Guide to Playground Etiquette
Practicing good manners at the playground can be difficult for kids and parents alike, and there is plenty of gray area when it comes to proper behavior. While the playground is a great place for kids to burn off pent-up energy and meet new friends, a trip can become less fun when kids and supervisors don’t follow proper playground etiquette.
This guide will address some of the most common points of playground etiquette parents and kids will face at the park, as well as how to handle them with grace.
Read the full article or jump to a specific section:
- Taking Turns
- Age-Appropriateness on the Playground
- Packing for the Playground
- Contact Miracle Recreation Equipment Company®
We’ve all heard that sharing is caring, but how far is too far? Is everything meant to be shared, or are there limits to what should be up for grabs? Generally, sharing is a good idea, but there are some exceptions to the rule.
Here are our top three tips for different types of sharing situations:
1. Playground Equipment
What do you do when you start pushing your kid on the park’s only tire swing and a line starts to form? Most parents agree that there is no need to stop swinging immediately, but you likely should not continue using the swing for more than a couple of minutes. Being respectful of those in line and giving up the swing in a timely fashion is a great way to teach your child the virtue of sharing.
Playgrounds may be full of unattended toys, but are these toys okay to play with? The answer depends on the toy. If your child finds an infant toy to play with, you should always look for the toy’s rightful owner immediately. But if the toy your child picks up is for older kids like a toy truck, it is generally acceptable to allow your child to play with it for a bit. Although most parents won’t mind letting other kids borrow a toy for a while, it is always a good idea to ask the nearby parents if any of them own the found toy and whether it is okay to use.
This one is a bit more straightforward — never offer food to a child you are not responsible for without asking their caretaker first. Sharing a snack with your child’s newest friend might seem like a nice thing to do, but for the sake of health and safety, always check with the child’s guardian before feeding them. You never know what allergies or dietary restrictions a child might have, so it is always better to err on the side of caution.
Like sharing, taking turns can be tricky. It is easy for kids to get overly excited about the giant twisty slide on the playground and become too impatient to wait for their turn to slide down. No one wants to be responsible for a preschool child who pushes on playground equipment, so it is important you teach kids the value of taking turns.
Taking turns is a vital life skill, and the playground presents the perfect opportunity to put it into action. Teaching kids to take turns with others on the playground can help them learn fairness, discipline, self-control, and how to compromise, negotiate with others and manage disappointment. Help your child build these good habits by encouraging them to wait politely for their turn in line and rewarding good turn-taking behavior with positive reinforcement.
Help your child see the importance of waiting patiently by explaining to them how easily a younger child can get hurt when shoved to the side. Encourage your older kids to look out for their younger friends or siblings — older kids love the chance to play grown-up and take on the duty of protecting someone smaller. Make sure you also warn your younger kids to be careful and watch out for the bigger kids who may play more intensely. Because kids tend to play nicer once they get to know each other, try to introduce smaller and bigger kids to each other on the playground.
Age-Appropriateness on the Playground
Age-appropriateness on the playground is a matter of safety and injury prevention. Some types of playground equipment are built for bigger kids to test their strength and agility skills, making them unsuitable for younger kids. To avoid any preventable accidents, keep toddlers away from things like monkey bars or climbing walls, especially if there is no adult around to supervise.
Here is a cheat sheet for age-safe playground equipment guidelines:
- Kids 2 years old or younger: Kids under 2 years old likely should not be on public playgrounds without constant supervision. Instead of going to a busy big-kid park, try to find a local playground specially designed for young kids with infant-safe swings.
- Ages 2 to 5: Toddlers are a bit stronger than younger kids but still have a high center of gravity, making them prone to toppling over. Stick to playground equipment with short railings and smaller steps, such as crawl tunnels, short slides, and small swings, for this age group.
- Kids older than 5: Older kids have developed the muscle coordination and arm strength to play safely on climbing equipment, monkey bars, large slides, seesaws and tall swings with adult supervision.
Typically, a playground will post helpful signs or stickers near their equipment to indicate which age groups the pieces are intended for. Keep an eye out for these informative signs to help you decide whether a specific piece of equipment would be safe for your kids to play on.
It can be more difficult to decide what to do when you see a young child who is not your own playing on a more advanced piece of equipment on the playground, but it is typically better to be safe than sorry. Politely speak up when you see a smaller child on a more challenging piece of playground equipment by gently pointing out to their parent their kid might be in danger. Most parents will appreciate you looking out for their child’s safety, especially if they had gotten distracted and did not realize their child was at risk.
Packing for the Playground
Be conscientious of what you pack when getting a bag ready for the playground. Keep in mind that whatever toys you bring could get shared and possibly lost — if you cannot afford to take that chance, leave the toy at home. Be aware that there will be kids of varying ages at the park, so try to bring toys that are appropriate for all ages and do not have small parts.
Be just as careful when packing snacks and drinks for the playground. Playing on the playground takes a lot of energy, so always have plenty of water on hand to help keep your kids hydrated. In case other kids want to swap snacks with your child, choose foods that are free of major allergens and always ask the other kid’s caretaker before offering to share.
Finally, remember to bring a mini first aid kit with you to the playground. Even the most careful kids at a park may benefit from some bandages, sanitary wipes and antibiotic cream. As a perk, these items won’t take up too much space in your bag and could come in handy.
When to Intervene on the Playground
Part of playground etiquette as an adult supervisor is knowing when to intervene and when to let kids continue playing. A trip to the playground is a great opportunity for kids to learn how to socialize with their peers and exercise their manners. But when manners go out the window and tensions grow, it is important to know when it is best to step in to avoid unnecessary problems or harm.
You will likely not be responsible for every child on the playground. However, as an adult, it is your duty to ensure every kid stays safe through active supervision.
It is acceptable to allow the kids to continue playing uninterrupted if someone does something unfair, but everyone is happily playing regardless. For example, if a child cuts in line but the others don’t seem to notice, there is no need to step in. It is also OK to let the kids work through minor disputes. Allowing the kids to work through who gets to use the slide first or who gets to kick the ball next can help build a foundation for healthy social skills.
If a kid gets upset or becomes frustrated, it is OK to diffuse the situation by asking if they are alright and what happened. When children are bothered by something minor, giving them advice is a great way to offer tools that help them resolve problems on their own.
While giving kids some freedom on the playground is a nice way to let them use their imagination and establish interpersonal relationships, some instances require adult intervention, including the following:
- Injury: Anytime a child is hurt or injured on the playground, you must step in and make sure they do not need immediate medical attention. If the injury is minor, like a scraped knee, you may want to instruct the child to find their guardian.
- Risk of harm: If kids are participating in a dangerous activity or if someone is acting aggressively on the playground, a supervisor should step in. If intervening is essential for avoiding harm, do it! It is always best to be safe.
- Physical contact: Adults should intervene if hitting, pushing, or any other physical altercation occurs. Even if you are not responsible for the child hurting others, it is important to stop the behavior and let their guardian know you have a concern.
- Problematic behavior: If kids misbehave, you may need to remove them from the playground and explain why they shouldn’t act like that. When another child acts inappropriately, locate their parent or supervisor and let them know about the behavior.
With that said, adults need to speak respectfully to one another about the kids on the playground. Part of teaching kids about healthy interpersonal skills is showing them how to address issues without causing tension or more problems. If an adult is not receptive or other children continue to be a nuisance, move to another part of the playground and avoid conflicts entirely.
Contact Miracle® Recreation Equipment Company
If you are concerned about proper playground etiquette and safety, Miracle Recreation can help. We are committed to kids’ safety, and our playground products are designed with keeping kids safe, healthy and happy in mind. We will work with you to create a fun and adventurous playground environment that you can feel confident letting your kids play in.
To find safe and thrilling playground equipment that’s appropriate for any age, contact Miracle Recreation today.