I’ve read hundreds of articles dictating the “rules” of playground etiquette. It’s ironic because when you’re talking about kids, etiquette is typically the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.
Still, we all have to coexist together for the 43 minutes that you’ll spend at the playground before someone wants a snack, has to pee, or decides to go all toddler on you and fall to the ground like a limp noodle screaming at the top of their lungs. While you’re waiting for the one moment that makes you decide it is time to go, here are five ways to practice good manners and make this time at the playground more enjoyable.
As we enter another season of skinned knees, bug bites and sunburns, it’s important to be prepared. This especially applies to playgrounds that are far from home. Pack a first aid kit (with lots of Band-Aids for fake boo-boos), bug spray and sunscreen. Stay hydrated with extra bottles of water and make sure your child has a pair of shoes that fit well to avoid further injury from all those falls. Mind your manners when you’re there, but most of all, don’t forget that playgrounds are made for fun and play! Your kid will thank you for it! (Find more great summer safety tips here.)
Let them handle it. Unless someone is about to get hurt, let children work through their own disputes. Parents often intervene to demand that someone share, or wait until the other child doesn’t mind ending their turn or giving up their spot. There is a lot for children to learn when they work through disputes on their own, so let them handle it while you take another sip of your coffee.
Consider what you’re bringing to the playground. Bringing a ball or a truck? Be prepared for every other kid on the playground to want a turn playing with it. If that’s not OK, leave the toy at home. Bringing snacks? Pack an extra for your friend’s kid, who will undoubtedly want some. However, ask your friend if it’s OK to share first. I once gave a peanut butter granola bar to a 1-year-old who hadn’t yet had peanuts — I spent the rest of that day texting my friend to make sure he wasn’t in anaphylactic shock. Mom friend fail.
It’s OK to go up the slide. Seriously, what is the big deal? The worst that can happen is that they fall and slide down a slide. If a child is waiting to slide down, then we can move, but it seems every kid in the country wants to try to walk up the slide. If that’s how my kid wants to play with the equipment, I don’t see a need for you to scold him or tell me not to let him go up the slide. (I’m talking to you, lady at the park last summer!)
Don’t freak out every time a kid falls. I have one of those kids that falls 900 times a day, so when he trips on the playground, it is not necessary to dramatically gasp and shout, “Are you OK?!” Um, yeah, he was OK until you did that and now he needs three Band-Aids for his pants that have a boo-boo and will continue fake crying until I get them out of my bag.
Be mindful of your children and their abilities. If you have older children, give them a reminder that they shouldn’t be so rambunctious where younger children are playing. If you have younger children, avoid equipment intended for older kids.