Rope swings are a wonderful childhood toy. They encourage kids to get outdoors and play, help form their connections to the natural world, and even encourage thinking about physics. Setting up a swing for (or, even better, with) your child is an invaluable gift.
From tire swings to simple ropes with knots or loops, there are plenty of options to consider. Here's how to build a classic-edition sturdy wooden seat swing.
Safety note: Rope swings are generally safe for kids who have developed some balance and upper body strength, but even then they pose some risk. Young children should be monitored very closely while using any equipment that lifts them off the ground.
Step 1 - Choose Your Rope Swing Tree
Choose a sturdy, tall tree with at least a few thick branches, ideally far from driveways and structures. If you don't have access to a tree, you can build a swing set instead.
Identify a horizontal or mostly horizontal branch from which to hang the swing. For safety, it should be at least eight inches in diameter or 24 inches in circumference at the point you plan to hang the swing (aim for at least three feet from the trunk).
The branch should also be about 12 feet off the ground at the most. Higher branches are harder to reach, and they come with additional safety concerns—the more elevated the support branch, the higher your child can swing.
Step 2 - Build the Seat
Choose a length of water-resistant cedar or redwood for the swing seat. Look for a piece eight inches wide, two inches thick and 18 inches in length.
Sand each seat with fine-grade sandpaper, then drill four one-inch holes (two on each side) for the ropes. The holes should all be one inch in from the seat's short sides and two inches from the front and rear edges. The four holes will balance the swing seat and help prevent flipping and twisting.
Step 3 - Choose and Hang the Ropes from the Tree
Use synthetic, nylon-blend ropes, which will resist rot and unravelling. For a 12-foot branch, you'll need at least 60 feet of one inch thick rope. Cut this length of rope in half to make two ropes for each swing.
Set an extension ladder against the tree to hang the tree swing. If you don't have one, tie a hard ball into a sock and attach it to the end of the rope, then toss the ball over the branch. Pull both ends of the rope till they are even. Even up the opposite rope by the same method.
Tie a loose slip knot in the rope and pull it up to the branch to secure it. Do the same with the other rope, keeping the ends of each rope even.
Step 4 - Attach the Seat
Attach the seat to the ropes by pushing the rope ends through the seat holes and knotting them firmly about 12 inches above the seat top. Measure by eye to ensure the seat is leveled.
If you have a propane torch, you can melt the knots slightly to seal them for added security.
Backrest Seat Alternative
To make a rope swing chair variant with a backrest, use a 12-inch wide board, two inches thick and 24 inches long. Drill the four rope holes as you would for a normal swing, then fasten a 12x24-inch backrest to the seat's rear edge with two-inch wood screws. Sand all the wood to remove all rough edges and surfaces.
Step 5 - Hang the Rope Swing Chair
Attach the ropes as you would for the regular rope swing, then fasten to a large tree branch. The seat should be two to three feet off the ground.