Playgrounds can be fun, but they can also feel chaotic. Check out these 9 playground rules to remember so everyone plays 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 can follow?
If you and your kids are alone or nearly alone in an empty playground, many of these playground rules won’t always 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 others and how to use the playground.
9 playground rules to remember
And so, below are nine playground rules you and your kids should remember. We’ll start with the kids, since they’re the ones doing most of the playing. Check out a few rules to teach your child the next time you head to the playground.
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 child is ready to swoop down the slide, your face is a perfect target for her feet. Instead, save slide-climbing when no one’s there, and line up behind the other kids ready to slide down.
2. Watch out for smaller kids
I’ve seen twelve-year-olds climbing into baby swings and catapulting off the toddler area. Other times I’ll see a five-year-old run around and accidentally knock a toddler down.
Older kids, no matter what age, need to be careful about the younger ones 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 to avoid colliding 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 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, right when everyone’s 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 point sticks at people’s faces
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 and you’re pointing it at someone’s face. You’ll likely jab an unsuspecting child or adult with the end of your stick.
6. Apologize for accidents and misdeeds
I’m not one to force kids to say “sorry,” but we should still encourage them 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. 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 child is.
Because there will always be that kid who’s 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 child 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, or for other parents to treat your child that way.
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 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 other kids right now?
Instead, give your child a heads up (“Five more spins on the wheel”). Encourage turn-taking (“…then let him have a turn…”), or even playing together (“…or you guys can find a way to steer the pirate ship together”).
Heading to the playground makes for a fun family activity, especially when both kids and adults follow the rules.
Kids should be aware of their surroundings, including watching out for younger kids and playing safely. Swings and slides should be used correctly if tons of other kids are using them as well. And parents, we need to keep an eye on our kids and be kind to others as well, despite your mama bear instincts.
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.
Do you struggle with finding time after work to play with your kids? Join my newsletter and get my play ideas calendar, perfect for the early evening hours! The first sheet includes ideas for the weekdays, while the second is a blank template to fill with your own ideas. Download it below—at no cost to you:
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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