Indoor Play Area Etiquette


Indoor Play Area EtiquetteMy nearly two-year-old son was trembling and hiding behind my legs as blood-curdling screams echoed through the fast food play area. My four-year-old’s eyes were wide as she tried to figure out what was going on. I quickly realized there was no emergency. It was a group of older kids holding a screaming contest. I encouraged my children to go play just as another family decided they had enough of the ear-piercing shrieks and left. We lasted only a few minutes and decided to go home. Have you ever seen children happy to leave a play area? Me neither, until that day. 

With fall temperatures finally here in East Tennessee and winter around the corner, more of us will be heading to indoor play areas to let our kids run off all their energy. Just like at the playground, some simple etiquette rules for indoor play areas can ensure we ALL have a good time. Of course, there are RULES for those places: no shoes, children of a certain age, etc., but etiquette isn’t always in black and white.

Here are my proposed etiquette rules for indoor play areas:

Keep It Clean

Indoor play areas are notorious for germs and for good reason. They’re basically a Petri dish! If your child is sick with a nasty runny nose or worse, please stay home. Also, accidents happen, specifically, potty accidents. We were once at a fast food play area when a mother warned me a child had a pee accident in one of the tunnels. The evidence (a large puddle) was still there, but the child and parent were long gone. When it wasn’t clear they had notified a worker of the accident, another parent stepped in. And, like any good Girl Scout or Boy Scout, please pick up after yourself. Litter isn’t cool especially when a toddler like mine may try to put it in his mouth!

Inside Voices, Please

Our recent experience made me add this to my list. It’s clear the screaming contest had been going on for a while. (We weren’t the only family to leave.) So, where were mom and dad? Good question. There was a mom enjoying a book just outside the play area door. (Though I mentally high-fived her, I was also jealous!) It turns out the screamers weren’t hers, so the mystery remains.

Up the Stairs, Down the Slide

This is a controversial statement. I’m a believer of this at the playground and at the indoor play area. I can hear the opposition now. “They’re kids! Shouldn’t they be allowed to climb and be creative?” Yes, I agree. But I’ve seen enough collisions and tears that I feel pretty strongly about going DOWN the slide. (Especially when a lot of kids are crammed in a 10 by 10 fast food play area.) Feel free to disagree!

Be Mindful of Others

This is my catchall for all the basics. Walk, don’t run. Keep your hands to yourself. Share. It seems crazy I even have to write this down, but I’ve witnessed it all in indoor play areas, and I’m a relative newbie! My little guy was exploring with me in an area for both big and small kids to enjoy. Suddenly, a couple of big boys came barreling by and knocked him down. There was a swift reaction from a nearby Mom or worker: “No running!!!” I thank her for stepping in while I tried to comfort my sobbing son.

Hey Kids, Where’s Mom?

There seems to be one continuing theme in my list of proposed etiquette rules for indoor play areas: present moms, dads and caretakers. This doesn’t mean you have to be an active participant in play, especially when your kids are old enough to go it alone. (I’m still in awe of the mom reading a book just outside the play area door. #lifegoals!) It DOES mean paying enough attention that when your kids step out of line (e.g., a screaming contest) you step in. Let’s face it. ALL of our children misbehave from time to time!

Here’s to happy and safe play for kids of all ages! (And, let’s be honest, a break for mom!) What etiquette rules would you add for indoor play areas?


  1. I will let a kid (not my own) misbehave 2 times before I act. I’ve seen many children hurt by unsupervised children in this scenario. 3rd time and I will be vocal, and loud enough to make a scene. So parents, be warned. Supervise your child and keep it acting right or I WILL call you out in front of everyone about your heathen child.


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