I would love if there was some sort of playground orientation that parents could attend to get on the same page about what is acceptable behavior from our children at the park. I wrote down my ideal set of rules a few years ago, but I’m certainly in no position to enforce them broadly, and that’s fine. They may not even be the right way to do things.
For example, I’m totally fine with children climbing up the slide. If there’s a long line of kids waiting to slide down, then, no. Get to the back of the line, buddy, but if it’s a quiet day at the playground and the slide’s not in high demand, who cares if kids choose to climb up rather than slide down? What am I missing about climbing slides that is so offensive that it must be stopped? Have a few unruly kids who didn’t give sliders the right of way simply ruined it for the rest of us, or did I miss an important safety memo about the dangers of scaling slides?
These are not rhetorical questions. I really want to understand why this is a big no-no. As I see it, all playground equipment is a little dangerous. Climbing high, spinning fast, swinging wildly are exhilarating experiences that come with some risk no matter how closely we watch our kids. I can’t figure out why running up a slide stands out as a correctable offense. “Climb up and slide down!”
When I watch my kids go up the slide instead of climbing the ladder, I see them get a look of determination in their eyes as they grasp the sides of the slide. They gain purchase with their feet to conquer the incline, only to slip and slide back down on their bellies, get up, and try again. It’s a game, and they seem so proud of themselves when they finally reach the top. I see this as a good thing.
What makes it so wrong? Adults may have designed slides to be used a certain way, but must it be the only way to play? Children are nothing if not creative and curious. Using a piece of equipment in a new way seems like a great way to encourage this. A run up the slide becomes a chance to escape the bad guys, conquer the castle or take a shortcut to chase their friends. It’s another way for them to develop physical strength, body awareness, and gross motor skills, too. These are all the reasons I brought them to the playground in the first place. Plus, you know, it tires them out.
When it’s not appropriate for them to climb up the slide, they are learning to wait their turn. They’re becoming aware of the environment and adjusting their behavior accordingly, and they’re recognizing that their desires don’t always take priority over the needs of a larger group. They’re still learning rules and etiquette, just not the rules that all parents want them to follow, I guess.