Berlin playgrounds are great, in my eyes. I am totally Berlin about this. They are brilliant. I was about seven years old when all the proper see-saws in Britain got replaced with dinky little bouncy things that didn’t actually go click, click, clickety-clack, see-saw, see-saw but just rubbishly bobbed up and down on separate bouncy springs. Going to a Berlin playground is just this glorious experience for me. Proper see-saws! Proper wooden climbing frames stretching high into the sky that your kid could easily fall off the top of, landing on the ground with a huge thwack, breaking every bone in their body. All that sand. Oh, the joy of being a Berlin parent, sitting at the side of the playground, being handed a cone of sandy “ice-cream” – “Is that for me?” You ask, even though you know it is. “Yummy,” says your toddler gravely. “Is it yummy?” You ask. “A yummy ice-cream for Mummy?” “Dorbry,” says your toddler, which is, in toddlerspeak, the correct word for strawberry. Berlin playgrounds are glorious. They are wonderful. They are magnificent. Nobody loves them more than me.
The only problem with Berlin playgrounds? All the bloody Ausländer, and I say Ausländer, but if I am truly honest, I mean Americans, who don’t know the playground etiquette. There’s playground etiquette. There are social norms to be followed. There are rules to be obeyed.
1. DO NOT GREET THE OTHER PARENTS
Germans love to greet each other for no reason at all, like total inexplicable greetings are mandatory here – BUT WEIRDLY NOT AT THE PLAYGROUND! Sometimes when I have been in the UK a while, I come back to Germany and I greet everyone at the playground, like you do here at the doctor’s – and everyone shoots me puzzled glances like I am slightly mad. Don’t greet other parents at the playground. I don’t know why, but it just isn’t done.
2. SHARE FOOD – BUT ONLY BIO PLEASE!
So I don’t actually like to give my kid grapes all day long, I don’t really think he needs to be grazing and grazing and grazing like a fucking cow munching on grass… BUT I have to bring a tupperware box filled with the most boring toddler food possible – grapes, boring rice cakes, tiny cheese Stanges, the kind of stuff nobody wants to eat, just so when your kid has been panhandling from strangers all afternoon, you can give their kids some grapes back and avoid actually dying of actual shame. I know from an American friend that this isn’t the done thing in America, where everyone is worried about food allergies and getting sued and stuff. But it is totally socially acceptable here, and in fact refusing food too brusquely seems a bit rude. However, the food has to be healthy, bio – and boring as fuck. My mother lives in a really multicultural part of East London, where mums in headscarves rock on up to the playground, greet everyone, and unpack an unhealthy picnic full of stuff no Berlin mum would ever eat ever – chocolate fingers, sponge cakes, salt and vinegar crisps. They then hand the food out in the manner of Jesus feeding the five thousand. A lot of the mums expect you to take half the food home. Last summer, I actually asked a Bangladeshi mum I met at the playground: “Why are you giving me this?” I was worried she thought we were poor or something. She looked at me knowingly, lovingly, reassuringly and whispered: “It’s nice to share.”
3. SHARING IS CARING: OKAY, YOU DON’T NEED TO FORCE YOUR KID TO FUCKING SHARE – BUT DON’T BE A DICK ABOUT IT
Look, Americans. You go to the fucking playground. IT IS A COMMUNAL FUCKING PLAYSPACE. No, you don’t have to “force” your darling kid to “share” his precious sandpit toys (cheapo plastic crap from China that is worth about 50 cents max, let’s be honest.) However, you should expect your kids to share, and you should tell them that the playground is a public space, and you should tell them that the toys they bring to the playground are for everyone to use and when you go home, you’ll get them back. YES EVEN THE BOBBY-CARS AND BALANCE BIKES. It’s so mad to see these American mothers at the playground, frantically chasing some toddler around, because said toddler is playing with a plastic digger and said plastic digger actually belongs to her baby.
An American friend of mine once said she wouldn’t force her kid to share playground toys because she doesn’t share her mobile phone with the other parents at the playground. Okay, let’s get down to this. Actually, yes, if someone NEEDED your phone, you would fucking share it – because you are a human being and not a sociopath and the achievement of having paid money to own something doesn’t trump your duty as a human being to help another person who needs to borrow your phone for two seconds. But, secondly, the analogy is all wrong. Not sharing your playground toys at the playground is the equivalent of meeting up for a barbecue and not sharing the fucking barbecue because it’s “yours” or meeting up for a game of badminton but the badminton rackets are all yours and so now you’re not going to play any badminton because you’re not willing to share. If you really think your children will be so traumatized and scarred by the idea that playground toys, for the duration of the playground visit, belong to everyone, why not stay at fucking home and leave everyone-else in fucking peace.
The other thing is, you don’t need to “force” them to share. Nobody needs to “force” their kid to share. You just explain to them, like a fucking PARENT. Sometimes you’ll use his spade, sometimes she’ll use your digger, look here, sometimes we can use this cone. You’re not using it right now, so it makes sense for this kid to use it. And if you share, you can play together and have this totally alien-concept-to-American-parents-obviously thing called fun with each other.
4. IT IS ABSOLUTELY FINE TO NICK A SANDCASTLE BUCKET FROM THE PLAYGROUND IF IT HAS BEEN LEFT THERE FOR, LIKE, OVER TWO WEEKS
Really don’t understand why anyone ever pays for sandpit toys to be honest?
5. KIDS GET NAKED GET OVER IT
Just let them be kids and stop going on about paedos. They’re kids, for Christ’s sake. To quote my AfD-voting ex-mother-in-law: “Isn’t that the nicest thing about being a child? Spending the whole summer naked in the playground?”
6. SLIDE ETIQUETTE
Okay, so it is absolutely fine for your kid to go UP the slide. IF there are no other kids in the park. It is kind of okay for your kid to go up the slide if all the other kids are also going up the slide too, though some pussy German mums will get annoyed by this behaviour. It is not okay for your kid to go up the slide if there is a queue of kids waiting to slide down. It is kind of okay for your kid to be super-brave and think they can handle this slide, then mount the top and chicken out and sit there, causing Stau. It really is kind of okay, it’s good for kids to be brave. But don’t let them cause Stau for longer than 2.5 minutes. After 2.5 minutes, you need to persuade your kid to get sliding – or even get up there yourself and drag him down yourself.
7. PARK TIME IS PHONE TIME
The whole point of going to the playground is to ignore your child as much as possible, let them enjoy their independent playtime, connect with other children, and you play Wordblitz/2048/get Instagramming. I say this as someone whose child once tried to lorry their way down concrete steps while I had, wonderfully, tantalizingly, beautifully, 1024 on two separate squares on either side of my 2048 block. He didn’t die. They’re meant to play with other kids.
8. FLIRT WITH THE DADS
Every now and then some dad will do some woe is me victim mentality mindset about how isolated they are at the playground, where all the mums are in one corner swapping breastfeeding tips and rubbing their pregnant bellies with lavender oils and shooting hateful glances at the dad like he shouldn’t even be there but out at Siemens/IBM/some startup. Don’t let the dicks get away with this. It’s your duty to flirt as outrageously as possible with the one dad at the playground. We need those woe is me victim mentality isolated dad at the playground articles to be a bit more interesting in future.
Do you agree with my tips? Have I left any out? Let us know in the comments!