I was at a birthday party at one of those play places with my son recently. I understand the pull of the giant blow up toys! I do. Bouncy things and tunnels to crawl through. But some of them are a disaster waiting to happen. Too much chaos, not enough eyes on kids.
On walking in I immediately questioned the safety of the place. The door was easy to get to, the people at the desk busy on the phone or talking to each other and all that was keeping the kids in their designated spaces were ropes or chairs. I was – well no, not shocked… not anymore.
At one point I lost track of my son (it happens to me too as much as I hate to admit it). And it took us a very long minute and half to find him. I went immediately to the gentleman “guarding” the entrance to our designated group area (it was all open, albeit blocked off in one way or another), and said, my son is missing can you help? I thought that was pretty clear.
I guess he thought I was being rude, interrupting his conversation with another co-worker because he continued talking and ignored me. My husband continued scanning as I headed for the door to make sure my son didn’t escape, assuming he hadn’t already.
I don’t go though life panicking about all the things that could happen to me or my family. But if my thing was fresh baked muffins and cakes… where would I be? If I were a pedophile or kidnapper or human trafficker, I would be here.
My son wouldn’t leave without being coerced in some way, but the truth is no matter what you teach your 5 year old, adults are smarter. There are many ways to get a kid to follow you.
So baring that in mind, I let my husband and the staff (who had finally woken up) look, while I stood by the door.
A few moments and Zane was found. He had climbed under and over something to join a different party! Why not! Kids are so easily bored and what’s over there is always more interesting!
I brought the safety situation up with the manager – the door being wide open to the play areas and several other issues. His dismissive answer? A wave of his hand, “We’ve been doing this a while and nothing has ever gone wrong.” Then he walked away.
Not to be a party pooper. But if something had happened, this play place wouldn’t be here. The story of one more missing child would be cached for reference somewhere on the internet, and after the hoopla blew over, a supermarket would open up and no lessons would be learned except by the people who lost their kid.
It happens every day. Criminals are not our worst enemies, carelessness is. Not just ours, everyone’s. Don’t assume places that deal in kids are doing your homework for you.
Keep your kids close and question the safety of everything.
Adendum to “Party Pooper”:
My husband reminded me that at a play place he had been to years ago all children and parents were fitted with matching bracelets marked with a number. There was always someone at the door who checked both bracelets. No child could leave without an adult with a matching bracelet. This is such an easy security fix. Why hasn’t it been adopted by every play place? Because they aren’t regulated that’s why. And if parents don’t do their homework, and the people who own these places don’t care… things can and will go wrong.
On a slightly different note, people, especially parents dealing with rambunctious children often avoid bringing up concerns with management for fear of being labeled troublemakers. Two parents taking the same concern to the front desk make more of an impression than one. So Mommy and Daddy should go together or grab another parent who cares. Keep a calm demeanor. People who freak out rarely get anything done. You won’t be taken seriously.
If you have suggestions and it’s a place you might use more if your concerns were met, let someone know. And if you can’t get anyone to listen or the response is cold and uninterested. Don’t go back. Vote with your feet.