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Chain Swings Or Rope, And Why It Matters

Aug 17, 2007
Probably one of the last things on your mind when you're trying to choose an outdoor swing set is whether the swings should hang on chains or on ropes. Such choices are often left to the asthetics of the lawn, or to whatever the particular swingset you happen to like, happens to have. But the question is, in fact, rather more important than you might think. Both options have considerable advantages and disadvantages, and it's worth keeping them in mind as you shop for the perfect swingset.

Rope swings are undoubtedly the most attractive of the two, and they have the advantage of being fairly easy on the hands. But ropes can be damaged by weather conditions, and they have to be replaced regularly--at least once a year--in order to ensure that the swingset continues to be safe. Some ropes have been treated to make them weather proof; ask your salesman if the ropes have recieved this treatment. On the one hand, it might sound like a good idea, since ropes will have to be replaced less often, and will be stronger throughout their lifetime, but in fact, those ropes have been treated with chemicals, and while they're probably safe in the short term, it's unlikely that any long term studies have been done on their effects to children who use them regularly. If your child is at all likely to play on a swingset for long periods of time, and to keep doing it for several years, treated ropes are probably *not* the way to go.

At first glance, chains would seem to be the more dangerous and less pleasant of the options; after all, who hasn't had their hand pinched when they were swinging as a child? But in fact, all chains are not created equal. In general, there are two sizes of chains; one is the small one that you see on most home swingsets, and the other is the thick, stout, smooth chain which you see on swingsets at most parks. The first one is stronger and more durable than rope, but a child's hand can get pinched in it rather easily. It's not fatal or anything, but it does hurt like crazy. Get pinched frequently enough, and it's enough to make you go off the idea of swingsets as a form of recreation.

By far the best of the three choices is the commercial chain such as you find on swingsets at parks. The bad news is, it can be difficult to find these for non-commercial, home use; the good news is, it's getting easier, as more and more parents realize that these are the most effective and safest form of suspension for swingsets anywhere.
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