The Fascinating Names for Teeter-Totters in Different Countries

Teeter-totters are so much fun, but they can be challenging to describe in other languages. Here's a look at some common words used to describe this classic playground fixture in other countries.

Do you remember playing on the teeter-totter as a kid? That seesaw-like contraption allowed you to swing back and forth with a friend, each taking turns as the “heavy” person at either end. It turns out that this childhood favorite goes by many different names worldwide. Teeter-totters are known by at least 56 different monikers!

So, what do other countries call a teeter-totter? In Australia, it’s known as the seesaw; in New Zealand, it’s called the toboggan; in Scotland, it’s the dander; in England, it’s the tilting board; in Wales, it’s called the skittles. But that’s not all! In Germany, it’s known as the Baumstamm; in France, it’s called la balançoire or le manège; in Spain, it’s la oscilación or el columpio; and in Italy, it’s altalena or dondolo. In Japan, the teeter-totter is known as the daisougen (literally “great swing”), while in China, it’s called Shao nian meng (literally “youth dream”). And believe it or not, there are even more names for this simple playground toy! In Denmark, it’s klappestok; in Sweden, it’s skjutskiva; and in Holland, it’s de schommel.

This article discusses the 56 different names for a teeter-totter around the world. We also cover the history of this playground staple and some of the different ways it’s used today.

History of the Teeter-Totter

Before diving into all the different names of a teeter-totter, let’s first look at its history. Teeter-totters have been around for centuries, with the earliest recorded instances dating back to the Roman Empire. During this time, they were primarily used as training devices for soldiers, who would use them to practice their balance and coordination.

The teeter-totter we know today began to take shape in the 18th century, with the first recorded patent for such a device being filed in 1766 by Englishman Samuel Benson.

A girl on a teeter totter.
Teeter-totters have been around for centuries.

Benson’s design was intended for use as a seesaw and featured a board balanced on a fulcrum in the middle. This basic design would go on to be used for centuries, with only minor modifications being made over time.

In the early 1900s, American inventor George J. Fisher came up with the first significant improvement to the teeter-totter when he patented his “playground seesaw.” This new design featured a pair of handles on each end of the board, which made it easier for children to balance.

It also had a spring-loaded mechanism that helped dampen the movement, making it safer and more comfortable.

The teeter-totter continued to evolve in the latter half of the 20th century, with new designs and materials used to create ever-more sophisticated versions of the classic playground staple. Today, different teeter-totters are available, from simple wooden models to more complex ones with built-in slides and other features.

A more recent innovation is the addition of springs to help absorb some of the impact when landing.

Different Ways the Teeter-Totter Is Used Today

While the teeter-totter is most commonly associated with childhood play, it has several uses.

For example, some farmers use seesaws to help sift through grain or seed. They place one end of the board in a grain container and then use their body weight to rock back and forth, which causes the grain to separate.

Happy teenager playing at teeter totter.
Teeter-totters can help patients build strength and improve their balance and coordination.

Teeter-totters are also used in physical therapy and rehabilitation. They can help patients build strength and improve their balance and coordination. And in some cases, they’ve even been used as a treatment for ADHD!

So, there you have it: everything you need to know about the history and different uses of the teeter-totter. Now, let’s look at the different names used for this classic playground staple across the world.

Teeter-Totter Names Around the World

As we mentioned earlier, the teeter-totter goes by many different names around the world. Here are just a few of the most popular ones:

1. See-Saw

In many English-speaking countries, a teeter-totter is known as a seesaw. This name is thought to come from the rocking motion that the board makes when in use. The seesaw is a common name in countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

A kid on a teeter totter.
A teeter-totter is known as a seesaw.

In some cases, the seesaw is also used to refer to the act of riding on a teeter-totter. For example, you might say, “I used to love seeing the world from up high on the seesaw.”

2. Baumstamm

This is the German word for tree trunk, which is what a teeter-totter was traditionally made from. Nowadays, of course, they’re usually made from metal or plastic, but the name has stuck around.

The German word for teeter-totter, Baumstamm, is also used in some English-speaking countries. For example, you might hear someone in the United Kingdom say, “I’m going to have a go on the baumstamm.”

3. Klapperschaukel

This is the German term for a teeter-totter with handles on each end. The name comes from the fact that the handles make a clapping sound when they hit together. The handles are also known as klappers and are designed to help improve safety and stability.

Klapperschaukels are usually found in playgrounds and are popular with parents as they’re considered safer than traditional teeter-totters.

4. Pesebre

This is the Spanish word for a manger, where animals such as cows and horses eat. The name pesebre is thought to come from the fact that early teeter-totters were often made from wooden boards that were left over from making mangers.

Nowadays, teeter-totters are usually made from purpose-built materials such as metal or plastic, but the name has stuck around.

5. De Schommel

In Holland, a teeter-totter is known as a de schommel, which means “the swing.” This name is thought to come from the rocking motion that the board makes when in use.

6. La oscilación

In Spain, the teeter-totter is called “la oscilaci ón.” This word comes from the verb “oroscilar,” which means “to swing.” So, “la oscilación” literally means “the swing.”

This is one of the most common names for the teeter-totter in Spanish-speaking countries such as Spain, Mexico, and Argentina.

7. Tilting Board

The tilting board is a popular name for the teeter-totter in many English-speaking countries. This name is thought to come from the fact that the board tilts when someone sits on one end and rocks back and forth.

A playground with teeter totter.
The tilting board is a popular name for the teeter-totter in many English-speaking countries.

The tilting board is a common name in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia.

8. Balançoire

The teeter-totter is known as a “balançoire” in France. This word comes from the verb “balancer,” which means “to swing.” So, a “balançoire” is a “swinging board.”

For many years, the balançoire was a popular choice for parents as it was considered to be a safe and stable form of play equipment. However, in recent years it has been replaced by more modern forms of playground equipment, such as swings and slides.

Many French-speaking countries, such as France, Belgium, and Switzerland, use the name balançoire.

9. Shao nian meng

China is one of the few countries where the teeter-totter is not a popular form of playground equipment. It’s thought that there are less than 10,000 teeter-totters in the entire country.

The name “Shao nian meng” literally means “youth dream.” This is because the teeter-totter is seen as a symbol of childhood and is often associated with happy memories.

Despite its lack of popularity, the teeter-totter is still used in some Chinese schools as a form of physical education.

10. Dondolo

The teeter-totter is known as a “dondolo” in Italy. This word comes from the verb “dondolare,” which means “to swing.” So, a “dondolo” is literally a “swinging board.”

The teeter-totter is a piece of popular playground equipment in Italy and is often found in parks and public squares. Some Italian-speaking countries that use the word “dondolo” include Italy, Switzerland, and Slovenia.

11. Daisougen

In Japan, the teeter-totter is known as a “daisougen.” This word is thought to come from the fact that early teeter-totters were often made from wooden boards that were left over from making mangers (known as “daisou” in Japanese).

Today, teeter-totters are made from purpose-built materials such as metal or plastic, but the name has stuck around.

The teeter-totter is a popular form of playground equipment in Japan and can often be found in parks and public squares.

12. Skjutskiva

In Sweden, the teeter-totter is known as a “skjutskiva.” This word comes from the verb “skjuta,” which means “to push.” So, a “skjutskiva” is a “pushing board.”

The teeter-totter is popular playground equipment in Sweden and is often found in public and private play areas.

13. Klappestok

Denmark is one of the few European countries where the teeter-totter is not a popular form of playground equipment. It’s thought that there are less than 2,000 teeter-totters in the entire country.

Siblings playing at the see saw.
It is a symbol of happy childhood memories.

The name “klappestok” literally means “folding stick.” This is because the teeter-totter is seen as

a symbol of happy childhood memories.

Despite its lack of popularity, the teeter-totter is still used in some Danish schools and playgrounds as a form of physical education for both children and adults.

Summary

Who knew that such a simple playground toy could have many different names?

Next time you’re at the park, see if you can spot a teeter-totter by one of its many other names. You might be surprised at how many versions of this classic toy exist!

Last update on 2023-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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