[Play Area Etiquette]

One day, as a nanny, I saw a lady plop her not-even-one-year-old down in the play area at the mall, barricade the entrance… and walk away.

Yes. She walked away. Not just to the benches beside the play area. But to the bathrooms across the hall from the play area. No, she wasn’t just going to the doorway to see if it was occupied. She went in, out of sight, and left her child in the play area, alone.

I made a mental note that the child was unattended so that I could keep an eye on him. The little one started climbing onto the barricade and made it over… He started crawling off down the hallway… And the mother was still not back. I ended up scooping up the little guy and bringing him back towards the play area. The mom walked out at that moment, yanked her son from my arms and glared at me. I called after her that the play areas were unsupervised and that her son was crawling away, but I don’t know if there was a language barrier or if she cared.


So many times I see things happen at these “Soft Play’ areas. An absent parent. A parent that is there but not paying attention. Or even a parent that is watching her child torment younger children and not doing anything about it.

Common sense is definitely lacking in these play areas.



1. Unsupervised means unsupervised.
That means that YOU, being the responsible parent you are should be needs to STAY and WATCH your child. Not go wander the mall. Not go and grab a coffee.

2. Height and age restrictions.
I get it. Sometimes your kid is a little bit over the height limit. Or maybe your nine year old really wants to go in and play with your toddler. I’m totally down for that. I’m not okay with having to protect my child from the group of seven year old boys who are climbing over the learning-to-crawl babies, jumping off of the three foot high platforms and chasing each other around the play area.

3. “Socks Required” is not a suggestion.
Go figure. But you know, it’s okay. I don’t mind that your child’s sweaty, stinky feet are all over the stairs that someone else’s barely-crawling son is about to put his hands, and possibly mouth, all over.

4. Be mentally aware of what your child is doing.
Don’t just be there, physically. Be there mentally, too. Watch what your child is doing. Look up from your phone or away from your conversation every few minutes to make sure that your 3 year old isn’t terrorizing the babies or fighting with the other kids. Make sure that he isn’t biting or hitting. And maybe make sure that he hasn’t just peed all over the slide, too.

5. Don’t just walk away from your (or your chid’s) mess.
Going back to #4… Your child pee’s on the slide. Do you A) Leave before someone complains B) Ignore it C) Give a half-assed attempt at wiping it up but ignore anything that’s dripped to the carpet D) Alert mall staff — If you answered anything but D, you, sir, are a douche.

6. Sharing is Caring.
This kind of goes along with #4, as well. But I see it happen so much that I wanted to spend a bit more time on it : I’ve had kids push my son over because he was trying to climb up *their* stairs. I shouldn’t have to parent your child and remind them that it’s NOT their park and that they need to share with everyone.

7. If your kid has Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, they probably shouldn’t be playing there…
Yes, this has happened. I noticed the tell-tale spots on a child’s hands as he climbed past my son to scurry onto the giant apple. The mom came over to chat with her child and out of curiosity I had to ask…
“Uh oh, looks like you guys have Hand, Foot and Mouth going through the house.”
“Yeah, he caught it two days ago. We had to get out of the house – we were going stir crazy!”
Really? So you brought him to an enclosed play area with tons of other kids?! UGH!

8. No food. That includes the yogurt your child is running around with…
Telling my child that he can’t suck the yogurt your child spilled off of the slide is not fun. Nor is it appreciated. Please, for the love of cleanliness, don’t let your child run around with food. It clearly states no food in the play area. There are conveniently chairs surrounding the entire play area. There’s a food court moments away. There’s benches scattered around the mall. How hard is it to find somewhere to sit, other than on the slide, blocking traffic and spilling strawberry yogurt all over?

9. Pants, while not a written rule, are mandatory.
Were you changing your child on the bench in the play area and they managed to escape and are now running around the play area, naked? Yeah, please go get your child. Don’t just pull out your camera and take a video. Or laugh with your friends while letting him climb up and (ugh!) go down the slide. This is worse than the feet thing discussed in #3… It’s not cute. It’s not funny. And it’s so much worse when they start straddling the crawling babies and swinging their junk around… This is not a nudist beach! Put that thing away!!



Do you have any to add? Have you had any fun experiences at your local play areas?


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