Swing Seats and Spares Direct to you at sutcliffeplaydirect.co.uk

Call us on 01977 653 200

Story of the swing…

All studies looking at the use of swings show they are the most popular item on the playground.

Swinging in everyday life...

Most children love the feeling of rocking and swinging, and while our natural affinity with this motion is present at birth, it begins well before. The movement that babies experience for 9 months in the womb creates the sense of a harmonious swinging sensation which feels familiar, secure and nurturing.

Parents have always used methods to replicate this experience after birth, such as carrying their baby in their arms, in a sling, or rocking the cradle. The familiarity of the motion is comforting, which is why babies cry once the movement stops. As a result, any activity which can replicate this sensation is, of course, likely to prove highly popular.

Play value of swings…

Enter, the humble swing! From its beginnings, as one of the most common “homemade” pieces of play equipment, to today’s huge range of designs the swing is a timeless classic of the playground, that any space is poorer without. We already know at least part of their massive appeal can be explained by children’s innate biological development, but why else have the swings stuck around for so long?

Swings are a uniquely versatile product. They can be exhilarating or soothing, depending not only on the seat but also the child, who may prefer to swing vigorously or rock gently. Either way, they appeal to children’s natural curiosity and intrinsic sense of adventure, by allowing them to demonstrate their strength, courage, and sense of mischief.

But the benefits run deeper, too: the physical act of swinging has been found to be beneficial for children’s muscular development – it stimulates the heart and lungs, promoting the flow of oxygen to the brain. It aids children’s concept of movement, introducing vital subconscious concepts of velocity, relative speed, height and rotation. When they play the popular game of leaping off to see how far they can reach, for instance, they’re not simply competing with their peers, but unknowingly exploring how trajectories work. Swings can even deliver more specialised benefits – it has been observed that deaf children find the act particularly soothing, which is believed to be related to the sensation they feel in the three semi-circular canals in the ear.

Swings also help progress children’s psychological and cognitive development. In their earliest experiences with them, toddlers will surrender control of the activity to the pusher, deferring the responsibility of assessing risk. As they see their confidence grow, however, they begin to take control, and in the process learn to identify their own boundaries in terms of physical ability – which is a key cognitive skill in later life.

In terms of interpersonal and social development, too, swings are a vital part of the playground. The most common use for them is actually socialising, rather than swinging, with the seats providing a comfortable resting place, and children often found sitting or standing on them to engage in conversation. These vital moments help children to develop their interpersonal skills, and begin to understand their own comfort with communication – for example, they may swing out of conversations when they get difficult.

Thanks to Frazer Brown, Leeds Metropolitan University for his contribution on the theory and play value of swings. 

Now for the science bit….

Throughout our long history, we have become rightly regarded as one of the foremost pioneers in the design and manufacture of swing seats. Having brought a huge selection of shapes, sizes and functions to playgrounds across the country for years, our history is one of innovation when it comes to these perennial play space favourites – and it’s a story punctuated by several notable milestones:

Early swing seats

During the 1970s, public playgrounds were becoming more commonplace - but so too was the number of accidents in them, such as children being struck by rigid swings. In 1976, we sought to address this problem, by developing a safety swing seat which utilised the engineering properties of rubber and combined high levels of shock absorption with durability. This new seat absorbed impact energy by using the theory of buckling, most commonly found in the automotive industry.

Testing time

The innovative product was subject to extensive testing, carried out with The Franklin Institute Research Laboratories in Philadelphia and the Rubber & Plastics Research Association of Great Britain – and the encouraging results showed the seat absorbing the energy of any impact. It even went on to receive wider exposure, when it appeared on the BBC’s ‘Tomorrow’s World’!

How it works...

Buckling struts are created by a cellular structure of two rows of holes that distort on impact. The safety standard adopted at the time was a maximum peak G impact force of 50, with any impact over that considered to be unsafe. During stringent testing it was found that our rubber flat swing seat had a peak G impact force of only 4% of the hardwood seat, well below the standard 50 G. The original rubber flat seat has had modification over the years and the flexi-hinge has continually been developed. It is now used across many of our seat designs to enhance the safety performance and play value experience for children.

Cradle Seat

Although the flat seat is ideal for 3–14-year-olds, we recognised the need for an additional seat which would be better suited to even younger children, who needed greater support and supervision. Our first cradle seat was designed in the late 1970s, and reproduced existing wood and steel seat designs which held the child in place as they swung but encased these components in rubber for a softer touch. In time, this would eventually be replaced by a new, improved, single-tier cradle seat. This new design was deeper, giving greater security to the child, and featured a new fixing - but crucially, it also conformed to the impact requirements of the European safety standard regulation EN1176.

Pod Seat

In the early 00s, our designers recognised the need to innovate again. Designing from scratch, they introduced a completely new concept of seat for toddlers and babies, and in 2004, the Pod Seat was born. A revolutionary, technically superior seat, its low centre of gravity makes it very stable, and a rigid stainless steel top ring gives support, security and unparalleled comfort. Advanced polymeric technology around a stainless-steel cable delivers great flexibility and allows the Pod to effectively hug the child when swinging. The seat also has excellent energy absorbing properties, and its peak G force of 25 places it among the safest cradle seats on the market. Not content with resting on their laurels, however, our team continued to finetune the product, and in the early 2020s, their drive for innovation produced the Duo Pod seat. This further delivered on the social development potential of swings, by offering a double pod on one seat, allowing two young visitors to use it at the same time and enjoy a fantastic communal experience – proving once and for all that two swings are better than one!

Swinging towards Inclusion…

In 2001, Sutcliffe Play was asked by Elizabeth Allunt to participate in a trial organised at James Rennie School in Carlisle, which caters for children with severe and profound disabilities. The trial was intended to find ways to meet the requirements of the impending Disability Discrimination Act, which eventually came into effect in 2004, and which required public facilities to make physical adjustments to ensure accessibility for those with disabilities.

We were proud to participate in this drive to make play spaces more accessible, as it reflected our own commitments to inclusive play, and helping every child reap the rewards of a fulfilling play experience. At this time, the cost implications of adapting or redesigning play areas were huge, but a possible solution presented itself: installing a new, inclusive swing seat on an existing frame.

Out with the old...

A seat intended to cater for children with special educational needs or disabilities was already available from our range, and various seats from other suppliers were also used in the trial. The results were mixed, with none of the participants’ entries fully suited to the needs of the end user in terms of enjoyment or safety.

In with the new...

As a result of this trial (and our strong commitment to inclusive play), our designers were once again compelled to innovate, and produce a new product which met the standards of a modern society that demanded greater inclusivity in public spaces. The new seat was to incorporate the patented impact absorbing construction that Sutcliffe Play was renowned for but would also allow children who didn’t have good balance, coordination or strong grip to enjoy the swinging sensation.

Inclusive Seat

After extensive testing, a new inclusive seat finally emerged, consisting of a stainless-steel, corrosion resistant frame which was lightweight as well as strong. Its tough, synthetic, rubber slung seat was reinforced with vandal resistant stainless steel wire rope, and the seat was supplied with chains fixed in an upright position, making it ultra-supportive for those with limited accessibility. Special adjustable chains even enabled the seat to be laid flat, to allow a severely disabled child to enjoy a gentle rocking motion - and to deliver the broadest possible appeal, the seat can also be used by any child as an old-fashioned boat swing.

Today, Sutcliffe Play continues to be a leading manufacturer of swing seats worldwide, and we are committed to developing new designs, as well as modifying current designs, to keep these timeless classics at the peak of their popularity in every playground.

Get in Touch

We’d love to hear from you, please fill in the form below and we’ll be in touch…