It’s a warm Tuesday morning, and every mom in the city has decided to bring her toddler to the indoor playground area! And since parenting philosophies and styles are as varied as the people that make up this world, indoor play area rules and etiquette is often left up to interpretation. Come on, now… some things are just good sense, right?
For the sake of your sanity and to make sure you’ve got all your child-training bases covered, let’s talk about the standards of manners and behavior in the dos and don’ts of indoor playgrounds!
Indoor Play Area Rules and Etiquette 101
Indoor playgrounds are pretty gross. I mean, honestly, there’s no better breeding ground for nasty germs! However, they are also loads of fun… for kids anyway.
I don’t ever remember going to an indoor play area when I was a kid. I remember going through the fast food drive through and wanting to go in SO BAD! We lived far from town and it seemed like we never had enough time.
Now that I’ve been Momming for all these years, I know it was probably just a “not-gonna-happen” request.
When my oldest child was a toddler, I loved taking him to the indoor play area at our local mall. As a stay at home mom, we would go at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. The only other people that would be there at that time were other stay at home moms.
I appreciated using the indoor play area as an opportunity to train my child how to make friends. Read how I did that here. (I’ve used the same play area and the same method for all of my children actually… I’m grateful for that play area now that I think about it:)
There’s Bound To Be Conflict – Keep It Minimal
One thing is for certain regarding playgrounds and indoor play areas. You and/or your child will run into conflict! With the vast array of parenting notions swirling the world, your child will run into another child that doesn’t meet your standards of behavior.
Take a deep breath. I know just thinking about a little rascal being mean to your sweet baby makes you boil inside a little (or a lot.) It does me too. BUT… I’ll tell you what I tell my kids. We can’t control other people’s actions, only our own. So…
That means your only job is to make sure YOUR child is following the indoor playground do’s and don’ts. Doing so means you can leave the play area knowing you did your part and your child acted appropriately.
With that, you can walk tall, smile, and give yourself a parenting pat-on-the-back!
Indoor Playground Dos.
Let’s start with the indoor play area rules and etiquette dos.
#1. Do give other people preference over yourselves.
- This can be difficult when you know how special your child is. You know the work you have put into making sure he is kind and gentle. The way he would rather make a friend that gets his way. Now is the time to remember the “why” behind all that work. When another child is bossy or demanding, all the training you’ve done will kick in. Let him shine.
#2. Do speak to people.
- As I mentioned above, indoor play areas and outdoor parks as well are great places to make friends. I trained my kids how to say, “would you like to play with me” from a very early age and encouraged them to say it to whoever they wanted to. I can recall one occasion where my child had to approach a little boy more than once. Read how to teach children to be bold here.
She asked 3 separate times before he finally said yes. After which, they had a fun time together. He was simply very shy and if she hadn’t been bold, they both would have missed out.
#3. Do follow the rules.
- Most indoor play areas have rules about how big/small a child must be to play. As my oldest son has become too big for most of these places, his heart is still full of “play.” It hurts him that he can’t play merely because he’s tall. This kills me because I know he’ll be gentle, careful and watch out for the small children. However, rules are rules. Allowing him to play sets an example. If I let him play and another mom with a bigger not-so-gentle big-kid comes in she’ll likely follow my lead. My son is now allowed to play in a caregiver role instead. Similarly to the way, I would play with the toddlers and preschooler.
#4. Do take turns.
- For the love… take turns. I once watched a 10+-year-old girl push my 2-year-old out of the way so she could go down the slide first. I’m not even going to elaborate on this…. I can’t handle talking about it. You are smart. You know better. Just take turns. Read about whether or not your child should have to share here.
#5. Do capture every teachable moment.
- You have a chance to make friends (which let’s face it… is hard as a mom.) Your child has a chance to make friends. There are opportunities to train your child how to prefer others. You can work on boldness, kindness, preference, patience, and all kinds of child training goodness at the indoor play area. Capture every opportunity. Don’t dread it.
Indoor Playground Don’ts
And now the indoor play area rules and etiquette don’ts.
#1. Don’t go sick.
- Low-grade fever… stay home. Coughing… stay home. Nasty, runny nose… just stay home. I know it’s difficult when you start to feel cooped up, but we both know it’s not worth making another mom’s life more difficult by spreading germs, just to get a few minutes of respite.
#2. Don’t bring toys.
- Leave special “lovey’s” and “carry-everywhere-with-me” toys in the car. First of all, most of the time when these special items are lost, it’s because they were left in a park or play area. Don’t risk losing that special something. Secondly, leaving toys in the car takes away the pressure of your child having to tell another child no if he asks to play with or see it. There’s plenty of other opportunities to work on sharing. We opt for leaving toys at home or in the car. Read more about sharing.
#3. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your child.
- I can not tell you how many times I have said the words, “you may not put your hands on her!” To someone else’s child. You do your part. You train your child to have manners, to think of other, and to operate in love. Then when her personal space is being invaded, you teach her boldness. You train her to say, “don’t touch me” when someone is “too close!” Do so by teaching her the words and by saying them yourself! You have every right.
#4. Don’t be dramatic.
- When the above scenario or any other scenario makes your head hot, take a deep breath and remember not to make mountains out of molehills. You are only responsible for your own child. By resolving the problem and then getting right back to a smiling and playing, you’re showing your little one how to let things go.
#5. Don’t let your kids touch other kids.
- We are an affectionate family. We kiss and hug and snuggle. Therefore, my kids have always liked to give hugs to their friends. Personal space is so important though. When raising an affectionate child, also train her to understand that there are only a select few people she can show physical affection to. New friends in the play area are not part of that select few. As she grows you’ll be able to better teach her when affection MAY be appropriate to someone who is hurting… but that is NOT something you should be concerned about as a toddler or preschooler.
Final Etiquette Truths
Finally, I want you to know you are doing a great job. The very fact that you are taking the time to train your child what is and is not acceptable behavior in a public play area means you’re a rock-star of a mom! Do the dos. Don’t do the don’t’s. Give another mom and her child grace, and remember… you can’t raise them all.