Getting your child to leave a fun activity can be difficult.  Whether it’s at the pool or playground or if they’ve just met a new friend, kids approach play full-on.  Getting them ready to go, especially if it is something that they are entirely engrossed in, can be hard.  But approaching it with their needs in mind first, vs yours, can allow them to leave in good spirits.  Leaving can even be transformed into a fun activity that they will get excited about.

1. Speak In Their Language

The number one way I hear parents at a playground try to get their kids to leave is with a warning like “OK, Sarah, 5 more minutes and then we are leaving!”.  If your child is under age 5 or 6, then minutes are foreign to them.  They essentially live in the present, and can’t imagine the future – it’s all about the here and now. My 5 year old still asks me how long a minute is, and even when I say – it’s counting from 1 to 60, she still doesn’t and won’t get it.  Try something more like “Three more slides and then we are going to go to the mall” or even “Before we go, I bet you can’t slide 3 times before I count to 20″.  This gives them something they can understand, and even get involved in and have fun with.  It is goal oriented and clear and most important visual.

2. Set Up Expectations

Prepare your child with the idea of leaving early. Kids don’t like to be surprised with the announcement “We’re leaving now.”  They need to have fair warning and be given a specific next step to prepare them for leaving.  When children play, they are fully immersed (body, mind and emotions) and so breaking them out of that state can be a struggle.  You may have to remind the child a few times about them leaving soon, but if you give them a goal or clear next step, then they will emerge from their present and then be prepared to move into yours.

3. Plant The Seed Of Where Your Are Going

I often start getting the process going by talking up some exciting or fun things about where we are going to next. This  gets my child to begin imagining themselves there and takes attention away from their current play just long enough to start to entice them to move on.  ”I wonder if they will have those yellow melons today at the grocery store?”.  This will start getting them to imagine themselves at the grocery store searching for those yellow melons.  It adds a purpose and answers the question, “Why are we going to leave?”.  It’s also a distraction away from the current fun activity.  A more immediate solution to leave really fast is something like “Who can do the silliest walk back to the car?”.  It’s a fun challenge, which kids love, and allows them to show their imagination and creativity, both of which they are brimming with.