EduKids Early Childhood Education Centers

Playground Politics

Posted on: September 13, 2010

Kate Dust, EduKids Education Director

Playground Politics is the title of one of my favorite books.  The author, Stanley Greenspan, M.D., is a well-known, well read and well-respected authority on child development.  He writes that there are politics on the playground – and any parent that has taken their child to slide down the slides, swing on the swings and navigate the multiple offerings of an active playground would agree!  Having fun in a community or school playground requires compromise, competition and compassion — politics.

Navigating and Negotiating

  • Be sure playgrounds you take your child to have equipment and areas that are designed for their age.  High slides require independent climbing, the ability to balance, maneuver and sit on a small platform and then let go to propel your body down a narrow, slippery, flat tube to fall onto the ground.  This is a blast and great fun if the slide is proportioned in height and width to your child.
  • Children can’t judge distance in front or back of swings when they are in motion.  You have to do it for them.  Swings move your child’s body through space like nothing else!  This is a wonderful and exhilarating feeling.  Young children need high attention to space, wait time and closing time on swings.
  • Climbers are probably the highest profile equipment in a playground.  With abandon children will run to a climber figuring out how to use it, what they are good at and how fast they can get to each piece of it!  They pay little attention to who else is on a climber, rarely wait for their turn on a bridge or step area and never want to get off.  It is often easy to lose sight of a toddler on a busy climber.  Stay close to it at all times when your child is on a climber!

Threats and Theatrics
It is easy to get into a power struggle at a playground.  Older children don’t pay attention to safety and younger ones are often following right behind them.  In response to this parents are often heard saying: “We are leaving right now if that doesn’t stop.”  This comment is usually followed by a crying toddler, a preschooler who continues to run or a young school ager who argues about it.  Don’t argue or make threats. Children didn’t get to the playground on their own.  You invited them and you took them.  Plan ahead so that you have lots of time on the playground.  Bring lunch and water bottles.  Have Kleenex and band aids.  Let children bring friends.  Always keep an eye on them.  Teach them to be safe.

Neighborhood playgrounds are the beginning of your child’s active entrance to trial & error, identification of successes & challenges, selection of “place in the pack” and feelings of power.  They will challenge themselves and each other. 

Muscles are strong, attention is focused.  Minds & bodies are active.  Time and energy is well spent.

This is playground politics at its best!  Let them run and have fun!

-Kate Dust, EduKids Education Director

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