhouse, provides a rich environment for imaginative play. How and what the swing set transforms into in the children’s minds can vary between morning and evening and, sometimes, minute by minute. But the ever-present need for collaboration and cooperation remains.
Children learn to be flexible with their ideas. They might want the vinyl swing set to be a castle, but their friends or siblings want to add a launching pad. A decision is placed before the child; be flexible with what they want or risk having the play descend into fights. And let’s face it, a castle with a launching pad sounds even better than the original idea!
Playing on a swing set provides many opportunities for children to learn to collaborate and cooperate for the good of everyone. Now, if we could just get the members of Congress and the Senate to play on a playground…
We adults could all use more patience. From waiting at a crowded fast food restaurant for our mobile order to how we respond when we get a notification that our Amazon package is running late, we all could mature in this.
Teaching kids patience at a young age is critical for their success as adults. A vinyl swing set is full of places to learn patience.
Is your brother or sister using your favorite swing? You need to wait patiently for them to get off. You quickly learn the consequences of not being patient if you take aggressive actions to get your swing immediately.
Is the little brother going up the climbing wall slowly? Big sister needs to exercise patience to wait until the little dude is safely up before taking the climb.
I could continue with examples, but you are clever enough to think of them yourself. One of the benefits of putting a swing set in your backyard is all that social skill practice your kids will get!
This ties in with the above social skills but is worth discussing. What should Sarah do if she is swinging away and Tommy wants a turn on the swing? If she keeps swinging, Tommy might be sad. She wants to keep swinging, but Tommy, her best friend from next door, looks sad. She heard Mom and Dad talk about how sharing helps make people happy, so sighing, she slides of the swing and lets Tommy take a turn.
Sharing is such an important life skill. It sets you up to be a kind, caring adult who people trust. Learning to share all the fun slides, swings, and toys on a vinyl swing set is a significant step.
Right after little Sarah jumped off her swing to let Tommy take a turn, she ran towards the slide, tripped, and fell. She scraped her knee against the toy Tonka truck her little brother left outside and is now sitting, examining her knee and holding back tears.
Tommy, who finally got the swing he wanted, sees Sarah sniffling. Sarah is his good friend and she just shared with him. He jumps off his swing and runs over to help her up.
Little moments like this one stacked up over a childhood will develop Tommy into an empathic person. He can put aside his wants and desires because he cares and understands the feelings of others.
Of course, having or not having a swing set isn’t the main point. Tommy could be a jerk without ever stepping foot on a playground, or he could be a fantastic person. That being said, a swing set in your backyard will provide plenty of opportunities for your children to learn and practice empathy.
A swing set, while not necessary for the development of social skills of your children, can help present plenty of opportunities for practicing and sharpening these skills. It will provide the setting for you to teach cooperation, empathy, patience, and sharing.
King Swings has been crafting playgrounds for over 30 years and we would love to help walk you through the process of designing the perfect swing set for your family! Our swing set design team has great social skills (must have grown up with a swing set) and is standing by to answer your questions!