The Great Toy Swap
When you're at the park, what do you do if another child walks off with your son's bucket of sand toys? Is it OK to change your daughter into dry clothes at the pool? What about sharing snacks with other kids? For parents venturing to the park for the first time, these situations can be a source of indecision and stress, but if handled correctly, they're really no big deal.
With all the trouble you go through to cart your children's sand toys, pool noodles, arm floaties, and whatnot around, it's only normal that you'd like to come home with most of your gear. Well, forget it. In a kid's mind, one of the best parts of going to a park, pool, or friend's house to play is getting to investigate and use someone else's new and interesting stuff while ignoring all the wonderful doo-dads that his or her parents carefully selected and spent good money to buy.
On top of that, it's pretty much an unspoken rule that kids share their toys at the pool and playground. The chances are high that your child will one day come home with someone else's shovel, and your sand sifter will wind up in a stranger's garage. It's just toy swapping karma, so get on board with it.
However, if your little one is scooping happily in the sandbox and another kid attempts to leave the area with your toys, it's perfectly acceptable to say, "Honey, that's Ethan's bucket and he'd love to share it with you, but let's keep it in the sandbox." If your suggestion falls on deaf ears, gently remove the toy from the culprit's hands and say, "I'm sorry sweetie; that stays here." Then tuck it behind you for a while until everyone's distracted and playing again, at which point you can surreptitiously toss it back into the group.
Putting your child's initials on all your stuff with a permanent marker also helps when it's time to go and you're attempting to collect your things ... which happen to look exactly like everyone else's because everyone in town bought the same bucket of plastic toys at Target.