I recently saw another mom talking to my son on the playground and ran over worried. Well, I didn’t need to run, I was only a few steps away, but I was still struck with panic. What was wrong? What happened? It turned out to be nothing of course. In fact, I have no problem with other moms talking to my kid–so why did I panic?

One of the best things about living in Brooklyn is the incredible diversity we get to enjoy where we live. Our neighbors come from all over the country and all over the world, and this imbues our life in this borough with a richness that extends to what we eat when go out to dinner and the cultural traditions we get to participate in with those who live near us. However, with people from all over, means there are different expectations around what good manners mean when it comes to children. But by following good playground etiquette we can avoid misunderstandings, and get back to doing what playgrounds are meant for: having fun.

How To Handle Food: Part of making sure your child has a great time on the playground means bringing lots of snacks, so you don’t end up with a toddler who’s hungry and cranky. But what happens when your child comes to you for a refill while their new best friend looks on hungrily? Should you use this as a sharing opportunity? The answer is a hard no. Between allergies and dietary restrictions you should never share food with another child unless you have the parent’s explicit permission.

How To Handle Discipline: If another child is becoming rowdy or not waiting their turn to go down the slide it can be tempting to stand up for your child and let the other one know their behaving poorly. But disciplining another person’s child is a fraught issue, that is bound to create some hurt feelings amongst adults to. Instead try and modify problematic behavior by asking for cooperation and modeling sharing as lots of fun. Make taking turns into a game and invite the other child to play, and if an older child is playing too rough ask the child to help look out for the younger ones by being gentle around them. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll find a more effective means of disciplining you’ll want to use at home.

How To Handle Safety: What about when you see playground equipment being used improperly and feel like there’s a high likelihood of real injury happening. That child going head first down the slide might be having a lot of fun, but this has led to emergency room trips in the past. In this case, it’s worth the hurt feelings to keep everyone safe. Just let the parent know as kindly as possible about your concerns. If you can put things in terms of past experiences, even better.


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Alex Coles is a freelance writer in Brooklyn.