How to Pump a Swing
Like snapping your fingers or whistling, pumping a swing is harder than it looks and tricky to teach. Until age 5 most kids haven't fully mastered the abilities it requires, but you can start laying the groundwork when they're as young as 2 and sometimes even younger, says physical therapist and dad Tom Harrigan of York, Maine. Here's how to get into the swing:
Place your child in an age-appropriate swing (a seat with a back for a toddler, or a regular open-back swing for an older child), and show her how to grab and hold on securely to the ropes or chains. Next, have your child experiment with pulling on the ropes and shifting her center of gravity, swinging side to side or back and forth. Set her straight again, give a push, and explain that the more she pulls back as she swings forward, the higher she'll go.
The goal now is to help your child lean back as she pulls on the ropes and swings forward (the first half of the pumping action). One mom we know swears by talking in a soft voice as you push from behind, so your child will lean back to hear you. Or ask her if she can lean back to see you upside down. Or stand in front just a bit out of reach, hold out your hands, palms up, and challenge your child to touch your hands with her toes. When she's ready for it, she'll lean back and stretch out her legs to make the connection.
Once she's stretching her legs forward on the upswing, tell her to bend her knees on the downswing. The tricky thing is the timing. Engage in a drill of sorts. As she touches your hands with her feet, gently push her feet down, starting the bend for her. This is a rough version of the pumping motion she'll eventually, happily master.