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It’s not uncommon to see kids come out of Pebble Park crying.

The reason?

They don’t want to leave.

When a child is enjoying what they’re doing, they don’t want to stop. Even if they’re going on to another fun activity, that’s in the future. They’re having fun right now. Why leave one fun thing for another? It’s an emotional reaction, not a rational one. No way are you going to be able to reason with them. When a child loses it leaving the park, all of the adults look at each other with a knowing, empathetic eye. Every parent has been there at some point, and it’s never fun.

We’ve been working on a strategy that seems to help, so I thought I’d pass it on.

It’s pretty simple. We give them time to get used to the idea of needing to move on to the next adventure, and frame their exit in a positive way. We do this in just a few simple steps:

  1. We get the child’s attention, have them do a “belly breath”, and let them know that they have a few more minutes before it’s time to leave, (several parents have given us a heads up when they are ready to leave so we can do this for them)
  2. After a couple of minutes, we ask them to say goodbye to their favorite thing or person from their visit. Sometimes it’s a friend, sometimes it’s team member, and other times it’s a toy or element they played on, like the yellow slide.
  3. As they leave, we have them point to or say the first thing they’re going to do on their next visit. This is key because it reminds them that they will be back.

To a child, it can feel like they’re leaving forever. We had a little girl say to her mom, “But I can’t leave, this is my home!” My personal favorite are the little ones who are so fast. The parent just finishes getting their shoes on and they sprint back into the park cackling wildly. Usually it becomes a race to see if they can get up into the playscape before the parent can dive in and hook an ankle before they’re out of reach.

While this certainly isn’t a magic cure, it does seem to help. Guess it’s the price we pay for providing our kids with such fun and engaging experiences!

Here is a training video explaining the process to our team. Feel free to check it out 🙂