Woodplay Infographics

Wooden Swing Sets: The Evolution of Swing Sets

Where do they come from?

Greek vase painters, as early as 5th century B.C., are known to have captured life’s more playful moments, including women and children playing on a swing. And while such evidence suggests that swings are an ancient notion, the modern concept of playground equipment as we know it today began in the United States at the turn of the 20th century, amidst cultural and economic reform.

Images of swings are present in art as early as the 5th century B.C.

Swings are ancient. Swing Sets are new.

Social reform. Idle Children.

1890 - 1900: First playgrounds spring up across U.S.

In the late 1800s, when child labor laws successfully increased the minimum working age, newly idle children had no safe place to play in urban areas. Setting aside space and creating playground equipment, then, became the heart of a movement backed by women and educators in many private associations.

1920: 1st Playground Standards Issued

The National Recreation Association began publishing recommendations for school playground equipment.

Jungle Gym patented by Sebatian Hinton

1930: Great Depression - Government Funding

During the Great Depression playgrounds grew rapidly across the country, and were funded by the Federal Government.

1940: Playgrounds Fall into Disrepair

World War II put a damper on the manufacture of new playground equipment and many fell into disrepair.

1950: Post-War Boom

In the post-war period, there was a boom in playground construction for, you guessed it, the Baby Boomers. Public playgrounds were funded right along with a flood of public school, housing and highway construction projects.

1960: Jungle Gyms Get Creative

In the 1960s, designers created unusual play structures based upon new ideas from child psychology, encouraging decision-making and social interaction. The concept was dubbed "Adventure Playgrounds." These structures were predominantly made from steel.

1970: Injuries Surged From Steel Playgrounds


1975: Redwood Playsets Are Born

In 1975, two young partners (and parents), who noticed the danger of steel playsets, began Woodplay Playsets in Raleigh, North Carolina, as the Original Redwood Playset Company.®

1980 - 1990: Safe. Safer. Safest.

CPSC: Consumer Product Safety Commission

The Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published standards in the 1980s that would greatly influence swing set design for future generations. The new regulations included recommendations for removing hard equipment (metal bars) and substituting "soft" replacements such as wood and plastic. The change to wooden swing sets accelerated through the 1990s, and injuries from the playground equipment lessened. In the 1990s, further guidlines brought finely tuned sensitivity to safety issues in swing set design. At the start of the 21st century, installation of wooden playground equipment continued to accelerate.

Now: Rebirth of Outdoor Play

In 2011, the childhood obesity concern has given rise to an increased interest in outdoor play. The driving factor behind swing set design today is to achieve a swing set which stimulates the imagination and increases physical activity, while remaining safe. and the finest swing set manufacturers work only with lumber mills which meet or exceed the standards of either the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), which plants five trees for every tree harvested.

Swing Sets Evolution Infographic

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