Playground Etiquette: Are You Behaving Properly?
The playground is kind of the first social circle for your kids. Unless your child is in daycare at a very young age, the playground is where your child is introduced to other kids and given the opportunity to explore, play, and socialize. But please remember it comes with a set of unspoken parent rules, which really, are common sense -- but you'd be surprised to find that some parents neglect standard playground etiquette.
1) First things first, learn to let go. Let your child explore the playground on his own. The first time I took Baby D to the playground, I was a nervous wreck. His eyes were beaming with excitement as he was climbing up the steps, but I was so terrified that he was going hurt himself that I held his hand wherever he went. After the first trip to the park I knew that I had to let go and let him do his thing. Happy to say he's Mr. independent at the park now, with my supervision of course. Giving kids their own space allows them a chance to learn on their own. Letting them run free gives them the confidence and independence they will carry with them as adults.
2) Don't take your eyes off your child. Put away the iPhone, and watch your kids. I can't tell you how many parents I've seen take their kids to the park, plop themselves on the bench and just glue their eyes to their phone. Checking your phone occasionally is fine but focusing more on your phone, rather than your child is pure negligence and frankly, annoying. If your child puts themselves in a dangerous situation you should be there to prevent it. If your child is behaving aggressively to other kids, you should be there to intervene. Don't be so self-absorbed. Your child is your responsibility even from a distance.
3) If another kid needs help, help him. One time Baby D was first in line for the slide. Behind him were a set of brothers. Baby D didn't want to go down the slide for some reason so he was holding up the line. The kids behind him seemed to be getting impatient but didn't do anything. The father of the brothers behind him then said to his sons, "Help the baby go down the slide. He might want to ride with you." The brothers then grabbed on to Baby D and all three of them happily went down the slide together. Now that is something that one parent to another can appreciate.
4) Don't be overly defensive. Kids can be aggressive by nature. If your child gets pushed by another kid, first make sure he is okay and try to move their attention to a different area of the playground. And as much as you'd like to reprimand the child who pushed your child, it's not your place. If your child is at fault, admit it to yourself. Check to see if the other child is okay, have your child apologize to the other child, and calmly apologize to the parent. If it was the other way around wouldn't you appreciate an apology? Kids make mistakes, move on.
5) Remind your child to wait their turn. There's nothing worse than being bullied and pushed around after you've patiently been waiting your turn. If your child gets too antsy to wait, move their attention to another area of the park and go back when the line has cleared up.
6) Introduce your kids to other kids. When your child is in the same vicinity of another it's always good to help them break the ice. I always tell Baby D to say hi to other kids. This breaks the ice for the kids so that they can play together. When Baby D first started going to the park he didn't understand how to climb up the mini rock wall or crawl through the tunnel. He knew it was there for him to play in but he never experienced it and therefore didn't know what to do. Kids learn by mimicking (it's a good thing and a bad thing, I know). By introducing him to other kids he saw how they played and learned how to do it himself.
7) If your going to bring a toy like a ball, expect to share,, especially if the toy is unattended. Kids have short attention spans. When they see a shiny red ball, they go straight for it. If you're the one bringing the toy, remind your child to share. If it's someone else's toy, remind your child to ask permission from the other child and parent.
8) Don't share snacks. The little monster needs fuel to play so make sure to bring a few snacks and some water. As much as sharing is a good lesson, it wouldn't be the lesson here. There have been times, I've taken out Baby D's cheerios and there's a herd of kids hoovering over his snacks asking for some. Sorry, but I don't know you and what you may be allergic too. You wouldn't want your kid to take candy from a stranger, would you?