If there was such a thing as the playground police, and I was its sheriff, I’d swagger around the playground, ticket book in hand, ready to enforce the following rules.* These rules would make my life as the mother and daily playground chaperone to two toddlers much easier, so I’d really love if we could all just do things my way. Ok? Ok.
Oh, if only it was that simple. Long ago, I accepted the fact that my sheriff jurisdiction doesn’t extend past my front door, but a girl can dream, can’t she? Here’s how I’d run my playground. What about you?
- No toys from home allowed. I consider this contraband because it always leads to awkward situations. The kid who brings the toy rarely wants to share it, and the other children always want to use it. The adults are left to politely negotiate on behalf of their children, and there’s already enough opportunities for negotiation in a day. We don’t need one more.
- Scooters, push cars and other means of transportation to the park shall not be considered toys and are off limits without express consent from the owner. This is the equivalent of letting a stranger rummage through a car in a parking lot. It’s just weird. Don’t let your kids do this. For parents who use these modes of transportation, park them off to the side. If they’re front and center in the middle of the playground, then it’s kind of like seeing a car in the middle of a mall. You’re going to want to check it out.
- The sharing of playground toys is NOT required. If the playground in question has ride-on toys, balls and other plastic rejects from the homes of people in the neighborhood, the child currently using the toy doesn’t have to share it. Negotiating a trade is acceptable, but if the kid refuses the trade, then the negotiation ends. Grab and go’s are never allowed, but once the child using the toy abandons it, it’s free for the taking. No dibsies.
- The sharing of playground equipment IS required. Taking turns on equipment just makes sense. It’s communal property and is kind of the point of going to the playground. Nobody can claim the monkey bars for their private use as a fort for all of eternity. If the swings are in high demand, then there’s a ten minute time limit per turn. As any parent who has pushed a swing knows, this is a very, very long time and should satisfy the most die hard of swingers.
- No begging for food. It’s common knowledge that kids like everyone else’s snacks better than their own, but they will not be allowed to encroach on another child’s personal space, staring wide-eyed at the snack being consumed. It gets uncomfortable really fast. If the begging child’s parent doesn’t intervene, then the parent with the snacks has the option to shoo the begging child away like a pigeon.
- The child going down the slide has the right of way. Climbing up slides is fun, but when there’s a standoff with one child at the top and another at the bottom, the kid sliding down goes first every time. Practice scaling your personal Everest on off hours, kid.
- Children playing in age-appropriate play spaces have preference over older or younger children in that area. Big kids are going to want to play on the little kid equipment and little kids are going to try out the big kid stuff. This is all fine, until the appropriately aged kids show up to play. Then, they get the right of way.
- Parents/ Guardians have exactly twelve seconds to get their kid under control, or the nearest adult may intervene. If a kid is breaking any of the above rules or doing something that may hurt other children, then his parent has to address the situation quickly. No one said going to the playground was fun for the adults, and I’m just going to throw it out there — Dads usually have a slower response time than moms.
- Small talk with other adults is not mandatory, but an acknowledgment that the other person is standing right next to you is. Sometimes adults are in the mood to chat, and sometimes they’re not. That’s OK. What’s not OK is blatantly ignoring the other adult standing next to you, especially if your kids are playing with each other. A smile, nod and quick “hi” is all it takes.
- There is a three strike rule for asking another mom’s name. You will inevitably see the same moms at the playground, and you will inevitably forget their names after the first introduction. It’s OK to ask their name a second time. It’s not OK to ask a third time. At this point, three options are available to you. (1) Eavesdrop to overhear it. (2) Introduce a friend to have her repeat it. (3) Find a new playground because it’s going to get awkward.
*I reserve the right to change any and all of these rules to suit my children and me as they get older and their interactions on the playground change…if only in my dreams.