An Etiquette Handbook for the Playground

It’s not easy to get along with other kids and their parents at the jungle gym. We’ve put together this playground etiquette handbook that teaches the basics.

  • As your youngster eats crackers, a curious toddler keeps an eye on him. Should you offer her some?

Never, ever provide food to a child without first getting permission from the child’s parents. Make sure she doesn’t have any food allergies or dietary limitations before sharing your food with her. Why risk running out of supplies? Then it’s up to you: You can either give each youngster a small portion, or you may keep the food in the pantry until everyone else has gone. 

Consider joking with the other parents that you’re running low on food and asking if they’d be willing to share their supplies.

  • He immediately starts playing with a toy truck that isn’t his when you arrive at the park. Should you let him play with it or try to return it to its proper owner?

If no one else is playing with the truck, it’s your son’s for the taking as long as no one else is. Even if the roles were reversed, you’d probably be fine with another youngster playing with your son’s toy if you were in the same position. 

Children will learn to share by participating in this activity. It’s also a good idea to have one on hand just in case. They’re likely to say yes right away.

Some items, like the toy bar linked to your child’s stroller, should be off-limits to your child, especially anything that belongs to an infant. The fortunate thing is that many parents are kind enough to intervene and move their child away or divert him with another object.

  • An adult places her little child on equipment intended for school-age children. Should you speak up and risk angering her, or keep your mouth shut and hope the kid doesn’t injure himself?

It’s best to say something respectfully rather than risk injuring a child. Just be as non-confrontational and gentle as you can. ‘I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’m afraid your youngster will tumble off that seesaw,’ might be appropriate. The number of incidents I’ve witnessed on it is staggering, and they’ve all involved older children.

  • It’s pee time, and your recently potty-trained 3-year-old has announced his need to go. However, the nearest restroom is a half-mile away from Starbucks. Is he allowed to go out?

Regardless of the consequences, disregarding etiquette is the best course of action here. Take your child to the side, or even into a bush, and let him relieve himself. That’s the only thing you can do! If things become too messy, have some wipes and a change of clothes on hand. 

Consider purchasing a portable potty if you frequently take your children to a playground without restroom facilities. Everyone in my parenting group has purchased a travel potty from—it folds up into a briefcase-sized toilet. When your youngster is finished, all you have to do is place a plastic bag in the bottom and toss it.

Be Respectful of Your Age

Some pieces of playground equipment aren’t suitable for all children. Most accidents occur when young children are thrown from equipment intended for larger children. Your child’s safety is guaranteed if you follow these rules.

Vertical bars, swings, and seesaws can be used by children ages 5 to 12, and horizontal bars and climbing equipment.

Look for equipment with small steps and short railings for children ages 2 to 5, as they are more vulnerable and have a higher center of gravity than older children. Crawl tunnels, tot swings, flexible spring rockers, and slides no taller than four feet are safe options.

Kids who are under the age of two should not use most playgrounds. Instead, look for a playground intended explicitly for toddlers and includes safe swings for babies.

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