Play Area Etiquette: Common Sense Really Isn't That Common

Are you guilty of breaking any of these rules?

playground etiquette

Today I saw a lady plop her not-even-one-year-old down in the play area at the mall, barricade the entrance, and walk away.

Yes. She walked away. Not just to the benches beside the play area. But to the bathrooms across the hall from the play area. No, she wasn’t just going to the doorway to see if it was occupied. She went in, out of sight, and left her child in the play area, alone.

I made a mental note that the child was unattended, so that I could keep an eye on him. The little one started climbing onto the barricade and made it over! He started crawling off down the hallway . . . and the mother was still not back. I ended up scooping up the little guy and bringing him back towards the play area. The mom walked out at that moment, yanked her son from my arms, and glared at me. I called after her that the play areas were unsupervised and that her son was crawling away, but I don’t know if there was a language barrier or if she cared.

So many times I see things happen at these “Soft Play" areas that have popped up around malls and local recreation centres in the past ten years. An absent parent. A parent who is there, but not paying attention. Or even a parent who is watching her child torment younger children and not doing anything about it.

Common sense is definitely lacking in these play areas. And I'm not talking about the children! 

Here Are The Basic Play Area Etiquette Guidelines To Follow:

1. Unsupervised means unsupervised.

That means that YOU, being the responsible parent that you are, needs to STAY and WATCH your child. Not go wander the mall. Not go and grab a coffee.

2. Height and age restrictions.

I get it. Sometimes your kid is a little bit over the height limit. Or maybe your nine-year-old really wants to go in and play with your toddler. I’m totally down for that. I’m not okay with having to protect my child from the group of seven-year-old boys who are climbing over the learning-to-crawl babies, jumping off of the three foot high platforms, and chasing each other around the play area.

3. “Socks Required” is not a suggestion.

Go figure. But you know, it’s okay. I don’t mind that your child’s sweaty, stinky feet are all over the stairs that my barely-crawling son is about to put his hands all over.

4. Be mentally aware of what your child is doing.

Don’t just be there, physically. Be there mentally, too. Watch what your child is doing. Look up from your phone or away from your conversation every few minutes to make sure that your three-year-old isn’t terrorizing the babies or fighting with the other kids. Make sure that he isn’t biting or hitting. And maybe make sure that he hasn’t just peed all over the slide, too.

5. Don’t just walk away from your (or your chid’s) mess.

Going back to #4 . . .  Your child pees on the slide, do you A) leave before someone complains, B) ignore it, C) give a half-assed attempt at wiping it up but ignore anything that’s dripped to the carpet, D) alert mall staff? If you answered anything but D, you, sir, are a douche.

6. Sharing is Caring.

This kind of goes along with #4, as well. But I see it happen so much that I wanted to spend a bit more time on it. I’ve had kids push my son over because he was trying to climb up *their* stairs. I shouldn’t have to parent your child and remind them that it’s NOT their park and that they need to share with everyone.

7. If your kid has Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease, they probably shouldn’t be playing there . . .

Yes, this has happened. I noticed the tell-tale spots on a child’s hands as he climbed past my son to scurry onto the giant apple. The mom came over to chat with her child and out of curiosity I had to ask . . . 
“Uh oh, looks like you guys have Hand, Foot, and Mouth going through the house.”
“Yeah, he caught it two days ago. We had to get out of the house—we were going stir crazy!”

Really? So you brought him to an enclosed play area with tons of other kids?! UGH!

8. No food. That includes the yogurt your child is running around with.

Telling my child that he can’t suck the yogurt your child spilled off of the slide is not fun. Nor is it appreciated. Please, for the love of cleanliness, don’t let your child run around with food. It clearly states no food in the play area. There are conveniently located chairs surrounding the entire play area. There’s a food court moments away. There are benches scattered around the mall. How hard is it to find somewhere to sit, other than on the slide, blocking traffic, and spilling strawberry yogurt all over?

9. Pants, while not a written rule, are mandatory.

Were you changing your child on the bench in the play area and they managed to escape and are now running around the play area, naked? Yeah, please go get your child. Don’t just pull out your camera and take a video. Or laugh with your friends while letting him climb up and (ugh!) go down the slide. This is worse than the feet thing discussed in #3. It’s not cute. It’s not funny. And it’s so much worse when they start straddling the crawling babies and swinging their junk around . . . This is not a nudist beach! Put that thing away!!

Do you have any to add? Have you had any fun experiences at your local play areas?

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Tasha Gandevia is a nearly-thirty (gulp!) year old mom to 1.5 boys and wife to a wonderful hubsand who only drives her batsh*t crazy once in a while.
After being a nanny for nearly ten years, she had her first child. The plan was to only have one, but 18 months after baby was born, her and her husband decided to take the plunge into double-trouble.
She's excited to be a SAHM later in 2014 and spend her days with her boys and blogging about it!