Keeping Your Toddler Safe in an Outdoor Swing

Mom kissing toddler who is sitting in a swing
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Whether at the playground or in your own yard, at some point your toddler will likely end up using an outdoor swing. Knowing how to keep your toddler safe in a swing can help them have fun and also prevent injury. While swings are meant to be an enjoyable activity for your toddler, they can also pose certain safety risks if they're not maintained or are used improperly, so it's important to learn the ins and outs of swing safety.

Choose The Right Swing

Falling from a swing can cause serious injury. Studies show that falls from swings account for up to 31% of traumatic brain injury-related emergency room visits in kids up to age 4. Swing falls can also cause less serious injuries like fractures, cuts, and bruises.

For optimal safety while your toddler is still learning how to swing, choose a swing with a full bucket seat or safety harness that includes a three-point harness. These seats can help prevent your child from leaning too far forward or backward, which can put them at risk for falling out of the seat.

Toddlers come in all shapes and sizes, and so do toddler swings. Check the weight limit on the swing you intend to buy and stick to it. If your little one is growing quickly, they might be ready to move to a swing the next size up.

Install Your Swing Correctly

Follow all manufacturer's guidelines and instructions to ensure that your toddler's swing is installed correctly. When you're choosing a spot in your yard for your child's swing, make sure that there is plenty of clearance in front of and behind it. You also want to make sure whatever surface is under the swing is safe for your child to land on.

Outdoor walls, fences, and other structures in your yard should be at least 6 feet away from the swing (and its range). The structure that the swing is on, whether metal anchors, chains, or ropes, should be secure.

If you have more than one swing, make sure they are at least 2 feet apart, and don't put more than two swings on the same structure. If you are using a tire swing, stick to just one swing per structure.

Inspect Your Swing

To help make sure your toddler's swing stays in safe shape, give the swing a regular once-over to check for potential safety issues.

Get in the habit of inspecting it for any cracks, especially if it is made out of plastic. Leaving your swing outside during the winter months can make it more prone to cracking, which could lead to injury. If you can, store any outdoor play equipment (including swings) inside during the winter.

Check your swing for loose connections, including any ropes or chains that attach a toddler swing to the play structure. Always ensure that there are no loose or frayed ropes or breaks in the chain. If you notice any, make sure that they are repaired or replaced before your toddler uses their swing again.

Enforce Safe Swinging Rules

Set expectations regarding swing safety with your child and emphasize how important it is to follow swing safety rules. Don't let your kids lie on their stomachs on a swing, run and jump onto a swing, or jump off a swing, as these actions can increase their risk of injury.

If your toddler has difficulty following your swing safety rules (as toddlers sometimes do) they might need to take a break from the swing and try other outdoor activities instead. Swings can be fun, but there are plenty of other ways to get your little ones outside. Walks around the neighborhood, blowing bubbles, or playing with a ball outdoors are all safe alternatives to try if your toddler isn't quite ready to follow swing safety rules.

Stay Aware of Swing Recalls

Product recalls are scary—especially when they could affect your kids—but they do happen, so it's important for parents to stay aware of safety recalls.

An example in recent years was the recall of a popular toddler swing manufactured by Little Tikes, which was recalled because of safety issues in 2017. When the recall happened, many families realized that they had the swing hanging up in their backyards.

Little Tykes Recall

On February 23, 2017, Little Tikes issued a recall for the 2-in-1 Snug 'N Secure Pink Swing.

If you have the swing, check the manufacturing date code stamp (located on the back of the seat with a molded inner arrow pointing to a number).

The swings that were included in the recall:

  • Are stamped with a “10,” “11,” “12,” or “13”
  • OR have a "9" stamped on the inner arrow, combined with a number "43" or higher stamped on the outer arrow

The recall number (17-096) included swings that were manufactured between November 2009 and December 2013.

  • The recall affected about 540,000 total swings. It was issued because the plastic seat on the swing was cracking or breaking. When the swings fell, it caused kids to be injured.
  • Thirty-nine injuries were reported. Most were abrasions, bruises, cuts, and bumps to the head. Two of the reported injuries were a broken arm.

Little Tikes instructed consumers to stop using the product immediately. If your swing was included in the recall you can call the company or fill out a recall credit request toward the purchase of a new (non-recalled) swing replacement on the website.

You can stay aware of recalls by periodically searching for your child's swing on the U.S. government recall site. If a swing that you have at home is included in a recall, stop using the product and follow the manufacturer's recall instructions.

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Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Playground safety. Updated February 6, 2019.

  2. Cheng TA, Bell JM, Haileyesus T, Gilchrist J, Sugerman DE, Coronado VG. Nonfatal playground-related traumatic brain injuries among children, 2001-2013Pediatrics. 2016;137(6):e20152721-e20152721. doi:10.1542/peds.2015-2721

  3. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Public playground safety handbook. November 2010.

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Gilchrist, J. Playground Safety. Updated June 11, 2018.

  5. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Little Tikes recalls toddler swings due to fall hazard. Updated February 23, 2017.