Baby is new to the playground scene, and if he is the first under-one-year-old who’s been a big part of your adult life, there’s a good chance you’ll be a little rusty on the dos and don’ts of the playground, too. Unlike playing with Baby in your home, the playground is a shared space where other parents and children are allowed to be without following your home’s or family’s rules. And unlike taking Baby to a class or activity, there isn’t another set of well-defined rules or guidelines for his (and your) behavior to follow. That doesn’t mean the playground is, or should be, a free-for-all, though. All it means is that those rules generally stay fairly unspoken, which unfortunately means that not everyone will follow them. Playground manners are a great place to start teaching Baby what it means to behave well in public alongside people he doesn&;t know.
Know Baby’s limits
He may not know his own signs of hunger, thirst, tiredness, or even just the feeling of being overstimulated from being around too many people yet, and even if he does, he may not have the words to explain it to you. This means that he is counting on you to notice when he is getting close to those limits, and needs a change of scenery before a meltdown happens. Playground visits, like play dates when he is a little older, will go much more smoothly if they’re kept brief enough that they don’t take a turn for the worse at the end. Somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes might be right for this age, depending on Baby’s attention span.
Similarly, Baby isn’t quite ready to understand the concept of sharing, and probably won’t be for at least a couple of years, and the same is true for the other kids in his age group. This means that play time with other kids you and Baby come across at the playground can be a little messy and a little grabby, and requires pretty close adult supervision. Kids at this age aren’t really capable of understanding sharing at all, so bringing a few extra toys with you on any outings as a distraction is a good way to help divert any tears.
Super-vision vs. supervision
There are as many different ways to be a parent as there are children in the world, and most of these styles produce happy, healthy children, even if the styles are very different. This kind of variety means that when you and Baby are out in the world, there’s a good chance that some of the parents you run into in public places, like the playground, will have parenting styles that you might fundamentally disagree with. Even parenting disagreements that might not usually bother you can start to be a problem in a shared space like a playground, especially with the parents of children Baby might end up playing with or near.
The most important piece of your part in playground play is making sure Baby stays safe. Sometimes this may entail keeping a closer eye on his playground playmates than it feels like those other children’s own parents are, and sometimes it may mean saying something, gently and respectfully, to another child about safer ways to play with Baby, or even moving Baby out of a situation you don’t feel comfortable leaving him in. When it comes to children who are not your own, any issue that doesn’t involve the safety of Baby or another child probably isn’t appropriate for you to comment on.