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Quite often we go to the park, or host a party and we have a few things like Stomp Rockets or Jumpers or other such things/toys. There are quite a few kids who look at longingly and want to come over (or some just assume they can).

Almost always I state it clearly:

Your kid is welcome to try it out or play with it for a bit, but we have guests for who it's intended

OR to the kid directly, with their parents listening:

You can play with it for a few minutes now, but you'll have to give it up to them (my son and his friends) once we say so.

For the past few times, it seems parents blatantly ignore the above request. They either just don't budge and keep taking videos of their kids and continue to take up everyone's time. Often, protective parents start "monitoring" that kids pratice fair use (read, their kid gets a fair use) and kids come running to me saying that they aren't able to play since "others" are not leaving it. Or the kids get rough with the toy and I have to tell them to not do that if they'd like to play (but gets ignored, even if you tell their parents).

I've had to intervene sometimes by just being blunt: Excuse me, but these are for the guests of the party or just Alright, times up! My son and his friends need to play or just simply saying "Time's up!" Pack up. Pretend to leave. Have the others leave and just set up again.

What's the best way to handle such situations without coming across as rude or a complaining parent?

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    Do the other parents bring toys for their kids, or are yours the only ones present? (Also, much sympathy! Their sense of entitlement in the face of your generosity is inappropriate and must be quite frustrating.) – Monica Cellio Feb 6 '18 at 0:07
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    So wait, are you bringing these toys to like a public park; and then other children at the park begin to feel entitled to those toys? Is there any reason you think it's necessary to share these toys (given the problems and lack of cooperation)? – JMac Feb 6 '18 at 19:28
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Be as rude as you want. Don't lend those toys out.

When you set up a BBQ for your family and friends, do you also let perfect strangers come in and take your food?

You don't. Right? So why should it be any different with their kids?

Next time, bring a large opaque bag and teach your kids and the invited kids to return the toys to the bag when they're not using them.

There can be exceptions to this, for instance, if your kid is willing to lend a toy out to another kid, or if the other parents are bringing toys that your kids may want to play with, but otherwise, if it's not their stuff, they need to respect your private property.

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    I'm not entirely sure that being rude is the appropriate idea, but I agree that he should be blunt. You certainly don't want to get into a public argument with a stranger in front of a bunch of kids because you were too aggressive in your response, but I think it makes sense to say something like: "Ah, sorry, but I think we're just going to keep this in our little group for now." or whatever, then escalate as necessary/appropriate if they become insistent. – Kulahan Feb 15 '18 at 23:36
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You idea for other kids to play with the toys for a bit is good. But, enforcing this gracefully is not always in your control completely. Some kids and parents are more empathetic than others and might not take you seriously until you show your angry face.

I will share what I do when I take my nephew out to play.

A little background: I am a 25 years old single male and my nephew is 3 years old. My neighborhood has people from middle and above middle class and there is this one park where all of these folks go. Kids between the ages of 2 and 6 almost always play side by side. Most of the parents do not supervise the kids play. But, when there is a little tension or commotion between the kids during play, these parents intervene and deal this in the adult way. This sometimes leads to verbal fights between parents. A kid's choice of friends is almost always affected by how well their parents get along.

My nephew has some good toys and some older kids (4-6 years old) would want to play with them. Instead of asking the other kids to play with it for a while, I encourage them to play with my nephew - with or without toys.

This is helpful in the following ways:

  • My nephew gets to meet and play with other kids and they almost always learn something from each other. Also, my nephew likes to play with other kids.
  • If a certain kid wants only the toys, he/she will lose interest in the group (and eventually the toys) after few minutes.

This is not always fool proof. I have listed a couple of tough situations and how I deal with them.

  • Some kids would not want to play with other kids and try to sneak away a toy. They are just kids and you can't blame them. If I am going to react by trying to protect the toy (an object), the kids will think that the object has more value than playing together. In such a situation, I would talk to the respective parent and I would say something like, "Hello Mam, looks like your kid likes my nephew's toy. These are my nephew's favorite and I think it is best that the toys are in the vicinity of my nephew." I have never lost a toy to a kid so far.
  • Kids might not know how to play together with some toys. At these times, I would help them create their own game. This is even more fun for the older kids.

There is also the problem of the kids not getting along with each other. And I have to be extra careful when my nephew is playing with older kids - a rough push from an older kid might hurt my kid. At these times, a parent has to intervene, not to take sides, but to let them understand the consequences and teach them from right and wrong.

Of course, this is just my 2 cents.

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    This is gold! "I encourage them to play with my nephew - with or without toys." I love that idea. Building on that idea, some toys lend themselves to be better for group play than others. But I agree, if you can make the kids play with each other without toys, that's even better. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 7 '18 at 9:36
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You have the right idea with the "time's up" idea. Obviously the parents are oblivious and seem to think that you came there to entertain their kid. I'd suggest starting out with "Sorry, that's for the party. The kids at the party planned to play with it; you can play for a little bit after we finish up." The kids will be disappointed but that's the parents' problem, not yours.

As far as the "fair use" goes - it's funny that they decide what's fair for a toy YOU arranged for. You own it, you set the schedule for it, you determine who can use it. I wouldn't be too worried about being perceived as rude - how rude is it to assume that their kids can play at length during your party with your toys? Obviously you don't want to be a jerk about it, but being firm in favor of your kids/guests is very different from just ordering other kids around.

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Since you have established a rule with your equipment, it is not inherently rude to enforce that rule.

In more detail:

You have proposed a thought out and fair boundary in the sharing of your toys, however, the people you proposed it to are young children who have far more important things to do (such as fire the stomp rocket at their friend) than listen to you and this is perfectly normal. Parents enforcing an established rule will show the kids what is okay or not and although the kids will still likely test the boundaries of the rules, enforcing it should help.

The next question is how do you enforce it? Since we all know that ripping a toy (even your own) out of a random kids hands will probably not go over well. First I would assume the best and try simply asking for it back. Sometimes it will work, but when it inevitably doesn't, I would not press the child; to respect the ways different families work I would enforce your rule through the kids parents and leave it up to them to figure out the best way to deal with their own child.

The other parents have currently been ignoring you when you advise that the children should not play so rough if they want to continue playing with your toy. Here the parents are a bit out of line, their kids are playing with your equipment and they should respect your wishes and make sure that their kids are not too rough with it. However, that does not mean we can not understand why. There are plenty of situations where they know that there is nothing they can easily say that would get their child to be more careful. They know that the next step is for the toy to be removed, but since it hasn't come to that yet they are fine to just ignore it. I think that changing how this interaction goes will result in a different outcome.

My advice is that after you have stated the rule, and then the warning and then asked for the equipment back all to the kids but within ear-shot of the parents, you should then approach the parents and say something along the lines of:

[$Child] is being too rough with my toys, and they are really for my child and his friends anyway. I just asked him/her for [$Toy] back, could you please retrieve it for me?

This is something that they will be far more likely to do, since they know that if they don't, then you will (which is fine for your situation, as their in-action gives permission for your action and doing it with permission is not rude). There is always the chance that you run into an incredibly annoying parent that will still get upset even after all this. I would not worry, you have done all you can to remain polite and any on-looking parents would be well aware of this.

Lastly, a small plus with this approach is you have a possibility of the domino effect where children might realise that they need to be more careful, and parents might get that little push they needed to reign in their kids. Admittedly a small possibility.

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Honestly, I don't think there is any way of quickly and conveniently conveying the complexities of what you consider to be "fair use" to a complete stranger. You would be better not to let them start playing in the first place if you are finding that they dispute it when you ask them to stop.

A polite way of saying no might be:

Sorry, but this equipment is for a private party.

If you don't want to stand guarding the equipment then make a sign that says as much.

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What a situation! A seemingly casual situation, but one that's likely to lead to hostility, and most of the obvious answers have drawbacks.

Forbid other kids to join in You absolutely have the right to: it's your property.

(By the way, I had to look up "Stomp Rockets". They're pretty much what I expected: http://d1jqecz1iy566e.cloudfront.net/extralarge/nd068.jpg They look fun! And I'm not surprised other kids want to have a try).

The drawback is kids will be kids, and you could give them a go on the stomp rocket at minimal cost to yourself. So it feels mean to forbid them.

Discuss with the other adults appropriate rules and times for their kids to play with the toy This is the sensible solution other answers have proposed. The drawback is that it is a lot of effort on your part, and turns a fun day out in the park into work. Plus, some parents are not going to be reasonable.

Just chill out and let whoever play with it Life's to short to set up rules and regulations around every activity. The drawback is other parents muscling in and setting up their own schedule. (This seems incredibly entitled from your POV, but from their point of view they're just being reasonable).

Here's an alternative solution: let your son take charge of who plays with his toys. He can decide if he wants to let another kid play, and for how long. You'll be there to step in if some older kid tries to bully him, but aside from that, leave him to figure out his own system of turn-taking.

This teaches him a few things:

  1. He's not obligated to share. He's entitled to his own things, and he's not obligated to share them with others just because the others want to play with them. (Google "should you teach kids to share" for more on this).

  2. If he decides to share his things, he gets to decide how they're shared out. He gets to set rules and boundaries and figure out how to enforce them.

  3. He's capable of being responsible, dealing with others, and preventing conflict.

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