Playgrounds — you love them and you don’t. Make sure to follow these 9 playground rules for kids and adults so every can play nicely with others.
The playground—one of the best ways to keep the kids active, right?
It’s free, it’s outdoors, and kids are left to their own creative devices. Except sometimes spending time at the playground doesn’t go so smoothly. Too many kids clamor up the jungle gym. Older kids collide with toddlers. And parents are oblivious to their kids’ antics.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to have playground rules everyone abides by?
My husband recently came home from such an excursion: “I have a great topic for your blog,” he proposed. “Can you write about all the things parents and kids shouldn’t do at the playground? Like playground rules? It was madness today.”
If you and your kids are alone or nearly alone in an empty playground, many of these playground rules for kids don’t apply. An empty playground is a wonderful way for kids to explore where they don’t always have to play “the right way.”
But with other kids around, we need to teach ours the proper ways to interact with them and how to use the playground.
9 playground rules to remember
And so, below are nine playground rules you and your kids should remember.
For the kids:
#1: Don’t walk up the slide.
Yes, it’s fun to see just how high you can walk up the slide, and this might be fine when no one else is around. But if another kid is ready to swoop down the slide, your face is a perfect target for her feet.
#2: Watch out for smaller kids.
You see the twelve-year-old climbing into baby swings or catapulting off the toddler area. Or sometimes a five-year-old will run around and oops!—there goes a toddler knocked down.
Older kids, no matter what age, need to watch for the younger kids around them. They’re more capable than younger kids and need to be mindful of their surroundings. No rough housing when a play date of one-year-olds are sitting on the grass. Or jumping off the equipment when a three-year-old is right below you.
#3: Be mindful of the swings.
You’re pushing your child in the swing when another one darts across and almost collides with him.
Or maybe your child likes pushing the empty swing only for another kid to walk by and get smacked in the face.
With others around, kids need to use the swings correctly. And they need to steer clear of swings in motion unless they want to collide with the bottom of someone’s shoes.
#4: Don’t throw sand or chips.
I thought they were replacing our playground sand with foam turf. “Finally!” I said. “Now the kids can’t throw sand anymore.”
Well… turns out they didn’t install the soft foam floor. They merely replaced sand with wood chips.
And when kids get their hands on sand or chips, their first instinct is to toss handfuls of it in the air. In perfect aim of everyone around them.
So kids, don’t throw sand or chips. Again, at least while others are nearby. Throwing sand is cool, but not when it gets into someone’s eyes. And no one likes chips poured on their head.
#5: Don’t walk with sticks.
Did you know the stick was inducted as one of the best toys in the Toy Hall of Fame? The stick is one of the coolest toys around. My kids have used them as pencils, canes, wands, cooking utensils, you name it. Sticks are awesome.
Except when other kids are around. Then sticks are just plain dangerous. So if you’re carrying a stick, don’t walk or run around with it. You’ll likely jab an unsuspecting child or adult with the end of your stick. At the least, carry it properly, pointing down towards the floor.
#6: Apologize for accidents and misdeeds.
I’m not one to force kids to say “sorry,” but we should still encourage our kids to do so. Even if they hurt someone accidentally. Teach your child empathy and explain how apologizing is one thing they can do to fix their mistakes.
So, that was for the kids. But as we know, kids aren’t the only ones who make playground etiquette mistakes. Parents, now it’s your turn to learn playground rules:
#7: Watch your kids.
I used to judge other moms who would sit at the park bench while their kids played. Why weren’t they interacting with their kids?!
Well, now you’ll find me sitting at one of the benches myself. I’m giving my kids the free space to explore on their own and learn to make friends. I step in when needed, but I give them (and myself) time and space.
Still, that doesn’t mean my kids are unsupervised. Sure, check your email, but look up once in a while. Do your 50 squats and step exercises, but know where your kid is.
Because a kid will always be up to no good, or is about to fall seven feet off the ground, and the parent is nowhere to be seen.
Parents, watch your kids. Keep an eye out. You don’t have to hover and solve your child’s social conflicts or spot them every time they climb. But at least stay near to coach them through their snuffle.
#8: Be kind to other kids.
I have no problem telling other kids that no, it’s actually my toddler’s turn to climb the ladder. But I do so kindly and respectfully, just as I would want my toddler to do.
Sometimes you’ll see that parent who calls out another kid and disciplines him for who knows what. Yes, we’re all mama bears and protective, but we don’t have to be rude to other kids. You wouldn’t want your child to act that way to others.
#9: Don’t force kids to share.
I hear this all the time at the playgrounds: “Share!”
Sharing is awesome, but only when it comes from the child’s own initiative. Encourage your kids to share and highlight how doing so has made the other child happy. (“Can you share the steering wheel with the other boy? Look how happy you made him! Thank you for sharing.”)
But sharing isn’t always appropriate or effective. What if your child wasn’t done with the steering wheel yet? Or what if he doesn’t feel like interacting with the other kids just now?
Instead, give your kid a heads up (“Five more spins on the wheel,”). Encourage turn-taking (“…then let him have a turn,”). Or even playing together instead (“…or you guys can find a way to steer the pirate ship together”). At the least, teach them to share and encourage them to do so on their own.
Parks and playgrounds are some of my favorite go-to spots to take my kids. And with the right etiquette—for both them and myself—we can still play nice and have fun.
Want to read more about kids and social interaction? Check out these posts:
- Help Your Social Child Handle Peer Rejection
- 6 Mistakes Parents Make When Socializing Kids
- Why Parents Shouldn’t Solve Children’s Social Conflicts
- Teach Your Child to Be Assertive
- Why Forcing Kids to Say Sorry May Not Be a Good Idea
Your turn: What are some of the worst offenses that drive you nuts about the playground? What playground rules do you wish were followed? Let me know in the comments!
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