Playgrounds aren’t always about fun and games, unfortunately. For a place that’s supposed to encourage enjoyment, camaraderie, sharing and friendship, it’s still attached to a lot of unpleasant memories - even for those who have grown up and lived to tell about them.
How can a parent prevent the playground from becoming a traumatic place? There are no laws set in stone about playground behavior. However, there are practical guidelines on how your kids can improve theirs (and hopefully, encourage others’ in the process).
Coordinate with the school or parks department about adult supervision
An adult has to supervise at the playground at all times, whether it’s at the school, in a public park, or even at home. The presence of one (or several) can ensure safety and also encourage kids to be better behaved. An adult can see to it that all playground equipment and surroundings are functioning properly and well-maintained. Aside from that, they can facilitate conflict resolution should disagreements arise.
Most schools for young kids already have adult staff to supervise playtime, but it’s always a good idea to coordinate with the parent-teacher association about it. As for public parks, visit the parks and recreation department to know about adult supervision during playtime and make suggestions to improve things.
Establish simple rules
If you’re part of a parent-teacher association, or even a simple group of parents who supervise kids at the playground, come up with your own guidelines to implement. They can be as simple as recognizing what is acceptable and inappropriate behavior among a certain age group of kids, then either encouraging/preventing or putting a stop to them. Establish easy-to-follow rules like no pushing, no shouting at each other, forming a line behind slides, steering clear of swings, and learning to share playground equipment and toys. You can print these rules in clear block letters or illustrate them for younger kids to learn and understand.
Encourage team play
Let kids be kids! Playtime is the best time for them to learn how to socialize, share, and become team players (plus make new friends). Come up with games that will encourage them to solve problems together, assign different roles and tasks among themselves, and learn something new.
Create a time-out zone
The bottom line is that there will be kids who will misbehave or act out. So as not to affect the other kids’ playtime, create a time-out zone where they can work out their frustration for a few minutes. An adult can talk to the kids in this zone, hear them out, and help them come up with a solution for what’s bothering them before they re-join the main play area when they are calmer.
Make sure that the equipment has been properly inspected and there is safe surfacing. Playground rubber mulch has been proven to be far more safe then dirt or other surfacing options. Needless to say, kids will undoubtedly climb where they shouldn't and fall. Make sure they have somewhere safe to land.