Your Toddler's Favorite Place to Play Is Dirtier Than a Toilet Seat


ball pitThere are certain things I miss about having toddlers, but the feeling of dread I used to get whenever they spotted one of those bacteria-infested indoor playgrounds is not one of them. Show me a 2-year-old who can walk by a bright, deceptively happy-looking ball pit without going completely insane and I'll show you ... well, I'll show you a ball pit that isn't germier than the average toilet seat. Because most of them are!!!

I always suspected that this was the case, but my new hero, mom-turned-documentary-filmmaker Erin Carr-Jordan, proved that the playgrounds found at fast food joints (and a billion other places) are primary colored-petri dishes. Grossed out by the local playspaces her son loved, Carr-Jordan complained to owners ... who did nothing. So Carr-Jordan took matters into her own hands (hope she was wearing gloves!).

Carr-Jordan not only filmed the dirty equipment to prove her point, she swabbed surfaces and collected samples from playspaces in seven different states and paid out-of-pocket for the evidence to be tested at labs. And guess what?

Eight of the nine locations tested turned out positive for fecal matter. Ewwwww. But not surprising! I can't even tell you how many times my kids and/or their friends came down with mysterious stomach bugs within 24 hours or so of playing in one of those "kid-friendly" pits of poop. How many times have you seen a toddler mindlessly put one of those balls in his mouth?? Ick.

The big issue is that where the cleanliness of public bathrooms, for example, is regulated by law, there are no such requirements for toddler playspaces. And apparently we can't take it for granted that the people in charge of these places will keep them clean out of the goodness of their hearts, or even fear of being sued.

Are you grossed out by indoor playspaces?


Image via DieselDemon/Flickr

play, toddler activities, toddler health


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OSayS... OSaySaySay

Grossed out, yes. I still will not keep my 14m old from playing in one. I will watch him closely to make sure nothing goes in his mouth, but I'm not going to be one of those Germ-X moms. Baby gets a bath every night and my house is always kept clean and we have no pets. There have been studies that show that too much anti-bacterial cleaning and sheltering isn't good for their immune systems. I'm a neat freak, but will still let my kid be a kid. He's 14m and has only had 2 colds in his life. Ball pits are gross, but if you encounter one, don't be the mom who won't let their kid play in one while the other kids are. There's really no way to clean a ballpit easily. That's why they are so funky.

PoeDu... PoeDunkMae

Yes, I've always thought they were gross....BUT when you have an antsy toddler and it's pouring down ran and they want to run yell and play and they do NOT want to be at home...and quite frankly you could use a smoothie and a trip out of the house yourself on a rainy day and the park is a NO GO....those play areas *can* be a welcome place.  I refuse to go to the ones that had the ball pits, heard too many scary stories of needles in the ball pits, and stuff like that.  But the ones without the ball pits, just slides and tubes I didn't mind as much.  I just made my child use hand sanitizer before she touched her food and made her take a bath when she got home.  All she ever got from the play areas was apparently head lice from another child she was playing with (I was more concerened abut the dirty lookign child than the play area!!) But, our town has now removed every indoor play area at stores.  So now the kids have no place to play inside on rainy days.  Us Moms will just have to suffer and come up with a new plan :D

nonmember avatar Anon

I haven't seen a ball pit since my kids came into my custody. But I do let them play at the McD's Play Place and such. I am not afraid of germs. I did see a little girl come out of there once with peed pants, so I told my kids it was time to go, and that was that. Nobody ever died from coming in contact with toddler pee.

luvbe... luvbeinamommy68

i havent seen ball pits in any of the indoor play areas in a long time! 

nonmember avatar Christine

I have also not seen ballpits in forever and I so loved them when I was little. My daughter loves playing at the indoor McDonald's and Chick Fil A play areas, and while I know they are by no means clean, I worry about her more playing in her sandbox at home as far as picking up a bug....of both My daughter is always digging in her sandbox to reach the dirt bottom so she can find bugs to play with! Initially the sandbox had a plastic sheet on the bottom and then the sandbox was made around the sheet and filled with sand, but that was 3 years ago and that plastic is full of holes! I figure I grew up healthy enough and I was always in to something, so why spoil the same childhood experiences for my daughter?

momav... momavanessa

There is no ball pits in my area. Also most I go to clean them regularly and provide hand sanitizer at the door.

Char_... Char_gal4

Fecal matter is everywhere and unavoidable.  Myth Busters did tests on toothbrushes in various areas in their bathroom and a control toothbrush not only in another room, but under a cover.  All, even the control, had fecal matter.

That said, ball pits are GROSS.  I had an 'accident' at 4 or 5 in one.  They cleared everyone out of the pit, but to this day I doubt it was ever cleaned

Shani527 Shani527

Do places even have ball pits anymore? I have not seen one at a fastfood play area since I was a preteen. And yes ok, its gross, would I still let my kid play in one, sure, grated that they are old enough to know not to put stuff in their mouth! LOL I know that where I have worked the play equipement is cleaned weekly with a deep thorough clean monthly; but no ball pit there.

jeram... jeramiahsmom808

I  have not seen  a ball pit since i was my son's age. (3) im not too worried about the place that is at chick fil a near my house.  he eats then plays, he gets a bath every night.  the worse thing i remember him ever getting is possibly a cold. 

mommy... mommy31210

actualy i dont mind the one at mds. i know that they get cleaned. my dh had to clean it when he worked there.

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