Playground rules can be printed and posted on signs and enforced by parents and other authority figures to keep children safe and to avoid lawsuits. These sets of rules should be uniform for individual playgrounds, but can vary from playground to playground. The importance of uniformity in rules relates heavily to adult influence on playground activities. When adults are overheard commenting on how children aside from their own should and should not be allowed to play, it creates an additional layer of stress. Parents may feel pressured to encourage their children to play in a certain way at a playground based on verbal comments and looks from other parents who prefer certain rules to be upheld, lest their own child be injured or influenced to play less safely due to breaking a rule. It is okay for children to see themselves and others playing differently from each other.
Below is a list of rules (see Table 2) that may be seen on posted signs or audibly heard relating to how children “should” play in playground environments. A rationale statement follows each rule and highlights how breaking these rules can benefit play skill development.
Table 2: Breaking Playground Rules
Rule: "Do not clumb without using both hands."
Rule: "Do not start at the opposite ends of monkey bars. Everyone start at the same end and moeve in the same direction. Do not stand on top of ladder. Stay well behind the person in front of you."
Rule: "Do not lean back on seesaws/teeter totters. Sit straight. Hold on with both hands. Do not stand or run on the board or plank. Sit on the seats only."
Rule: “Do not climb up the sliding surface of slides. Use the ladder. Hold on with both hands. Take one step at a time. Do not slide down improperly. Slide feet first, sitting up, and one at a time.”
Rule: “Only one person per swing at a time. Always sit in the center of the swing; do not stand or kneel. Hold the chains tightly with both hands. Stop the swing completely before getting off. No jumping off the swings, twisting the ropes/chains of the swing, or sideways swinging. Do not push other children on the swings. If you cannot start swinging on your own, ask an adult to push you softly to get you started.”
Rule: “Hold on with both hands and wrap your legs around the pole when you slide down. Slide down carefully and make sure you land on two feet with your knees slightly bent.”
Rule: "No bare feet/Wear proper footwear."
Children should be encouraged to create their own play rules while respecting others’ ideas. The key is to use common sense and ensure appropriate adult supervision at all times. Breaking playground rules can lead to deeper, more meaningful play, a broader play skill set, and many and varied developmental gains and improvements.