Portable Rope Swing

Oh, what joy to fly through the sky on a rope swing in the forest! Here we will share how you can bring a portable rope swing on your adventures. 


Step 1. Get a strong rope, we like to use rock climbing rope, as they are very strong. The length of your rope depends on the height of the tree you will hang it from – a 40ft long rope would do great for many of our Santa Barbara trees.

Step 2. Put that rope in a bag and bring it on your adventure!! Have your child carry the swing on the adventures, this will empower them and is also a great activity to build their proprioceptive sense. The proprioceptive sense is their perception or awareness of the position and movement of their body in space, and is developed by doing activities like carrying heavy things which give feedback to their joints. This sense, sometimes referred to as the sixth sense, is important for self- regulation, coordination, posture, body awareness, the ability to focus and speech.

Step 3. Find a sturdy stick as your seat – make sure it is at least as thick as an adult’s forearm, with a hand saw cut the branch so that it is about 2 ft long, this depends on the size of who will be using the swing. I am sure your children can come up with some fun ways to measure how long the stick needs to be for their bottoms! IF you don’t have a hand saw- no worries, wander around and you will find the perfect stick! 

  • Also think about how the seat will feel, is it soft and comfortable or is the bark super scratchy? Will it hold your weight -can you break it if you tried?
  • You can decide to keep this stick in your swing bag or to bring a saw on your adventures to harvest your seat each time, I prefer bringing my seat along with me each time.
  • When harvesting your seat, you often can find a sturdy dead branch on the ground rather than harvesting from a live tree. Either way, bring in mindful harvesting. You can ask the tree for part of its branch, you can give a gift in return, you can form a relationship with the tree by learning about it through your senses… 


Step 4. Find a tree branch to hang your swing from. It is very important to check the health of the tree and the particular branch before swinging on it. Does the tree have leaves? Or are the leaves brown? Has this tree lost any limbs? Are there fungi growing on the branch or the tree? 

  • Also investigate which direction the swing will go – you don’t want to hit a tree!

Step 5. Tie the end of your rope to your seat, tying a knot in the center. I often simply do 3 overhand knots. Pull on it to double check its strength.

  • A swing with the knot in the middle rather than two knots on either end, provides your child an opportunity to work on core strength. Balancing to get on the swing and swinging on it will engage the core and support your child’s healthy development.

Step 6.Throw the seat connected to the rope up and over the tree branch, this may take a few tries and make sure to have everyone clear out of the way so that it does not hit anyone! 

Step 7. Tug on your rope and double check that it is sturdy!

Step 8. Tie the other end of your rope to the trunk of the tree, wrap it around the trunk three times and then tie at least two overhand knots. 

Step 9. Once again test out the swing.  Your child can do this by sitting on it and bouncing up and down to check the strength. Make any needed adjustments. 

Step 10. Swing and  ENJOY!!!

In setting up your swing remember that you will need to take it down at the end of your time there – do not tie it in a way that makes this impossible.

While this is one way to set up your portable rope swing there are many ways to do so and it can be a great time to practice different knots if you or your child are interested in doing so. 

Also many of our trees in the Santa Barbara area are stressed from past droughts, so checking their strength and looking for signs of their health is very important! Looking at the overall health of the forest is a helpful way to gauge if you have chosen a sturdy tree. 

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