Playground Etiquette for Parents

Recently at my local playground...

A father and I watched stone still still while his 16 month old toddler fell slowly and painfully down 5 feet of stairs onto the dirt just inches from where we stood.

A mom stood guard over her 5 year old's sandcastle in the middle of the playground for almost an hour to ensure no other kids messed it up. Every kid that approached to play in that particular area was shortly asked to leave so that the sprawling sand creation could remain unmolested to honor her brilliant child.

A 2 year old walked home remorselessly with one chubby hang clinging her mother's hand and the other wrapped tightly around my toddler's big orange ball.

Playground Etiquette these days is painfully lacking. And it's not the kids making the faux paus - it's their clueless parents. Although a good number of us are doing our best and keep the playground a relatively polite place, a large minority of parents are out of the loop as far as appropriate social interaction with the playground set. For their convenience (I hold myself out as an over glorified, self-appointed expert), I've put together a brief primer on the do's and don't of playground etiquette:

DO be the first one responsible for bringing your kid home alive. In my first scenario, I assumed the father was going to catch his kid before the little cutie so painfully thumped to the sand. The dad, apparently, was waiting for me to save his spawn. I've got my own kid to watch and for all I know, he was one of those parents who thinks a few bangs and bumps are good for kids. Who am I to swoop in right in front of him and stop him kid from learning the hard way?

(Another aspect to this rule is that if the parent is more than 10 feet away, you DO have an obligation to take any measures possible to keep the kids around you safe. It's a "do unto other as blah blah blah..." type rule. )

DON'T monopolize toys or prime playground real estate. If you bring fancy solar powered sand toys or sweet remote control equipment to the park, you cannot deny it from the lesser fortunate kids whose parents only equiped them with sidewalk chalk and sunblock. This idea applies equally to swings, slides and sandboxes. They will be shared and shared alike until you leave. Any attempt at monopoly will subject you to swift exclusion from the "cool moms" cluster at the picnic table and your play date schedule will suffer. It's all about communism. Any attempt at domination of any kind makes everyone else nervous.

DON'T leave with more than you came with. So your little kid really got attached to my kid's ball at the park. I don't care. It's coming home with me, not you. Just because your kid seemed to get more enjoyment out of it than mine, that doesn't transfer the deed. Put it down, and walk away. It's that simple.

DON'T leave snacks or drinks sitting out on the edges of the park at kids' reach. There's nothing parents hate worse than having to chase their kid from snack to snack explaining why they can't have it. Just stick them inside your bag for heaven's sake! And if you don't, I can give you no guarantee that they won't be half chewed and covered with my kid's goo by the time you return.
Okay, so this was a nubbly toothed rant, but a rant none the less and I've been slim on them lately. I'm mostly just peeved that I was too chicken to chase that two year old who was running off with my baby's ball and grab it out of her adoring embrace. It's a jungle out there, folks. Play responsibly.


Kaff said…
What happened to you Sarah?? I can't believe you didn't snatch that ball away from that childs chubby hands! I might have to come visit you more often so you don't have this problem again.
Anonymous said…
Etiquette. That's e-t-i-q-u-e-t-t-e. Spell responsibly.
drainey said…
Ha Sarah, a few snatched toys and sandbox turf wars are NOTHING! You must live in a really polite town. We have hitting, throwing sand, smoking, wearing next to nothing (the moms), the town's brand new play structure covered in obscene words, (my kids can read), and when its time to go home, the trash-mouthed moms yell at their kids so bad it scares everybody, even me, then they finally grab them by the hair and drag them to the El Camino full of baying hounds and speed off toward the trailer park. That is why we have a backyard full of play equipment. In the meantime, if you come up with any ideas on how to civilize the playground, I'm all ears.
Kevin Stilley said…
I like your blog, I'll come back and visit again.
Sarah said…
Okay - so I found out that it was my MOM who left that barbed anonymous comment about my spelling. Give a girl a break! I was on vacation and didn't have my spell checker capabilities like I usually do. Sheesh! By the way, I heart speliing and granmer;
a is for angelator said…
welcome home! i'm so sad penny's orange ball was stolen. maybe that other kid didn't own any toys at all. let's give him (and his mom) the benefit of the doubt. :)
Catherine said…
You should delight in at least one good mispelled word per post. Mom needs them!

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