When I was a child, I had no problem with going across the monkey bars. Sure, my hands were usually sore afterwards (as much as anything because the outside bars had a tendency to oxidize and form deposits along their surface), but I could do it. I recently tried, just to show my nephews it could be done, and I made my way across, but my shoulders and upper arms were in a great deal of pain afterwards. I know that, to get better, I probably just need to keep doing it, but I'm also 35, so I'm well aware of how easy it can be to injure oneself, and shoulders are notoriously easy to damage. Eventually, in an ideal world, I'd like to work up to being able to do swings and laches, but that's in the future, of course.
So, is there any good progression or exercise for me to follow? Should I start with just hanging for longer periods of time or am I best off going right into going hand-over-hand?
As a further update, bolstered by the advice that I wouldn't sustain lasting damage most likely, I went ahead and hit the playground. Doing the monkey bars is difficult, but I can manage it. My shoulders and elbows ached a bit afterwards, but it was manageable. The worse part, at this point, is my hands start hurting quickly, but calluses will no doubt improve that.