The playground is mainly a lesson in sharing: sharing of time, space, and toys. Currently our son is one of the youngest at the park, deeming him the "learning tool" for older children. When parents see our son (Chase) ambling in, children are quickly instructed to be gentle and let the baby play.
Typically, the older child greets ours with a hug and head pat (his bald head just asks to be rubbed). Little does the head patter realize how this action has cemented Chase's love for his new best friend. Whether climbing a slide, playing in the water, or tossing a football - the child will not be able to shake our chubby-cheeked fella.
Having witnessed how Chase affects the older children, we have seen what the future has in store. The sharing of time: patience as the youngest at the park maneuvers to the top of the slide, stairs, etc. The sharing of space: instructing our son to be gentle and allow the baby to be (super) close and observe him (little ones just don't believe in personal space). Sharing of toys: encouraging Chase to allow the smaller ones to play with his ball or other toy (this is assuming someday our son plays with anything other than a ball).
The playground is a product testing gold mine. In the past we have scouted sippy cups and inquired about walkers. Currently we are looking into Tryke bike options and every park visit provides a myriad of options. Parents are so great to answer our questions and always offer the opportunity to take their bike for a spin.
Though I am never sure if it is a true offer or a nice gesture they hope is refused, we jump at the chance before they can change their mind. Those bikes are pricey, so there's no sense in leaving the decision to chance. Chase may be forced to visit the park even when not in the mood -we have further product testing to do! It's for his own good in the end.
On the rare occasion there may be a parent disengaged and unaware of their child's activities at the park. I understand the need for a break, but if an unsupervised child messes with Chase, I no longer sit back and hope for them to wake up and intervene. Instead, that child immediately falls under my parental governing authority. In the past, waiting for these parents to snap to it only resulted with my toddler being unnecessarily roughed up.
My tactics changed the day a kid refused to allow Chase into a playhouse and then to add insult to injury, repeatedly threw a ball at his face (I should say tried to throw a ball...the kid was a terrible shot. He's going to need to step up his game to be a true bully).
A nearby dad intervened, took away the ball, let our son into the house, and scolded the tiny meathead. The dad then clarified it wasn't his kid, but wanted to help since the actual parent was MIA. Witnessing the man stepping in gives me confidence to do the same when necessary.
Would love to provide more examples, but we have a busy day of park-hopping ahead of us.