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Refusing to leave the playground

Steph Wicker

Steph Wicker

Stephanie Wicker is a child behaviour expert, parenting educator, counsellor and speaker – who has successfully guided families through early childhood for over 15 years. Through her experience with private consultancy, as a preschool teacher and special needs therapist – she has worked across the many facets of early childhood behaviour.
Created on Oct 10, 2023 · 2 mins read

We’ve all been there. Your little one is having an incredibly fun time in the playground but then nap time creeps up and it’s time to leave – but they don’t want to hear of it!

Leaving the play area will always be a challenge for a young brain, simply because they are having too much fun, and the activities are highly stimulating. This leads to a brain feeling ‘spent’ and exhausted.

On top of that, announcing ‘let’s leave’ places a sudden demand on them which becomes a big deal for your little one’s brain, because they have been playing and learning for a long time.

This is where it’s a good idea to start simple and build your way up. By starting simple, you are activating areas of their brain that boost compliance and coping.

For example, begin with…

  • Wow! What have you been making over here?
  • That’s so cool, can you tell me what this does?
  • Clever boy! Can I have a high five?
  • Aw thanks! Now can you give me that cool toy?
  • Great! Let’s put your shoes on! What a big boy
  • Great listening! Let’s get in the car, what music should we listen to?

boy playing on see-saw

In this example, there are a lot of language techniques that boost obedience.

The conversation started by simply asking easy to answer questions to create an instant rapport between adult and child. Then, the questions increased to gentle demands, gradually building to harder demands such as giving up a toy and putting on shoes.

You then ended with a demand, getting in the car, and paired it with a choice ‘what music should we listen to?’.

This places your toddler’s attention on the outcome of being in the car and all that it has to offer, rather than missing out on the playground – which is inevitably what is going to happen.

This is a literal, action-based technique that works wonders. The key is being connected and enjoying their company. Notice it doesn’t boss them around or try to ‘control’ their behaviour. You are simply working your way, fairly, towards your ultimate outcome.

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