A trip to the playground can strike fear into even the most experienced parent’s heart. You may dread the moment that you leave Baby at the bottom of the slide, with older children swarming around her like a bunch of howler monkeys. Here are some tips to help you prepare Baby for her trips to the jungle. Jungle gym, that is.
Before stepping foot onto the grounds, have a talk about what types of behavior are and aren’t appropriate for a playground. For example, you can remind Baby about manners and the importance of sharing. If Baby insists on bringing toys to the playground, try to discourage her from bringing her favorites, and make sure to label the ones you bring for easy identification during cleanup.
Approach the wildlife with caution
Of course you’ll want to watch Baby as she plays alone and with other children. But it’s okay to occasionally give her the chance to figure things out alone – in doing so, you might find that Baby has her own set of survival instincts.
When you interact with the other kids, make sure you stay calm and collected. Remember that you’re modeling appropriate behavior for young children. Baby will probably start out by modeling her reactions after your own.
Playground dynamics between adults are a little more complicated. Some people have no problem approaching other parents with concerns or information. Others might feel more comfortable avoiding confrontation, choosing instead to move Baby to a friendlier environment. And actually, both of these solutions are fine, depending on your preferences and how much you feel the situation calls for intervention. There’s no clear line between what you can and can’t do, so as long as you’re respectful. There’s nothing wrong with doing what you feel is right for you and Baby.
Make it an educational experience
The playground is rich with opportunities to teach Baby lessons about sharing, personal space, politeness, and so many other laws of the jungle. You may not like seeing older kids tell Baby not to play with them, but you could use that to show her how to move on and find a better partner for her mud pie factory.
Know your habitat
A number of different factors will influence the things that you’re going to be thinking about while Baby plays. For example, There are different types of playgrounds – if you’re running across older kids, is it because they’re invading the toddler playground, or because you’re bringing Baby to an environment that’s not designed for her? If it’s a playground designed for an older age group, or a range of ages, it might be wise to keep a closer eye on Baby than you would in a toddler-only space. On the other hand, a play area designed for toddlers is often fenced in, lower to the ground, and safer for younger children. It’s also good to take a look and make sure that the equipment is all sanitary and in good working condition.
If interactions with older children leave you feeling like you’re dealing with a completely different species altogether, try to remember that these older kids are learning manners and social rules just as much as Baby is. In some cases, they just might not want to play with someone as young as Baby. And that’s okay – most likely, Baby isn’t going to be remembering much of this as she grows into the next stage of her life. Take it all in stride, and try to make the most of the experience.