I hate the playground. Always have. Yeah, I said it.
If we don’t go there at least once a day, all hell breaks lose.
Kids need to play, that’s just how it is. You can’t keep them in a box in the closet. (Or a social worker is bound to come calling.) Indoors or outdoors, they need to move around or they go all…
When we lived in Atlanta, I had to get to the playground at sunrise, or my tender kiddo would sizzle on the swings. Here in Wisconsin, we shell out for indoor playgrounds open in the dead of winter to let our beasts loose for a few hours. It’s the cost of raising kids.
Going to the playground isn’t the hard part. As everyone with children knows, it’s leaving.
I’ve heard parents yell, threaten, and bribe the kids to get back in the car.
I’ve seen frustrated and outwitted parents drag screaming boys and girls off the wood chips, vowing never to return. (A hollow threat.)
The playground ordeal doesn’t have to be as difficult as your kids can make it.
Before you set out to play, be prepared: take some drinks and snacks for AFTER your play session (this is especially helpful when the indoor playground has a tempting snack bar), and let your children know a treat is waiting WHEN YOU LEAVE.
Don’t cave and give them treats on the playground! You’ll lose your “ace in the hole,” as my mother calls it, and you might attract stray kids with hungry eyes and negligent parents.
You do NOT want that. I learned the hard way some kids have dietary restrictions, and you can’t just go handing out peanut-butter rum cocaine balls. (lol, social workers, just kidding…!)
Take some extras along that aren’t on the playground: I keep sand toys and frisbees in the car for summer play, and crayons, paper and comic books for indoor places, in case they need a break.
Set a timer (there’s one on your phone). When it’s almost time to go, tell them they can do ONE LAST THING. Then, when they hear the timer, it’s not your fault it’s time to leave – it’s that gosh-darn timer!
Here’s a tip I adapted from our very smart pediatric dentist. Tell them you’ll return, and if you can, tell them WHEN. (Don’t lie about it, or you’ll only be able to do it once.)
“We’ll come back again and play on the swings” = Good.
“We can come back to the swings tomorrow morning” = GREAT!
For more tried and true play ideas, see my book 50 Free or Cheap Ways to Entertain Your Toddler. Now available at most major ebook retailers.