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I know that it is not recommended to swing children by their arms.

Swinging a child by the arms may seem like harmless fun, but experts have warned that the activity could cause painful injuries.

There are lots of articles on this like this, this and this (just the first few links of searching for "Swing children by arms".

My question though relates to children hanging by their arms.

Children love monkey bars and that obviously involves hanging by your arms and moving from bar to bar. Some children at the park can do them and babies cannot - at some point children get coordinated and strong enough to master them.

My 18 month old loves hanging from a horizontal bar at the park. She grips really tightly and I support her so when she lets go she doesn't fall. I don't take her weight though - it is more fun to hold on yourself and know you won't fall that to be held in that position seemingly.

  • My first question is when does this become ok for a child's arm - what age?
  • Are there any fun intermediate steps to get them ready?

Please note - this question is primarily aimed at just hanging from arms and not specifically looking at using the monkey bars - although that is the end goal.

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    Parents have swung their children by the arms for generations without ill effects. It's an overabundance of caution to warn against this out of concern for nursemaid's elbow (NE). Hanging from monkey bars is the same. N.B. In both instances, both arms bear the body's weight. NEs (which are as common as dirt) are caused by sudden jerking of one arm, as in preventing a child from falling/running into danger, lifting a child by one arm, yanking on a kid's arm out of frustration, etc. Once a child has had it, though, they are quite prone to recurrence, so those kids are restricted. Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 17:53
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    See parenting.stackexchange.com/a/38922/9327. Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 17:55
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    @anongoodnurse this comment would be a good answer - it answers the question well focusing on the normal worry (NE) and the risk for a child changing by both arms (low) while hanging. It also links well to the cause of NE being a yanking motion rather than a upward force that hanging would cause
    – sam_smith
    Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 3:01

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Swinging a child around by the arms can cause the condition Nursemaid's Elbow, which is a partial dislocation of the elbow. It is important to note that it is not the only cause of Nursemaid's Elbow - other causes include pulling a child up by their arm, or even pulling their arm through a coat with too much force.

As far as when children are at less risk of dislocating their elbow, the highest risk is from 1-5 (some sites say 1-4, some say 2-5), but can still have some risk up for a few years after that. The reason for the risk at those ages is that the child's ligaments are somewhat loose, and:

As kids get older, the ligaments tighten. Most won't get nursemaid's elbow after they turn 5 years old, though it can happen up to age 6 or 7.


This answer specifically does not answer whether it is safe for a child to use the monkey bars; that's venturing from "explaining a medical issue" to "giving medical advice", which we don't do here. My recommendation is to ask your pediatrician if it is appropriate for your child to use the monkey bars.

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  • Do you think you could adjust this answer to focus more on hanging from a bar and less on swinging around? I already know swinging is not good but I don’t know about whether hanging from a bar until their grip runs out is bad and at what age
    – sam_smith
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 5:39
  • @sam_smith as I explain at the end, no. That would not be on topic, in my opinion, as you're asking if it is safe for your child to do something - we don't know your child, we can't evaluate that; ask your doctor. The reason for "do not swing your child" is not because of grip - it is because of dislocating their elbow.
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 5:40
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    @Joe - Unless the child has previously experienced a Nursemaid's Elbow, I have never seen it from swinging from monkey bars. I suppose it might happen if they are unsupported and one hand slips, resulting in the child rotating into a pronation position. Caution is fine, but blog sites are not the right place to get accurate info. Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 23:15
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    @anongoodnurse I certainly didn't mean to imply it could - I specifically avoided answering that question entirely, solely answering the age question (as to when the risk that is related to swinging/pulling by one arm is largely gone). That seems quite consistent. In any event, I am a bit surprised to see you answer in comments here - why is this not medical advice? (I absolutely would agree this is not a risk, but avoided that side as it seemed like medical advice.)
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 23:16
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    @Joe - Yeah, I know and I agree that it's medical advice, and that I should not give it, but from the beginning, I've said I was not opposed to giving medical advice, I was opposed to giving bad medical advice (no implication about your answer!) I'd hate to see this father miss out on a perfectly normal activity/bonding experience with his child because of an overly cautious answer. However, the site does not allow medical advice in comments, so please feel free to flag it for removal. I would not be offended in the least. Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 17:37

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