Toddler etiquette – play groups and playgrounds

toddler play
toddler play 

If you have suffered the ignominy of having your toddler melt down in the middle of a play group full of strangers, you are not alone. All of us, at one time or another, have had to carry their children kicking and screaming from one activity or another.

If you're asked yourself "why do I put myself though this?" it might help to know that not only is this behaviour normal, it's actually helping your little darling work a few things out for themselves.

My kid doesn't play with anyone
Many parents worry that the behaviour displayed by the toddler will mirror how they act throughout their lives. Toddlers who like to play alone will not necessarily grow up to be lonely. Children under the age of three rarely play co-operatively with other children. It is quite normal for two or three toddlers to play in parallel, hardly acknowledging each other, but they are still learning from the experience.

Children pick up on the interactions of adults, so taking them to a playgroup provides more benefits than simply letting them see other children. Your kids get a chance to see how you react to new people, how polite exchanges are made and how friendships are established. They also provide an opportunity for an introduction to the rules of co-operative play like sharing and turn taking. Those skills do not come naturally to children (or adults, if you think about it!) and need to be learned.

Melting moments
If your child is put off by large, noisy groups of children, or can't handle the occasional snatching of toys, do not despair. There are many parents in your shoes. Some of them swear off playgroups forever. Others persist, but in smaller groups or in larger rooms - where the noise isn't quite to oppressive.

Many parents worry that the behaviour displayed by the toddler will mirror how they act throughout their lives.

Learning to control his temper is one of the main lessons a child has to learn in order to function in the world, and occasionally losing it is all part of the process. When he's calmed down, have a chat to your child about how he might handle difficult situations in future. Suggest alternative ways of dealing with the problem, like agreeing to take turns at a toy. When you're both quiet and happy, play a few turn-taking games at home to reinforce the message that once the toy has been taken away, it will come back.

Play grounds - the best and the worst places for toddlers
Many toddlers are so enamoured of their bodies' new abilities, like jumping, climbing and running, that they never seem to stop. These are the kids who are always asking to go to the park and climb the slippery dip. While playgrounds are the staple activity for many parents (to find a good Australian playground near you, try they can lead to conflict for toddlers who have trouble sharing the space with others.

Slippery dips are the classic example. Some kids are quicker to get to the top but a little doubtful about going down. Others are impatient and want to jump the queue. This can lead to tears, harsh words and even fighting. Again, a bit of a dress rehearsal can help a child deal with these situations.

Have a conversation about how your child might ask to move ahead in the queue, or how to ask another child to stop pushing in. These types of conversations are by no means obvious to children and they certainly do not come naturally.

Stacking the odds in your favour
If you are worried that bad behaviour is going to spoil your day out, try to stack the odds in your favour and head off tantrums before they start. Taking stacks of snacks to the park with you will not only keep your toddler happy, but will mean there is more than enough to share with other kids. Not only can your little one practice his sharing, he might even make a friend over a box of sultanas.