Playroom Guidelines - Guidelines and rules should be established

Playroom Guidelines - Guidelines and rules should be established

Guidelines and rules should be established for the playroom. Anyone who plays in the playroom should be expected to follow them, even adults. There’s much less fighting over toys when the rules are the same for everyone. It sounds simple enough, but many families have different rules, and this can cause unnecessary angst.

It is often difficult for children to have friends come into their space, as they see everything as their own. Sharing and following the rules of engagement is one of the hardest transitions for children when they begin school. Understanding rules early helps ease this process.

Playroom Rules Suggestions

1. Define the rules. It is never too early to begin. Babies may not understand complex sentences, but they do understand facial expressions and changes in tone of voice. “No” is also one of the most often-used words a growing child hears. That’s why having a playroom with not many “no’s” is so powerful.

2. Explain and make sure the rules are understood. Review them as
necessary; they’ll need to be repeated. Many of the rules are common and will be the same on play dates or in school.

3. Provide enough materials and equipment. If you have more than three children in a space, you may need two of certain items (two sets of stacking cups or paintbrushes).

4. Always be sure to check that equipment is clean and safe. Remove any broken toys or pieces and clean regularly.

5. All activities require adult supervision, guidance, participation, and continuous involvement.

6. Children should never be left unattended and unsupervised. Young children should always be in sight. Active children don’t want to stay in a carriage or stroller. As mine got older, I tried to let them run or walk free as long as they were in my line of sight, or I could hear them close by. My mantra was, “I need to see you or hear you,” especially in public places.

7. Rotate the toys! Change the materials and toys regularly. Each time a toy is taken out of storage, it feels like new! If the children seem bored or don’t play with what is out, it may be your cue to change or increase the level of complexity.

8. Toys in the playroom are for everyone in the room and are to be shared. This includes siblings, moms, dads, relatives, and friends.

9. If someone is playing with a toy, ask if you can have a turn. If the person doesn’t want to share, then you will have to wait, and turns will be taken. Refer to Part I: Let’s Be Friends Activity, page 52. A child quickly knows when things are fair and will respect and appreciate it (even in the terrible twos and threes), as long as the rules are consistently enforced. If they cannot agree to take turns or teasing starts, simply take it away.

10. Special toys are special and don’t need to be shared. Everyone knows what those toys are, and the rule is the same for everyone. These shouldn’t be touched unless permission is granted. It was a teddy bear for my oldest, a snuggle lamb blanket for my middle child, and a snuggle bear blanket for my youngest. These are often referred to as transitional objects. My “special toy” was my cell phone.

Toys such as birthday presents or special gifts that a child doesn’t want to share do not need to be shared, but toys in the playroom are for everyone and they are to be shared.

This rule becomes more important as children get older and realize they don’t want to share their favorite things and begin to have their interests and hobbies. My son kept his “Army trucks” in his room, my middle child kept her Shopkins, and my oldest kept her Uglydolls.

When they want someone to play with, they can invite them into their room, or bring these toys into the playroom. This rule supports the idea of boundaries and independence but also encourages social and emotional development. This tends to be the area most children struggle with when they start school.

11. No hitting or throwing toys.

12. If the rules aren’t followed, there should be a logical consequence (one that makes sense to a child, unlike spankings). Timeouts that take place outside of the playroom creates a break from play. A good rule for time is one minute per age (maximum). Very young children won’t sit long and are likely to keep getting up. Gently keep putting them back in the chair. Explain why. For example, “Hitting Sara isn’t okay. You have to sit here for two minutes.” Set a timer (it is a great way to start learning time too).

Ask, “Why did Mommy/Daddy put you in timeout?” In the beginning, many times they won’t want to admit why because they feel guilty about what they did. They don’t want to disappoint you or make you upset. But this step teaches consequences and makes them take responsibility; for example, if they hit someone else. Make sure to thank them after they admit what they did, give them a big hug, tell them you are proud of them, and love them. Then resume normal activities.

Children not only need physical boundaries but emotional ones as well. Children learn by observing what we do. Many children with behavioral problems suffer because they don’t understand healthy boundaries. They hit, take things that don’t belong to them, don’t want to share, and don’t follow rules. Even though true independence is a slow transition as a child grows, teaching a child that he or she is responsible for his or her actions should happen as soon as he or she understands words.

This empowers them to make choices and realize that what they do matters. We want to teach a child that he or she is the boss of his or her own body and that he or she is in control of what happens to it.

13. “No” means “No.” If a child is misbehaving with a toy, for example, simply say, “Stop doing ‘this,’ or I will take it away.” If they don’t stop, take it away. No threats. No anger. No negotiation. When they cry, reassert the reason, “I told you when you do ‘this,’ I will take the toy away.” This is cause and effect. This teaches consequence and puts the power and choice in the child’s hands.

Explaining why is critical in their understanding. Getting mad or taking it away without reason doesn’t teach them cause and effect, or why. Testing you is how they learn boundaries. Defiance is often less about behaving badly than it is about learning and experimenting with social and emotional boundaries.

The power struggle is certainly one of the hardest times as a parent because it can feel daunting and overwhelming, but it does pass. The real challenge is to be consistent, strong, understanding, and loving all at the same time. Easy, right? In the end, it’s just feelings, and they are trying to figure out what to do with them.
Believe it or not, these behavioral issues show that your child has a strong bond with you and the confidence to find his or her self. They trust they can be who they are, and you will still be there and love them. These behaviors are testing grounds for what they should and should not do, often with feelings they are experiencing and navigating for the first time.

The paperback version of Create a Home of Learning is available at Amazon, your favorite bookseller or

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