Despite innovations in toys and technology seemingly grabbing our children’s attention at every turn, the humble swing remains a huge favourite for kids today.
We’ve all been on a swing (although maybe not for a long time!) and know just how exhilarating it is to feel like you’re flying through the air as a young child. So it’s not unbelievable to think that, in a world where video games and tech are taking over, the sensation of playing on a swing feels even better for a child of today than it did for us.
But with safety a big, big factor in swing play, it can be a confusing purchase for parents. Babies and younger toddlers need more safety features, but do you need to buy an entirely new swing as they get older?
We’ve put together this guide to answer some of those burning questions, look at why swings are so great for kids, what to look for, and we’ve reviewed some of the best toddler swings to buy.
Benefits of Toddler Swings
Swings actually offer children far more than hours of fun, they offer a number of positive physiological and psychological development benefits, too.
As Alison Rees Edwards, a senior lecturer in early years education at University of Wales Trinity Saint David explained to us - “Toddlers need experiences that involve gross motor movements to be able to develop their fine motor skills, needed for grasping, buttoning and zipping clothing, painting, cutting out and writing.”
"Playing on swings promotes the development of muscles needed for strength, flexibility and endurance. Repeating the same action when swinging also enables children to strengthen and fine-tune their motor skills, such as climbing and coordination”
Senior Lecturer in early years education at University of Wales Trinity Saint David
But what other benefits do toddler swing have? Well, there's quite a few:
The 10 Best Toddler Swings
“A beautiful, rustic finish which will keep the kids entertained for quite some time."
This stunning wooden tree swing from Aoneky is the perfect addition to any garden with a natural, rustic feel. Available in two colours, its edges are rounded and smooth to prevent any nasty splinters. It also comes with 10ft of durable natural hemp rope, adding to the rustic vibe.
“An impressive all in one set that doesn't just do swings - it does the whole playground!"
If you’ve got the budget and the space, you can’t go wrong with this wooden climbing frame from Backyard Discovery. In total, it has 2 flexible swings, 6 foot speedy slide and side rails, an easy to climb rock wall ladder, chalk board, and is totally covered upper deck. It's one of the best backyard swing sets for toddlers available.
“Ideal for larger families and offers a range of different toddler swinging.”
Ideal for larger families or when friends come over, this swing set from MaxKare offers all the fun of swinging without the risk of bickering. The heavy-duty steel frame provides enough space to host two single flat seat swings as well as a two-person glider seat. The frame is powder coated, offering protection from rust and the iron chains are PVC coated to prevent any pinching or rust.
“Offers a personal, relaxing space for your little one.”
This pod swing from Greenstell makes for a wonderful, relaxing addition to your child’s bedroom. Complete with a blow-up cushion, durable straps and fixings, you have everything you need to set up your child’s very own indoor or outdoor swing. The fabric is double-lined, making it a comfortable and breathable environment that will stand the test of time, which also makes it one of the best indoor swings for new toddlers.
“Unbeatable when it comes to longevity. Suitable from 6 months (roughly) to 10 years!”
This colourful swing from vidaXL is ideal for if you’re looking for an infant or toddler swing, but don’t want to have to buy another one when they’re big enough for a flat seat. The infant swing has a smaller, shorter frame with a high-backed, ergonomically designed seat complete with a safety harness and front guard rail that is suitable for babies capable of holding their heads up. When they’re ready to progress, simply add the extended legs to the frame and swap the toddler seat for the flat seat.
This beautiful wooden swing from TP Toys provides space for two fully adjustable single seat swings and a slide. The frame is designed in a way that allows quite a quick and simple assembly for a wooden swing, while the pine wood itself is sourced from managed forests in Europe. It has a compact frame, making it ideal for gardens where space is limited.
"Great value for money, and something the parents and children can enjoy together!"
This basket or ‘nest’ swing seat from Hazli is a brilliant option if you want to swap out your seats on a double frame. It has a self-contained suspension system and hard-wearing steel basket that's covered in soft foam designed to keep children safe and comfortable.
"This is an ideal first toddler swing, with a lovely quality of build and a horse shaped design that many children will recognise and play on."
This wooden horse seat from Ecotribe is a great way to introduce your infant to the swing and will remain a firm favourite until they’re ready to progress to a flat seat. The wooden struts are responsibly sourced and feature a lovely attention to detail, adding something unique and interesting to the seat. It can be attached to an existing frame, a sturdy branch or a fixture indoors (attachments not included), taking the fun wherever you want.
This unique seat from Donghood shop is a great option for toddlers who haven’t quite made the step up to a flat seat. The hand-knitted seat is super soft and comfortable, while the anti-rollback, U-shaped bar allows your little one to sit back and enjoy the ride. The materials are strong and hard wearing, while light and easily removable.
"Brilliantly unique designs which has a special way to capture a young toddler's imagination."
This canvas seat from Happy Pie Play is a lovely, unique option for any garden or indoor swing. It has four wooden bars sitting on top of each other to create a quirky guard rail. The canvas fabric and soft cushion provide a comfortable place to sit while safety straps keep your little one in place.
Types of Swings
There are several different types of swing, each offering their own unique benefits and age suitabilities.
One of the most traditional, a tyre swing sees a vehicle tyre often hanging from a sturdy tree branch. Given the relatively large hole used as the seat, it’s not the best bet for toddlers.
Bucket seat swing
Most likely the first swing you’ll put your child into, a bucket seat is a fixed structure with two holes at the bottom for the child’s legs and a safety bar across their midriff to prevent them falling out. Some, but not all, will also include a safety harness. This is certainly one for babies and younger toddlers.
Half bucket seat swing
Half bucket seats are somewhere between a bucket seat and a flat seat. They offer a more flexible structure than a bucket seat (and sometimes a harness), but greater protection than a flat seat. These are most commonly used for older toddlers who aren’t quite ready to make the jump to a flat seat.
Flat seat swing
By far the most common type of swing seen in playgrounds, a flat seat is, well, just a flat seat! There is nothing to stop your child falling off, so they need to be comfortable and able to balance themselves while swinging.
A glider swing is a sort of double-ended seat with foot stirrups and handles at either end. Not only does this allow for two children to have a go at the same time (therefore avoiding complaints about who has had too many turns!), but they regulate speed to prevent the swing from going too high or too fast.
Known as either a basket swing or a saucer swing, this type has a very wide circular base usually made from tightened rope or netted structure and a thick edge. They are designed to hold more than one person and a much slower, safer and relaxed experience.
Some swings can easily be made use of indoors, particularly baby swings that are small and compact enough to fit in the living room. Some are combined with a slide to create a fun playset for little ones like this one. And others are designed specifically for use indoors. They are either high-energy swings or trapeze sets that fit to door frames in the same way a pull-up bar would, or more gentle hammock-style swings that are perfect for relaxing or reading a book.
Ways To Play Together In A Toddler Swing
We get it, playing on the swings in the traditional way could get a bit tiresome - especially during a year-long pandemic. So, here are a few ways to breathe some fire (not literally!) and fun back into the swing if your little one is a bit swung-out thanks to Covid.
You can see where this is going. Build a tower out of cardboard boxes or something similar (another activity to do with them!) a few feet in front of the swing - close enough for them to reach but far enough away that they need to get some momentum first. Once the tower is built, all that’s left to do is knock it down! If they’re old enough to be swinging themselves, you can make a challenge out of it to see how many swings they need to knock down the tower.
This will help them to understand momentum while helping to build their muscle and core strength.
Hide and seek
This is a great one for younger toddlers that are old enough to swing themselves. Stand in front of them and tell them to start swinging. They need to close their eyes for five seconds to give you time to move. Once the five seconds is up, see how fast they can spot you!
Closing your eyes is surprisingly good for orientation and spatial awareness development.
Some parents might frown at this one because it’s not strictly how a swing should be used. Have your child sit on the swing and slowly twist the seat a few times for them. Let go and let the twister begin!
This one is actually great for vestibular development and building both gross and fine motor skills.
It may sound really simple, but sometimes pushing your little one from the front is a great way to freshen up swing play. One of the biggest downsides of swinging is that, as parents, we typically stand behind our kids where we can’t see their enjoyment. Standing in front helps you both to enjoy the experience together, and you could even add in the challenge of them reaching your hand with their foot while you push with the other hand.
This is definitely best for bonding and engaging in the activity together.
Let them take the lead
How does your child want to play? Our children’s imaginations are incredible things and they may be able to muster a game we could never think of.
This is brilliant for developing independent learning and play skills.
Things To Consider When Buying Outdoor Swings For Toddlers
There are a number of things to keep in mind when purchasing a swing for your child.
The vast majority of swings are made from either wood or metal. Metal frames are considerably cheaper and often brightly coloured with little to no maintenance, whereas wooden frames give a much nicer look but can be extremely expensive while requiring yearly maintenance.
Whichever type of material you go for, make sure it’s well built and sturdy enough to withstand some pretty excited children.
Swings can take up a surprisingly large amount of space in the garden, so it’s important to consider the size of the swing itself and where you position it. You should have plenty of empty space around the swing and face away from anything that could cause injury, like patios, walls, fences, furniture, plant pots or ornaments, in case your child fall forwards or backwards off the swing.
One of the biggest bugbears of a parent when it comes to their children playing on a swing is the bickering about whose turn it is, and whether one of them has been hogging it for too long. So if you have more than one child, you may want to opt for a glider or basket swing to allow more than one to have a go at the same time.
Naturally, the type of swing you have will depend on how old your children are. You need to pick the most appropriate type of swing for their age and how capable they are to maintain their balance and keep themselves safe. You may want to consider a swing that is capable of growing with the child - while the frame itself doesn’t get bigger, you may want to consider buying a particular sturdy frame with a high maximum weight capacity so you can simply swap out the seat itself as they get older.
This is probably the least important factor compared with the enjoyment and safety of your children. But it will still be a factor for some parents. The last thing you want to do after exciting your kids by buying a swing (or even worse, on a deadline for a birthday surprise!) is to spend hours and hours trying to piece together an over-complicated design.
Naturally, this is a huge consideration for a lot of parents. But, as we always say, it’s not so much about the price itself but value for money. Realistically, a swing at the bottom end of the price range isn’t going to last your kids’ entire childhood, so if you can, it’s worth paying a little extra in the short-term for something that is built to last in the long-term.
Toddler Swing FAQs
Do I need an infant-to-toddler swing?
No, you don’t need to buy an infant-to-toddler swing. Most swing seats are easily interchangeable, however, some models come with 3in1 seats that adapt as your child grows older.
Do they make tree swings for toddlers?
Some swings are made specifically to hang outside from a tree, particularly more relaxed hammock-style swings, and will come with specialised tree hooks. If not, you can buy these separately. You just need to make sure that both the branch and the hooks are strong enough to withstand the weight.
What is the safest toddler swing?
A bucket seat is the safest swing for a toddler until they’re able to hold onto the ropes/chains and balance themselves properly.
Can I buy a used toddler swing?
Yes, swings are quite common on websites like eBay, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. As with any second-hand purchase, just make sure it is in good condition and free from any structural defects.
Is swinging a baby dangerous?
General guidance is that if your baby can hold their hold up for long periods of time, they can go on a swing. However, they must be placed in a secure bucket seat. If your baby is quite small but can hold their head up, consider whether or not they are likely to fit securely in the seat.
How big should my ‘safe zone’ be?
You should leave a minimum of 6ft in front and behind the swing to prevent accidents or injuries.
How long does it take to install a swing?
Metal frame swings are relatively simple to piece together and can generally be completed in 15-20 minutes. Wood swings often take much longer because of the size and weight of the different pieces, and you should put it together with the help of another adult.
Do I need to lay concrete to secure the swing?
A lot of swings will come with poles attached to the four corners of the frame to be knocked into the ground and secure it in position. If your swing doesn’t, then it is advisable to fix the frame into the ground by laying some concrete to prevent it from tipping. Most wood frames are typically far heavier than metal ones, and don’t necessarily need to be fixed in place.
If you do need to lay concrete, make sure you’ve chosen the right location for the swing!
Can I change the seat?
Absolutely. It’s really simple to change the type of seat on your swing, but be sure that there is enough space within the frame for the new seat and that the chain/rope and frame are capable of holding any extra weight - if you wanted to go from a baby bucket seat to a basket swing, for example.