I remember being five, swinging up and down on my backyard swing set, my blood pumping as I launched myself into the blue, playing with G-forces, making a toy out of gravity.
But I also remember the feeling of fear as the swing set legs lifted off the ground.
In 1999, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 205,850 playground-equipment-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms. It’s not an uncommon sight for a swing set to do a "wheelie..." to stand on only two legs, leaving the other two dangling in the air.
Johanna Payne, mother of three, has seen many of these "wheelies" personally. And along with her husband, whose master’s degree in mechanical engineering is serving them well today, she’s determined to do something about it.
Together, they’ve designed SwingSafeTM, a water-filled ballast system to help keep swing sets steady. The new, patent-pending product is made of flexible, durable, UV-resistant PVC plastic, and you can attach it to a swing set in a matter of minutes. The padding also protects young kids that may run into the legs, and lets you move the swing set easily whenever you need to mow the lawn.
Manufacturers have proposed other solutions to the wheelie problem, by use of either cement or metal anchors. But both of these solutions immobilize the swing set and are difficult to execute.
Cementing the swing set in place makes it a permanent fixture: if you move, it stays; and when your child gets too old for the swing set and wants the yard space for football instead of swinging, what then?
When swinging kids skid their feet against the ground as they stop or swing, the lawn develops "bald spots." You can avoid this problem by moving the swing set around the yard, so that no one patch of land gets hit for months at a time.
Digging anchors into the ground can damage grassroots, or, worse yet, the sprinkler system. And anchors’ exposed metal tops present dangers of their own to any kids who run around a little carelessly sometimes. (Which pretty much describes all kids.)
SwingSafeTM has the added advantage of being easy to install. To review the instructions, check out http://www.swingsafe.com/instructions.html.
No other anchoring solution also pads the legs of a swing set against running accidents, a particular concern of Payne’s. "My children have run into the legs of the swing set many times while chasing each other or ‘helicoptering’ on the swing. They have a soft cushion now."
And it cushions their trip into the sky, too... and makes it easy for both parents and kids to feel a little more weightless.
This product, not yet in stores, is available at www.swingsafe.com.