The sun is shining. A breeze is blowing. Children are laughing as they stumble across a play structure at your local playground. Toddlers swing with their parents, squealing with happiness. But then someone pushes someone else. Sand is thrown in another child’s eyes. Tantrums occur, and feelings are hurt. Navigating your local playground can mean sticking to a few important ground rules, to make sure everyone is tear-free at the end of the day.
- No hitting, ever. Few toddler phases are more stressful than the hitting, biting, and pinching phase. Not all toddlers experience it, but if yours is in the throes of it, you’re likely trying everything you can think of to curb the behavior at home. On the playground, however, there’s really only one appropriate response when your child is hitting another kid, and that is to remove her from the situation immediately.
- Thrown sand and scratched corneas. Sand is enticing to little fingers. It’s provides a tactile experience that is unique, and throwing it in the air and watching it fly can be a favorite activity of young kids. But that sand can get into other kids’ eyes. Redirect your child’s love for sand by helping him to learn to rake it gently with his fingers, use it to build structures, or pile it into dump trucks or buckets.
- Climbing backwards up the slide: an epidemic. Is the playground quiet today? Are there no other kids on the play structure while your child is climbing haphazardly up the slide, backwards? Then sure, let him have a great time. But when other kids are waiting to go down the slide, ask your child to let them have their turn.
- Apologies heal hurt feelings and teach kids about empathy. Many parents, when they see their kids upsetting others on the playground, simply whisk them away with an apology of their own. But teaching your kid to say, “I’m sorry” can be a great way for him to learn about compassion and treating others with respect. You may have to let him calm down before he returns to the scene of the crime with an apology, and that’s OK.
- Big kids need to treat toddlers with care. A two year-old happily walks across the playground, still new to the feeling of mulch beneath his feet and the sound of kids zooming past him. Is your big kid one of those zooming kids? Remind her to be careful not to push, bump, or crowd little kids on the playground.
What are your least favorite playground behaviors? What have you done to try to curb them? Let us know in the comments section!