As the cold weather slowly creeps in and outdoor play is less frequent I find myself facing the same problem as most parents I know… how do we keep our kids active when they’re stuck indoors? I’d love to say that our evenings are full of board games and Nerf gun fights, but the truth is that someone needs to cook dinner, wash the dishes and take care of all the other responsibilities that pile up towards the end of the day. When I’m busy my kids gravitate towards their tablets, leaving me to ponder what I imagine is the most popular parenting question out there: Are my kids getting too much screen time, and how can I control it while still encouraging them to have fun?
When I was contacted about Swingy – a product that blends technology and physical activity – I knew I had to find out more and share a Swingy review here for parents facing the same questions about screen time as I am. These days we’re always trying to figure out how to trade technology for actual physical play. My kids love their tablets and trying to replace them is always a source of arguments in our home. They see it as a punishment, which makes it difficult to convince them to try new activities. I just want some balance. And balance is what Swingy is all about. Swingy isn’t about taking away the technology and forcing our kids outside. It’s about blending physical activity and the technology our kids love to create an environment where they are having fun while building and strengthening core muscles used for good balance, coordination, agility, reflexes and posture.
We received a Swingy to try at home and I was really excited about showing it to the kids, but at the same time I wondered if this was too good to be true. Would this new game really make my kids want to get up and move, or would it just be another thing to argue about as they begged to watch YouTube videos for hours on end?
When our Swingy arrived I quickly unboxed it. The Swingy consists of two colorful beechwood balance boards with small bluetooth sensors attached. Children (or adults) stand on the Swingy boards and use them to wirelessly control games inside the Swingy app on their tablets. In this case we played Swing Pong, a Ping Pong style game where players must control the sliders by moving the balance boards with their feet. As the game progresses the ball gets smaller or faster and the players face a number of ‘power ups’ that make each level more challenging.
We had the perfect opportunity to test Swingy last week as we celebrated my son’s birthday. With about 15 kids ages 3-8 in the house I was interested to see how each of them reacted to the game. As I set up the Swingy unit (a process that takes about two minutes to sync the Bluetooth receivers to your tablet) I wondered if this group of kids would really be convinced to get up and play. I had my answer as soon as the kids walked into the room and swarmed around the Swingy boards. The colors and design of the Swingy balance boards are really attractive to kids. Right out of the box they look like something designed to be fun!
Before I could even explain how the game worked the kids had followed the simple on screen prompts to get started. The app interface is simple and intuitive and even our youngest players had quickly worked out the basics of Swing Pong. For the rest of the evening they children took turns attempting to beat each other’s high scores. We eventually pried the kids away long enough to have birthday cake and to get them to tell me what they thought before they ran back to start another game:
“This is cool. Is it supposed to be work? It’s more fun than gym class!”
“I’m going to keep playing so that my balance gets good enough for you to buy me a skateboard.”
“Can I come back tonight and beat everyone’s high score?”
“I was afraid to get on the boards because I thought I would fall, but it’s really not that hard. I’m doing great!”
Pretty soon even the adults were getting in on the fun (the boards have a weight limit of 300 lbs so they are definitely suitable for adult gameplay as well!). The kids were teaching parents – and even grandparents – which objects on the screen to avoid and which would give them extra lives!
In the days since the Swingy boards are out almost every day after school, when my boys challenge each other to a game of Sing Pong or simply try to beat their own previous high score. Although we usually don’t allow screen time after school Swingy has been a great compromise. The kids are happy to be allowed a video game and I’m happy to watch them burn some energy before beginning their homework.
As a mom I’m really impressed with Swingy. The balance boards are beautifully designed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as safe for kids. The wide curved bottom provides stability and prevents children from falling over. The colorful top of the board, which my kids love so much, is also anti-slip, so playing in bare feet or socks in not a problem. I also love how easy the app is to use on iOS and Android tablets. In my own experience – when my kids are in motion they tend to stay in motion. Playing Swing Pong usually leads to them asking to go outside and play soccer or ride their bikes. It’s the ultimate comprimise for us. The kids get to play with their tablets, but instead of falling into a YouTube fueled funk they are energized, excited and ready to get out and play.
The creators of Swingy are parents who have also struggled to find a balance between screen time and physical activity. They worked together with doctors, teachers and other professionals to make sure the Swingy would promote and strengthen muscles that help our children in everyday activities and sports as well as improving balance and coordination (skills that children are constantly developing into their teen years).
Right now Swingy is on Kickstarter, which is great news because you have a chance to grab a Swingy at an amazing price (Swingy will eventually retail for $140.00, but on Kickstarter you can get one for as little as $88!). You can check out their Kickstarter page for more information on how Swingy works, or follow Swingy along of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
Do you think blending physical activity and video games would solve some of the issues your family faces with technology and children?