Trucks, Sand Toys and Grey Areas at Parks | Toddling Through the Silicon Valley | Cheryl Bac | Palo Alto Online |

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Toddling Through the Silicon Valley

By Cheryl Bac

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About this blog: I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, home cook, marathon runner, and PhD. I recently moved to the Silicon Valley after completing my PhD in Social Psychology and becoming a mother one month apart. Before that, I ran seven marathons incl...  (More)

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Trucks, Sand Toys and Grey Areas at Parks

Uploaded: Jan 18, 2014
In a toddler's life, many things are very black and white - If daddy grabs my shoes, we're going outside. If I'm wearing a sleep sack, it's bedtime. So when plans change (whoops! Music class is cancelled today) or grey areas creep in (You can watch cartoons today because mommy has a cold), toddlers can get quite frustrated and confused.

Inconsistencies and grey areas make it a challenge to teach my son park etiquette. Not because he misbehaves, but because the rules aren't always clear cut. The swings, slides, and stairs are suppose to be for everyone to share...but what about the scooters? Wagons? Sand toys? Some adults believe that sand toys are always intended to be shared by all and others do not.

When toys are brought to the park, they are very enticing to other children. And common courtesy is to politely ask the toy's owner if your child can borrow it. But what about toys without a clear owner (scattered sand toys, trucks, or balls)? Or if the parent says "yes, of course" but the child clearly says "no"?

When visiting relatives in the Midwest, we ran into a clever solution. Rather than go through this toy fiasco, they just have a pile of communal toys in the park's sand box: a dozen or so trucks, buckets and shovels. Of course some of the toys are broken, but most are still functional. I don't know how long the community has kept this up, but I liked the solution (and so did my son). No more forgetting our sand toys at home, lugging them to and from each park date (only to lose some) or wondering who owns a toy that my son wants to play with. Instead everyone is able to enjoy the park for what it is: a great place to meet people, socialize with friends, run around and share.

What grey areas do you run into on park outings? How do you teach park etiquette to your children?
What is it worth to you?


Posted by jeb, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jan 20, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Well, it\\\'s funny you say that because, Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Posted by nf, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jan 21, 2014 at 8:10 pm

I, too, share this confusion. My 17-month old daughter often wants to play with the toys she sees at parks, and there are often piles of toys left in sand boxes at various parks. If there is no clear owner to be found, then I allow her to play with the toy. If the toy clearly belongs to a particular child, I explain that the toy belongs to the other child. I then wait for the other child's parent to respond. If the parent says "Oh, so-and-so can share," then I instruct my daughter to say "thank you" to the other child for sharing. If the other parent stays silent, it's a good indicator to me that he or she views the child's toy as non-communal.

Posted by CherylBac, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jan 21, 2014 at 10:31 pm

CherylBac is a registered user.

nf - Thanks for reading and commenting! Sounds like a great way to practice sharing and "thank you" with your daughter. I've used a similar strategy. Usually it works well, but it can be tough when the owner of an unattended toy wants it back immediately and/or grabs it from my son's hands.

Posted by Simone, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 8:15 am

I agree with nf. Her sentiment seems to be the unwritten playground code of etiquette. I have had similar experiences and have never had an awkward experience with another parent or caregiver. What a great way to teach our kids about sharing and taking turns.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 9:02 am

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Simone - thanks for reading and commenting! I'm glad nf's strategy works for you.

Posted by Mother of 4, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 9:06 am

Great comments.

Also remember that if you child takes a toy somewhere then they must share it. Talk to them before you leave home about this rule. If they do not want to share then it must stay at home. The same applies to play dates.

The one thing I would say is that if your child has a special toy and doesn't want to share it when there is a play date at your own home, it is OK to tell the child that it is ok to not share just one special toy but it has to stay somewhere else (like in the parents room) for the duration of the playdate. A child should be encouraged to share most toys but any that are not ok to share should not be played with at all while there is a guest here for a playdate. It can be brought out as soon as the guest leaves. Again, something to discuss with your child about how to be a host for a playdate before the guest arrives.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 22, 2014 at 9:18 am

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Mother of 4 - thanks for reading and commenting. Great point about special toys. Definitely a good idea to sort these things out before the play date starts.

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