Playground Etiquette and Mall Play Areas

This morning, Jaye and I went to the Collin Creek Mall Play Area to burn off some energy. Jaye loves the mall play areas. She can climb and slide and play and watch other kids! The only thing she doesn’t really love is any other children coming near the structure she’s currently playing on. Obviously, in a busy play area, there are always other kids near her and playing on the same thing. Usually, she gripes/grunts in annoyance, and I say, “It’s okay, she can play there too. You can share.”
But today, two things happened that made me think I needed some advice. Which I hope to get from you, dear blog readers and peoples of the world wide web.

First, Jaye hit another little girl. The other little girl was just minding her own business, climbing up the steps behind Jaye to go down a slide. She wasn’t being pushy or rude, but Jaye just turned around and hit her on the head. Of course, I grabbed Jaye’s hand and sternly said, “No hitting. Be gentle.” I told Jaye, “Say I’m sorry.” And then I apologized to the little girl’s mom who was standing right there.
Second, I overheard another mom of a littler one (a girl about Jaye’s age) stopping a bigger kid from pushing past to go down the slide first by saying “Wait a minute. It’s her turn now.” And it made me realize that the bigger kids do that to Jaye all the time, and I don’t say anything about it. No wonder Jaye wants to hit kids who get near her. I felt bad for not standing up for Jaye more. Correcting other people’s kids is definitely a sensitive area, but I thought the mom’s way of dealing with it was good. I’m going to adopt it and do a better job next time we’re at a park or mall play area.
I need some advice. How do you deal with your little one hitting other kids? How do you not die of embarrassment? How do I deal with the annoying kids pushing past Jaye and not taking turns? How do I stand up for Jaye without being the playground police every second? How do I teach Jaye not to be that annoying kid in a year or two when she’s bigger?


  1. My oldest was always the one being hit. She’s very shy in those situations. But my youngest is a hitter (actually, she almost kicked a baby in the head last time we were on those things. So embarrassing.) But we’ve lived through 5 years of mall playgrounds and here are by big take-aways:
    1. Never be afraid to tell somebody else’s kid to calm down or be nice if they are older and being a total jerk. I don’t bother with little things like budging in line, but hitting, pushing, or running like a maniac will get me to step in. But be understanding, they’re just a kid, not a bully or an asshole. If their parents aren’t explaining good behavior a kind “you know, that kid is a lot smaller than you, you need ot be more gental” from a stranger never hurts.
    2. If your kid does something bad, make sure to be clear to them about it, and have escalating consequences. (first time a firm explanation, second time a time out, third time leave the play area). Not only is it teaching good behavior but it will help other parents forgive your kid if they see you’re trying to parent.
    3. Don’t over-shadow your kid. Simple bumps and bruises are expected on the play area. As long as you can see them you don’t need to be right by their side. Especially once they’re verbal, then you can sit down and chill a bit more.
    4. Once your kid is too big to be in there, don’t go back. My biggest pet peeve, possibly in the whole world, is parents who let their kids run wild in the play areas when they are clearly too old.
    5. Never leave kids unattended (DUH) and don’t be scared to report unattended children. I’ve done it and been thanked by security.

    Hmm, that was longer than I expected. I guess I have opinions. Haha. My kids love those places, and they can be awesome, but they’re also sometimes like a cage match.

    • Thanks for your tips. We usually only go on weekday mornings because the weekend or afternoon crowd is so crazy. Maybe once Jaye gets a little bigger it will be easier.

      I do think in general I would never bother with cutting in line, going up the slide the wrong way, those little annoying things. My only concern is that Jaye’s so little and doesn’t stand up for herself at all. She’ll just stand at the top of the slide forever if some kid won’t stop going up the slide and then turning around to go down again on repeat.

      This is precisely why I need to find more mom friends to help me navigate this craziness!

  2. Aww Jaye is so cute! I miss her. Maybe Lyla taught her to hit? Remember that time she hit Jaye across the forehead? I felt so terrible! It is such a hard thing to know what to do. Sometimes bigger kids will literally push Lyla down right in front of their parents, and the parents just look and don’t say anything. It’s so crazy to me. It is hard to know how to say something to other people’s kids. One thing I always have said is something like “She’s so little you have to be extra careful or let her have a turn” or something like that. There are so many life lessons that she is learning at those play places, like how to be nice to others and deal with others not being nice to her. I’ve been trying to encourage Benjamin to stand up for himself more lately by saying something like “Hey I was playing that, please give it back”. Of course the kids don’t usually give it back… Ok, this is a long and rambling reply… I look forward to hearing more of what you and Jaye learn and any advice you have to give.

    • I’m sure Lyla didn’t teach Jaye. Jaye can be quite an ornery one all on her own. I felt so bad when she hit that poor kid at the mall. At least it didn’t seem too hard and the kid didn’t cry.

      It’s such a balance. In general, I like to think Jaye will just learn to work things out with other kids on her own. I don’t want to be a crazy helicopter parent or anything. But also, she’s just so little right now and would just never get a turn if I don’t help her be assertive a little bit.

      We’ll try it out next time!

  3. Glad those other moms could offer you advice, because I’m in the same boat with you. Clueless about these things. Thanks for linking up with me this week.