Teeter Totter Vs Seesaw: How Are They Different? (Teetertotter Fun For All)


Have you ever wondered what playground equipment might be called in other parts of the country aside from where you live?

Or have you ever gone to a playground looking for something for your child to play on, only to find out it goes by an entirely different name than the one you were using for it?

Do you end up confused and wondering just why it is we use different terms to refer to the same item on the playground?

If you’ve ever found yourself musing over something like this, you’re in luck. In this article, we’re here to explain the difference between two of the most frequently-used terms on the playground: teeter totter vs seesaw. These are two words that get thrown around a lot, but you may not know which one means what, specifically.

  • Find out if seesaws and teeter totters are really just the same 
  • We define what a seesaw is and describe what it can do 
  • Learn all the other names that this playground toy also goes by 
  • Bonus video: A teeter totter at work

The next time you find yourself wondering just which term is the correct one and if there’s any difference between the two at all, you’ll be able to look back on the information you’ve learned here and pick the term that works best for your situation. Who knows? You may even find out something new from this article that you didn’t know yet, so let’s get started learning right away.

Teeter Totter vs. Seesaw: Is there really a difference between the two?

Before we get started examining teeter totter usage versus seesaw usage, we’ll give you a quick refresher of what we’re talking about specifically. For the purposes of this article, a seesaw will be defined as:

teeter totter vs seesaw
  • A plank of some type that’s balanced in the center so children can sit on it and ride up and down. One child sits on one end and the other child sits on the other. When one child squats on the ground, the other is raised in the air. Then the child who is squatting kicks with his or her legs so that their positions are reversed.
  • Seesaws can be made out of many different materials. Traditionally, they were made out of wood, but they may also be made of metal or plastic.
  • This term may also refer to the action of playing on a seesaw.
  • Finally, it may also refer to a type of swing that operates in a similar fashion.

When you look up teeter totter in the dictionary, it simply redirects you to seesaw, so this is a good indicator that there is not, in fact, any difference between the two of these. When it comes down to it, a teeter totter is the same thing as a seesaw, and the words are just different linguistic terms that are used to refer to the same item.

Teeter Totter vs. Seesaw: Why are there two names for the same toy?

So now that you know a little bit about the different terms for this toy, you may be wondering if there’s any difference and whether or not one is more correct than the other. In this section, we’ll clear up any further questions you might have about whether or not you should call this piece of playground equipment a teeter totter or a seesaw, and you should be ready to make your decision by the time you finish reading here.

teeter totter
  • Seesaw: This term goes back to its French roots and basically means “this-that.” The name, of course, comes from the way the toy tilts back and forth. It’s also a play on words in French, since the word “scie” means “saw.” Since the toy also tends to look a little bit like a saw being moved back and forth when it’s in operation, its original name has a few different levels of meaning.
  • Teeter totter: This is the second most common word for the same playground toy. Much of the United States uses the word teeter totter, although it isn’t as popular throughout the rest of the world. The term teeter totters is likely derived from the Nordic word tittermatorter. Teeter totter can also refer to a type of swing that’s operated in much the same way as a seesaw, with children sitting on either side and swinging forward and then backward to move the swing like a pendulum. However, seesaw can also refer to this type of swing, too.
  • Tilting board: In a small portion of New England in the United States, the seesaw is also known as the tilting board. This is a very regional term that most people outside the area have never heard of.
  • Teedle board or dandle board: Some parts of Massachusetts refer to the seesaw as a dandle board or a teedle board. This term is only used in a very small pocket of the population of the United States and isn’t usually found outside this area at all.
  • Ridey horse or hickey horse: These two terms are fairly outdated and are hardly used at all anymore, but they can sometimes be found in the Appalachian region of the United States. The use of either one of these terms is often not found anywhere else, but you may hear it if you live in or visit West Virginia and North Carolina, specifically.

As you can see, you have more than just the two options to pick from when you’re trying to determine how to refer to this toy! However, if you’re wondering which one is the most common, the answer is likely seesaw. Both of the two main terms are fairly interchangeable and more or less equally used, too, but seesaw has been around a little longer. Simply because it’s been in use for more time than the rest, seesaw tends to be the most common and most widely-accepted term.

Conclusion: Teeter Totter Or Seesaw?

the term seesaw

Were you able to figure out which term you’d rather use? Did you learn something interesting about the difference between the term teeter totter and the term seesaw? As you can see, there are a few different thoughts on the matter of whether or not to call this piece of playground equipment one term or the other. When it comes down to it, the decision is entirely up to you, and you can teach your kids to use whichever term you want, too. Just remember that they’ll probably need to know the other option if they encounter anyone who uses that word instead!

As with many similar types of playground equipment that share names and terms, the different word uses came into being more or less because of different locations. Some people spread out in one direction using one term, while others did the same in a different direction. In the end, whether or not you call it a teeter totter or a seesaw doesn’t really change what it is, and this is a beloved piece of playground equipment that’s unfortunately beginning to disappear from playgrounds around the country. Pretty soon, your own backyard may be the only place you’ll be able to take your kids to play on something like this.

Additional Research:

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Virginia R. Samuel
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About The Author

Virginia R. Samuel is a full-time working mother and the Editor in Chief of ABCKidsINC.  She has worked as a ghost writer for a variety of online sites as well as a research writer in the fields of breastfeeding and early childhood development, among other childcare-related subjects. Virginia presently loves her editorial work on ABCKidsINC, and hopes that the information and articles she has crafted over the years will be beneficial to other moms and dads who are just starting out on their parenting adventure.

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