I’m a mom. And a teacher. So I’m basically a seasoned professional kid watcher. And honestly, I’ve seen some behaviors from parents lately which make me angry and upset. To help spread the word and help you earn some good parent karma, I’ve put together my four biggest tips for you to follow when your child is going to be playing with others.

Whether your child will be in daycare, a Mother’s Day Out program, preschool, or just randomly playing with kids at the park or library, you need to be aware of these things. Your child’s happiness, health, and safety depend on it.

Be warned: this reads as an educational rant. Can I get an “amen”!

Don’t Let Your Child Interact With Others If They’re Sick

Your child should not be playing with others (or even leaving the house, really) if they’re ill. My kid has gotten sick twice in the last month because other parents didn’t keep their sick children at home. This includes having a fever (which your pediatrician defines as 100.4F or higher), or leaking bodily fluids like mucus, vomit, or diarrhea.

I’m a former working mom, and I know how much it sucks to have to take a day to stay at home with a sick kid. It’s stressful and a lot of work: as a teacher, this meant getting a sub, writing sub plans, making copies, etc. But it’s the right thing to do: not only for your own child (you do want them to get better, right?), but for all their classmates and playgroup friends. Your kid will recover much faster if they can stay at home and rest, and you’ll earn parent karma by not spreading germs to everyone else’s kids.

Technically, you could maybe mask a fever with some ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and pretend that they’re better. But this isn’t really helping anything.

And one more thing: please don’t take them out to a random store or library, either. Even if they’re not touching other kids directly, letting them smear their germy hands all over the aisles of Target or the kids’ books will make someone else sick. Bad parent karma, man.

By the way, this 24-hour recommendation is also what most schools, daycares, play groups, and pediatricians advise. So if you don’t already follow this rule, you’d better start!

Dress Your Child Appropriately For What They’ll Be Doing

Going to a playground with mulch? Don’t let your child wear Crocs or flip flops. Is it raining outside? Get them a rain jacket. Are you sweating in shorts? Then why in the hell is your kid wearing jeans and a hoodie?

You’ve got to remember that a kid is a kid: they want to have fun, and they don’t want to have to make major decisions like “should I go tell Mom that I’m freezing cold?” You know they won’t stop playing to tell you something like that. So you, as the responsible adult and the parent, need to make the right decisions.

During transitionary times of year, I leave extra kid gear in my car: old sneakers and socks, an extra sweater, some waterproof hats. That helps me after I’ve gone out the door.

Wearing something inappropriate during play can be messy or downright painful for your child. Be conscientious of what they’ll be doing, and dress them for that activity. When in doubt: pack something extra!

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Do Age-Appropriate Activities With Your Child

Your six year old shouldn’t be seeing R-rated movies. Your 4′ son shouldn’t be in the toddler play area at the mall (where he knocked down my toddler, twice, as you sat on your phone). Check out what kinds of things you have to do in your area for your child, and keep them where they’ll be safe and happy.

Also be aware of the playground’s equipment. A curious three year old won’t realize that he shouldn’t be on the “big kid” playground until it’s too late. I’ve seen more than one ambulance drive away with a small child because the parents didn’t notice that the kid had gone where they shouldn’t be.

Again, remember: your kid is a kid. Don’t put them in a position where they can make a bad choice. Don’t set them up for failure. Take them to age-appropriate activities where they can enjoy themselves safely.

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Watch Your Friggin Kids

Have you noticed a trend in this article yet? You’re the parent, so act like it. I applaud those of you who watch your children, keeping them safe from harm no matter where you are. But I swear, we’re an endangered species.

Letting your child play in a public place like a restaurant or playground is not an opportunity for them to be babysat by strangers so you can get on Facebook. I’ll admit that I pull my phone out to take pics or video, but that’s it. I know where my child is at all times. And I can do so without hovering or detracting from his play experience.

People, you’ve been charged by God to care for this little human being. They don’t have the knowledge, the experience, the maturity that you do. You have got to watch your children, especially in this day and age: don’t even get me started on all the perverts and creeps in the world.

As a former teacher, I make it a habit to keep my eye on every child at the playground; it’s just what I do. I make sure everyone is safe, and keep mental notes of who showed up with which adult. If I notice kids in an argument, or a child who got hurt, I pause to see if any other parent is going to intervene. More often than not, it’s like Lord of the Flies and no one comes to the kids’ aid. So you’re damn right I’m going to step in. I won’t spank another child (I won’t even spank my own), but I’m not going to sit by while kids are fighting or injured. And nor should you. I’ve used my Big Teacher Voice many times; I wouldn’t have had to if someone was watching their own friggin kids.

first play date!

first play date!

That’s it, you wonderful parent you. You’ve made it to the end of my rant about playgroup. I hope that you can see how passionate I am about this topic! We need to stock up on good parent karma, for the sake of our children. Let’s do every damn thing we can to keep them safe, happy, and healthy.

Thanks for sharing this out, and adding your comments and suggestions below!