As a stay-at-home mother to an energetic toddler, I spend a lot of time at playgrounds. My mornings are usually spent bouncing from one slide to the next, which makes me feel like a bit of an expert when it comes to the playgrounds themselves and the behavior of those who frequent them. They can get pretty busy, especially after school, but don't let the hectic atmosphere fool you. There are still rules to follow, and it's really important for parents to mind them.
Children are learning how to play and interact with others, and what they do at the playground can impact their actions at other places. Beyond the fact that kids need to be taught how to behave, when they're playing on large equipment, it's also important for everyone's safety that we make a concerted effort to look out for one another. With that in mind, here are seven nonnegotiable rules of the playground that every parent needs to follow.
- If there's a gate, shut it behind you. The gate is there for a reason, and to the parent of a runner, it's really important it remains shut. All it takes is a couple of seconds for a kid to see the opening and run into the street.
- Be aware of your surroundings. It can get pretty crazy at a popular playground, and parents should absolutely be encouraged to chat with friends and relax. However, if your kid looks like they're about to push another kid off the slide, be aware of that and do something. Additionally, with a lot of little ones running around, it can be easy for them to get underfoot. Go slow, and know that kids don't always say "excuse me" first.
- Don't hog any equipment for too long if someone is waiting. Similar to the rules of the gym, don't let kids hog any equipment for too long if other kids also want to use it. Yes, older children need to learn how to sort this out for themselves, but with younger children, that responsibility falls on the parents.
- You don't have to make small talk, but don't be rude. Standing around at a playground presents parents with an opportunity to chit-chat with one another. If you don't want to talk, that's totally fine, especially since social anxiety is a very real thing. However, don't let your desire for silence make you appear rude by not responding to questions or giving overly curt responses. Reply, smile, then return your attention back to your kids.
- Be mindful of the little ones. Big children may need to be reminded to look out for the little ones. While the structures are designed with big kids in mind, babies and toddlers have as much right to the space as the older children. Parents of young children will be watching their babies with keen eyes, but that doesn't mean that an older child can run wild and knock over everyone in their path.
- Follow the park rules. If the park doesn't allow dogs, don't take that to mean your precious pup is an exception to that rule. Rules are meant to keep children safe, especially when it comes to glass bottles, dogs, and smoking.
- Take a break, but don't check out. It's absolutely reasonable for a parent to check their phone or read a book at a playground. We all deserve moments of rest, especially with young children. However, that desire for rest doesn't supersede the safety and well-being of others. If my son gets hurt because you weren't watching your kid hurl a baseball at the toddler area, I'm going to be angry. I'll do my best to protect and keep my kid safe, but it's impossible to watch every area of the playground.