Backyard Discovery Blog

How Swing Sets Have Evolved: The best outdoor swing sets throughout history

There is plenty of historical evidence to show that outdoor swing sets have been around for a long time. Historians have found artifacts that contend that swing sets date back as far as 1450 BC in Ancient Greece. Early swing sets were rudimentary and involved wood and rope.

This is an image of the descent of the goddess, known from scences on gold rings. Agia Triada, 1500-1450 BC.

European paintings in the 1700s often depicted women sitting on outdoor swing sets. The best thing about outdoor swing sets was their whimsical, playful nature, which was often romantically depicted in paintings during this era.

In the United States, during the time of pioneers, the best outdoor swing sets were made of wooden sticks and rope tied to a tree. This allowed for much needed distraction while on long journeys through the prairies in their cupboard wagons.

The idea the public playground came about in Germany as a way to teach children manners and how to play fair. These were built alongside schools. The first public playground was built in Manchester, England in 1859, and soon outdoor swing sets and playgrounds spread throughout the world.

The first U.S. playground was built in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in 1887. The big innovation at that time was that the swings were no longer suspended from trees but rather from their own structures, built specifically for that purpose. In fact, this is when swings became known as swing sets, as this were always built in pairs.

By the late 1800s, outdoor swing sets eventually became safer and more standardized in their design.  It was also during this time that child labor laws were established, prohibiting children from working in factories. Fortunately, working children were now free to experience the best outdoor swing sets of the time.

Later, during the Great Depression, the best outdoor swing sets of the era were built by the Work Progress Administration, partly to create jobs for unemployed Americans.

After the end of World War II, as Americans returned to a life of prosperity, families moved to the suburbs, and everyone wanted the best outdoor swing sets in their own backyard. The home swing set was born.

The construction of modern swing sets was largely affected by their predecessors. Early 20th century playgrounds were made of steel, and this caused many injuries and inspired later play sets to be constructed of softer materials like plastic and wood.

Due to the these changes, playground injuries became fewer and fewer. Modern safer structures continue to ensure that kids are safe while having fun.

The best outdoor swing sets have always changed and are continuing to evolve. And any recent or future evolutions come with new safety regulations.  For instance, Consumer’s Digest reports that no equipment like swings should hang from the horizontal climbing bars, a.k.a. monkey bars, because they risk kids getting tangled in the chains or ropes. This is just one recent change that has helped make outdoor swing sets the best and safest they can be.

In 2016, Backyard Discovery and Big Brothers Big Sisters set a record by creating the longest swing set in the world. Using 51 individual Backyard Discovery sets, creating the longest swing set was a labor of love - and teamwork. After the project was completed, each swing set used was gifted to 51 qualifying families. The families, of course, thought they were just there to help celebrate setting the world record and have their kids play on the enormous structure — but they had a huge surprise instead.

Who knows how sing sets may continue to change in the future?

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