The Jungle Gym turns 100

Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

This story starts in the fourth dimension.

Or, more specifically, with a British mathematician who, in the late 1800s, was intrigued by the fourth dimension and how to teach disinterested children about it.

Charles Hinton wore a lot of hats. He wrote sci-fi stories before there was sci-fi — he called them “scientific romances.” At Princeton, where he worked for a time as mathematics instructor, he invented a baseball pitching machine powered by gunpowder. He also practiced polygamy, which was against both the mores and laws of his native England. And when he was convicted of bigamy in the 1880s, he was forced to move his young family to Japan where he found work teaching mathematics.

We will save all of that for the biopic, because for the purposes of this story, Hinton was the unintentional inspiration behind the jungle gym — the patent for which has just turned 100.

It turns out that the history of the jungle gym, and its sibling the monkey bars, is full of weird and delightful twists and sub-plots that take us from Japan to suburban Chicago and touch on child development theories and, yes, theoretical math.

The jungle gym, and its sibling the monkey bars, offer a lot of challenging and also risky play, which is a good thing.  It helps kids’ physical development — think motor skills — and their mental health, by building courage and self-confidence while reducing anxiety.

What’s more, unlike a lot of newer equipment that tells kids how it’s supposed to be used,  the beauty of the jungle gym is in its simplicity.


What Are Your Thoughts?


Chuck comes from a lineage of journalism. He has written for some of the webs most popular news sites. He enjoys spending time outdoors, bull riding, and collecting old vinyl records. Roll Tide!