Life Lessons from The Playground

The girl with booksI spent the afternoon on an overcrowded playground watching the two boys I babysit run around in a swarm of NYC children. While watching the jungle of life in action, I saw a lot of important life lessons being learned…

You Have To Ask For What You Want.

There was a very popular play utility on this particular playground, I’m not even sure what it’s called but I would compare it to the popularity of the tire swing or the see saw when I was a kid. Unfortunately, there was only one, and a zillion and one children who wanted a turn. For more than five minutes, it had been entirely dominated by an older eight or nine year old girl. If any other kid had a chance at getting a turn, they were going to have to speak up and ask for it. Sure, there’s a chance they’d be shot down, but they can’t assume the girl is just going to get off because they’re standing there (even if it is the courteous thing to do).

Validation Sometimes Comes From Within.

“Mommy watch me.” That’s a popular phrase on the playground. “Watch me” go down the slide or “watch me” do a trick on the swing. We not only want to accomplish something for ourselves, we want others to recognize it. Of course, we don’t always get the recognition we crave and have to learn to find satisfaction in our successes all on our own.

Awareness of Others Is Essential.

Kids have remarkably poor spatial awareness. They have very little understanding of themselves, their movements, and their size in relation to others. They don’t comprehend that their simple act of “playing” in the vicinity of a baby could be potentially dangerous. The lesson that we can hurt others, even by accident, is a lesson learned quite literally on the playground.

Crying Doesn’t Solve Anything.

There were a lot of tears being shed out on the playground, but not the real, “I’m in pain” kind, the fake, “I want something”, “give me attention” kind. While some parents may cave to that manipulative strategy, the other kids on the playground couldn’t care less about those attention-seeking cries. If the crier wants something, they’re going to have to employ a different, more effective strategy.

Some Things Take Time.

There was a toddler trying to climb the stairs, frustrated that he couldn’t make it up the first step without resorting to his hands and knees. There was a little girl getting increasingly frustrated by her inability to traverse the monkey bars in their entirety. Another little boy really wanted to climb up the slide like his older brother but kept slipping down. Sometimes, we need to find patience. Even when those around us are succeeding, we’re all getting to our own place on our own time. The important thing to know is that with each failure and each fall, we’re building strength and coordination, so that when our bodies are big enough or strong enough we can finally follow through to success.

Don’t Let People Push You Around.

Even as an adult, I had some playground encounters of my own. With limited shaded seating available, and the innumerable accessories people with children seem to carry at all times, a comfortable place to sit was hard to come by. When I took a seat on a bench next to a stroller, the woman next to me informed me another woman was sitting there. Seeing as how each bench could accommodate three people, I asked how many, sure enough it was just one woman, so I moved to the edge of the bench to create plenty of space. Well, that didn’t sit well with this lady who presumably was with the other woman, she promptly took all her accessories and moved. Just because someone refuses to share, doesn’t mean you should be pushed out.

What important life lessons have you seen in action on the playground?


Life Lessons from The Playground — 3 Comments

  1. An intresting article, Stefanie. I completely agree with you that we can learn a lot from children and that the main rules in life a the ones that we teach and use in the nursery (the playground). I used to say that the rule of any organisation are: a) play nice; b) share your toys; and c) respect other children.

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