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 even nearly alone) in an empty playground, many of these playground rules wouldn’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. Later, I’ll share what parents should also do as they watch their kids on the playground.
For now, 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 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 child’s face becomes a perfect target for her feet. Instead, save slide-climbing when no one’s there (and don’t forget to line up behind the other kids ready to slide down).
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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 smaller kids and need to be mindful of their surroundings.
No rough housing when a one-year-old is sitting on the grass, or jumping off the equipment when a three-year-old is right below your child.
3. Be mindful of the swings
Imagine that you’re pushing your child in a swing when another one darts across and almost collides with him. Or maybe your child likes pushing the empty swing only for someone to walk by and get smacked in the face.
With others around, kids need to use the swings correctly. And if they’re walking around the swings area, they need to steer clear of those in motion to avoid colliding with the bottom of someone’s shoes.
4. Don’t throw sand or chips
I thought they were replacing the sand in our old playground with foam turf. “Finally!” I said. “Now the kids can’t throw sand anymore.”
Well… it turned out they didn’t install the soft foam floor—they replaced the 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.
With other kids around, don’t let yours throw sand or chips. Throwing sand or chips is cool, but not when the sand gets into someone’s eyes or the 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. Instead, make sure all the kids playing with sticks… stick together to avoid poking an unsuspecting child.
6. Apologize for accidents and misdeeds
I’m not one to force kids to say “sorry,” but we should still encourage them or even model how to do so, even if they hurt someone accidentally. Teach your child empathy and explain how apologizing is one thing he can do to fix his mistakes.
If he doesn’t, go ahead and apologize on his behalf, so that at least the other child feels heard and acknowledged.
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 our turn to learn a few playground rules:
7. Watch your kids
I admit: I’ll happily sit on and watch my kids play at the playground. I want to give them the free space to explore on their own and learn to make friends (and myself a break here and there).
Still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t watch our kids. Sure, check your email, but look up once in a while. Do your 50 squats and step exercises, but at least 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.
8. Be kind to other kids
I had no problem telling other kids that no, it was actually my toddler’s turn to climb the ladder. But I do so kindly and respectfully, just as I would want my kids to do.
Because 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 child to share and highlight how doing so has made the others 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 him 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 ones and playing safely. They should use swings and slides correctly if others are around them. And parents, we need to keep an eye on our kids and be kind to others as well, despite our 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.
Get more tips:
- Help Your Social Child Handle Peer Rejection
- 6 Mistakes Parents Make When Socializing Kids
- Teach Your Child to Be Assertive
- 20 Easy Activities for 3 Year Olds You Can Do Any Day
- Preschool Outdoor Activities for Summer
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