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kids parkOne of the funniest things one sees at the park is all the new moms who are so anxious to get out of the house that they are there stuffing 2-month-old babies into the baby swings and pushing them ever so slightly. The reality is, as parents, we are ALWAYS so excited for our kids to get to that next level. We want them to climb high, reach the top, slide fast, and do those monkey bars ASAP.

The reality is, though, playgrounds aren't all made equally. Ask any mom who has followed her 2-year-old around equipment made for 8-year-olds with clenched fists and you will know. There is a reason many playgrounds have structures for the little ones and different ones for the bigger ones.

It's not always easy to tell when a child is ready for the bigger equipment, but here are six pieces of equipment, each with signs you can look at in your child to assess his or her readiness. See below:

  1. Slide: It's probably best to try to wait until your baby is about 18 to 24 months old before using this park favorite by himself. Before that, of course, slide with your baby or hold him as he slides, but until about 18 months or so, babies don't have the balance or core strength to keep themselves upright on the way down the slide and they can bang their heads or worse on the way down.
  2. Climbing equipment: This all depends on the age of the child. A small child under 3 can maybe do the climbing, but mom or dad should spot him. To me, this is just a feeling. I still spot my 4.5-year-old, but generally give my 6-year-old more freedom.
  3. Baby swing: Your baby isn't really ready for a swing until she can hold her head up and sit up herself. Having seen many parents putting babies in these swings way before this, this is a big one.
  4. Big kid swing: Big kid swings require stability, balance, and coordination. Most children should remain in the bucket swing until they are 3 or older. Those who can graduate should have all three of those aforementioned skills. And if they are too scared, let them swing in the "baby" swing! My son does sometimes and he is almost 5!
  5. Sand box: With this you really need to wait until your baby is out of the eating everything stage. This comes at different ages, but you will know.
  6. Ready for the monkey bars: Some might make the argument that monkey bars are NEVER safe. But as a veteran of the old bars myself, I'd say this is definitely an older one. Even my 6-year-old doesn't do them without supervision and a soft surface beneath her! That would be the earliest kids should be doing them alone.

How did you know when your kids were ready for big kid equipment?