10 types of kids at playgrounds

I don’t generally do joke posts, but I’ve been laughing about this phenomenon with Curtis for a while and finally figured I’d write it up. We’ve been enjoying the warmer weather these last few weeks, which means more frequent visits to the park and “water pad” (a playground that has little water shoots and such, which are only available during the summer season). I have to constantly be on Z’s heels all through the visit as she tends to rocket from one thing to the next, barrelling her way through all the toys with little to no regard for other kids or her own safety (seriously what is it about toddlers and running directly into the path of the highest-swinging swing with the largest kid on it? It’s like they have a concussion death wish or something).

A few evenings ago we went quite late in the day and it was surprisingly crowded for a dinnertime visit; usually by that point in the day the populace has dwindled down to a few stragglers made up by exhausted-looking parents who have no time to cook a proper dinner and have gone out with a box of fries and thrown their kids into the nearest park in hopes of having five minutes to sit down in peace (no judgement here, as we were doing the same thing). But this was insane for that hour: I mean the line-up for the swing was like ten minutes long.
Anyway, as I followed my zooming toddler around the playground that evening and completely lost track of my elder two, I kept noticing that the kids and/or parents at the playground always seemed to be the same kind of kids and parents no matter where we went or what time of day we went there. It’s like every playground ever is always populated by these sets of parent and child archetypes. And it’s practically universal: even when we lived way up North in hick town we ran into the same thing, so it seems this may be the case no matter where you’re from. Three kids worth of playground experiences have shown that people very rarely stray too far from these blatantly unfair generalizations, so I thought I’d share them with you guys. And don’t worry, I happily include myself in many of these categories over my parenting career, so this is written completely tongue-in-cheek with a healthy side of self-deprecating humour. With that I bring you, The Ten Types of Kids (and parents) at Playgrounds. (I figured ten was a nice round number).

Xan and Tempest playing back in early 2010.

The Only Child
There are two subtypes to this that sometimes overlap, the first is the Celebrity Look-Alike: if a girl, she’s dressed to the nines right down her spit-shined Mary Jane shoes dotted with rhinestones; if a boy he’s looking like he could star in a Calvin Klein ad in his pressed button-down with matching sport jacket. Mom has probably shelled out hundreds (or thousands) of dollars so that little Beckham or Madison could be mistaken as a contender in People Magazine’s “Best dressed celebrity babies” edition by being swathed in the most completely inappropriate clothes for play-time. Due to the overwhelming fear that the expensive clothes will be ruined, mom is usually found right at the heels of this kid every single second of every minute that they’re running about to ensure they don’t scuff their shoes, trip in the mud or wipe their hands on their shirt. This kid stares longingly at The Hippie and would rather be naked they had the choice, but their parent is strongly at odds with that type because, really, what three year old would be caught dead in Osh Kosh these days?
The second subtype is The Helicopter. This type believes their child made of the finest China, hand-crafted by endangered otters who receive daily Thai massages while being hand-fed whale caviar from polished oyster shells. This child can do no wrong (or anything fun, for that matter). Any disagreement is automatically the other kid’s fault, every scrape results in a 911 call, and every aspect of typical play is probably too dangerous for this special snowflake to participate in. They’re never allowed to climb higher than 24 inches (what if they fell and broke their neck!?), would never receive an underduck on the swing (what if they fell off!?), and can’t ever go twosies on the tire-swing (what if the two kids’ heads collided and my ickle bebe has a stroke and dies!?). Mom has a fully equipped first aid kit in her purse, is dressed immaculately and is judging you.

Secret Lovers
A single glance across the playground and they knew: it was love. Two (or three) kids generally between the ages of 2.5 and 6 who are found cuddled under the slide or hiding in a bush; rubbing noses, giggling quietly, stealing kisses and gingerly peeling off each other’s clothes while they stare lovingly into each other’s eyes until their horrified parents finally locate and separate them. Flings last anywhere from 3 to 15 minutes and are between kids of the same sex 90% of the time.

The Mob Boss
Usually one of the oldest, if not the oldest child on the playground and almost certainly too big to be bogarting the baby swings. She’s usually found camped out on the highest hill or the tallest structure, charging admission for time on all the best toys. No one does anything without her permission, and God have mercy on your soul if you cross her. From the moment she sets foot on the playground she somehow manages to amass a loyal following of lackeys who will ensure that all other kids fall in line, and while she doesn’t actually participate in any fights or directly cause disagreements herself (she has kids to do that for her), there always seems to be drama surrounding her. Trying to alert her parent to any problems with her is a lost cause because she’s a perfect angel in their eyes.
Almost always an Only Child but sometimes the result of rebellion after years of being Drill Sergeant/The Solder.

Third or More
Does this kid look like he was clothed by a blind man working in the back of Value Village? Is she coated in a thick layer of mud and grass? Has his hair not been brushed or combed in days, and appears to be the result of an unfortunate incident with safety scissors? This is most definitely a Third or More. This kid is the youngest of several older siblings and is running around completely unattended while mom hopes to steal her only few minutes of sleep in the last 3 days. Her parents are long past the idealistic vision of of having a sparkling clean, well-dressed and obedient child and really are only here for the break in chaos it may award them. This kid can really take a punch and is rarely even intimidated by The Mob Boss; she probably has elder siblings much, much scarier and younger ones at least ten times as annoying. She is filthy, sneaky and gets into ridiculous amounts of trouble, but I’ll be damned if she isn’t one of the happiest kids there. Sometimes crosses over into The Opportunist if mom forgot to feed her that day.

The Hippie
Dressed in recycled hemp and organic bamboo, barefoot, tanned and often found carrying a crocheted bag of Annie’s bunny snacks. They get as dirty as the Third or More, climb as high as the Spiderman and will happily enjoy play with just about everyone short of the Only Child, for whom their parent has too much pity or righteous anger about for their child to so much as breathe the same air. Despite being decked out in only the highest quality knitwear you can find on Etsy, mom is usually found too absorbed in her game of Draw Something to notice whether or not their child has strayed into the Drill Sergeant’s radar. They smell faintly of nag champa and marijuana. Will become The Opportunist if they realize your child is carrying anything made with wheat, dairy or refined sugar. The parent of this child is the natural enemy of the Drill Sergeant.

The Opportunist
Only found on busy days, this kid flits from blanket to blanket, approaching parents and kids who are picnicking or have brought along snacks. He is a master of cuteness and often displays an extraordinary level of politeness that his parents will never witness as long as they live. Unless you are heartless or blind, he will probably scam you out of most of your food. Over the course of his stay he’ll make two or three complete rounds of the park, returning several times to the blankets that won him particularly tasty morsels. Much like Yogi bear, they have a strong inclination to steal pic-a-nic baskets. Do not leave your food unattended for even a second, or you will never see it again.
Don’t confuse this hunger with neglect: they’ve probably eaten their weight in goldfish crackers by lunch time and their parent has brought along two baskets worth of snacks. Everyone else’s food is just better.

What’s that 15 feet into the tallest tree? Who’s that kid hanging upside-down by their ankles on the top rung of the monkey bars? Is it a lemur? Perhaps a capuchin/child hybrid that escaped from a nearby laboratory? No, it’s Spiderman!
Their attending adult, usually a hapless babysitter, can be found walking in circles around the park, nervously asking if you’ve seen their child because they haven’t seen them in ten minutes but they’re sure the kid is just in the bathroom or something…

Drill Sergeant/The Soldier
Sometimes the unfortunate progeny of a “Tiger Mom”-style single parent, but more often found with a short-statured but absolutely frightening grandmother. Not to be confused with Only Child or Helicopter; grandma isn’t so much concerned with the child’s welfare as much as they are concerned with whether or not the child is the most obedient kid on the planet. It’s been long enough since grandma’s birthing days that she’s completely forgotten how kids act and has ridiculously unrealistic expectations of The Soldier, often expecting a crisp salute following her insane commands. This type is easily identifiable for their complete inability to take responsibility for accidents and incidents: instead of encouraging the kid to say ‘I’m sorry’, they’re pulled aside and subjected to ten minutes of loud screaming followed by an order to retrieve a switch off a nearby tree. Since Drill Sergeant/Soldier sometimes spills over to hapless children who were unfortunate enough to wander by, this kid has a huge buffer zone because no other child at the playground will risk interacting with them for fear of inciting the wrath of their absolutely terrifying grandparent. Would be subject to public execution if he ever became The Opportunist.

Mad Scientist
Is that kid… okay? I mean, should she really be licking the swing-set poles like that? And I’m pretty sure that mud puddle isn’t for drinking. Her finger is superglued to the inside of her nose and her mouth is permanently contorted into an unsettling grin. She possesses an disturbingly evil laugh and seems to find everything funny, especially things she can squash. She will eat caterpillars for nickels and is highly susceptible to dares. Her skirt is tucked into her underwear and she’s wearing two different left shoes. Kids either adore her, or she’s nightmare-fuel. Often initially confused with The Opportunist, although she’s not after food…

Typhoid Mary
His breath comes in gasps and wheezes and sounds like a gravel truck trying to make it up a hill with the parking break on, he leaves a trail of green snot on every toy he touches, his cough is like a baby seal being clubbed and can be heard for miles. Probably has pertussis, tuberculosis, or the city’s only case of bubonic plague in the last 57 years. Mom is usually found with heavy bags under her bloodshot eyes, staring vacantly into space, or passed out in a bench in exhaustion and far, far overdressed for the weather. This kid is usually a Third Or More, because the only way he has this many germs is if he has multiple siblings in daycare, elementary school, middle school and high school that are bringing home 570 different diseases on a daily basis. Mom may also be a teacher or flight attendant.

Just this week alone my kids have been at least half of these. If anyone else can think of more, let me know so I can add them and pretend they were my idea append the post with them.



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