The Frog Prince: A Tale of the Playground Meltdown

I have taken my little man to the North Liberty Indoor Playground probably a dozen times.  I totally recommend taking your little ones there to wear them out!  The enclosed space is super nice and no worries about your toddler trying to escape to find the trains or bears like at another local indoor play area.  Plus, it is easier to chat with other parents while supervising the kiddos playing.

We have always had so much fun there…except for the day we didn’t.

It was a busy day at the playground.  I dislike busy days.  I would normally go earlier to avoid the crowd, but it was a midmorning decision that we needed to get out of the house.

When we got to the playground, there was another toddler sitting on my little man’s favorite climbing structure, the frog.  I tried to encourage him to play on the truck, the slide or run around with a friend who happened to be there too.

However, he had his mind set on one thing…the frog.  It’s like that frog was a magnet and he was being pulled to it.  I kept telling him to wait his turn and share the frog with the other kids.

Enjoying hanging out on the frog on a typical day at the playground.
Enjoying hanging out on the frog on a typical day at the playground.

I began to wonder, “how long this other child would keep sitting there?  How long was mine going to have to wait his turn?”  The other child was perfectly content taking up all the space on the back of the frog.  I was getting frustrated.

At the same time, I felt I had to save this other child from what I could see coming next.  The probability was high that mine would push or climb right on top and someone would fall off.

When my kiddo did indeed start to climb right up where the other child sat, I pulled him off.  When he started to scream and kick, I quickly decided we had to go and carried him out the door.

I was thinking to myself, “I just can’t do this today.  It is too busy and I’ve been struggling with my child the whole time” (which was maybe only 15 minutes…but seemed like forever).

We sat down on the floor to bundle up.  While he continued to scream, I struggled to put on his boots.  He was kicking his legs, literally making it impossible to get them on.

I was sweating.

A sweet mom, who was bundling her well-behaved child, asked if there was anything she could do to help.  She reassured me that all kids do this.  Then she kindly pointed out that I’m going to have another one (32 weeks pregnant then).

I say to her, “Some days I just don’t know.”  Then my eyes filled with tears.

I picked up my 2 ½ year old, who was finally in all his winter gear and hid my face against the side of his.  He screamed and I cried all the way to the car.

He cried, “I want to play,” over and over.  I said, “I know you do buddy, we will play here another day.  It just didn’t work out today.”

The infamous frog.
The infamous frog.

For the rest of the day, I thought about our meltdown.  Some days I just don’t knowWhat was the rest of that statement?

How am I going to do this with two?

I imagined this episode with a baby carrier in my arms and wonder if I will ever leave the house again once baby #2 is here.

On this particular day, I was having one of those mommy moments when I felt like I did not know what to do with my child or if I was doing the right thing.  Plus, I am pregnant and totally hormonal!

I felt like I did a bad job in my attempts to redirect his attention so that he could have had a fun playtime.  And a meltdown in public is something I like to avoid.

But I am learning.  I have never been a parent to a 2 ½ year old before.  Just like I had to learn how to take care of him as a newborn and a 1 year old.  This mommy is learning each stage as we go along.

With baby #2 on the way soon, I am starting to freak-out a little about handling toddler tantrums along with newborn cries.

As a parent, I should be strong, but I will admit this is probably not the last day I will be crying with my babies.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who has left playtime crying along with her child! Am I??  

Mommies, please share your advice on what you would do in this situation so that I can learn to handle it better next time! 

Shari is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Cedar Rapids with her husband Mark, 2 boys and a pug named Yoda. Her toddler and preschool age boys keep her very busy. She loves warm Iowa days for playing outside with her family. In her "spare time" Shari enjoys quiet activities like crafting, browsing Pinterest, learning photography, creating family photo books and watching favorite shows with her husband. She also loves Iowa City Moms Blog and her MOPS group for the connections with other mommies!


  1. I was at the Coralville indoor play area last week. It was time for us to go and told my 3 yr old son which he immediately took off running from me. I pick up my 1 yr old daughter in one arm while trying to catch him. Finally I was able to get a hold of his shirt which he falls to the ground yelling and crying. Then I grabed him by my free arm and had to do a lunge up to pick both kids in my arms (i literally felt like wonderwoman!) I had already told him that he was going to time out so I had to go though with it so i corner him in at the stroller parking so he wouldn’t escape. Then i made a quite decided (to avoid everyone starring at me) to put him in the stroller and seatbelt him in. the whole time he was trying to escape the seatbelt by trying to stand up and yell. as i was leaving B&N a guy open the door for me and said, “good luck with that one!” then i drove to costco and parked and was getting him out that I saw his candy by him and being so mad and starving from not eaten yet that i shoved his candy in my mouth (big mistake). he was yelling, “my candy!” all the way inside costco until i was able to get him a sample there. then i ran into this older guy there and after he found out he was the one at the mall he says “at first i thought it was funny then i just felt sorry for you” so i just had to have a good laugh 🙂

  2. It happens to all of us! I will tell you what another mom once told me, “You just do it”. As a mommy of two boys 15 months apart, We just do it. We still leave the house, we still go to the play area and out to eat. We go on long car trips and story time at the mall. You did the best you could and that’s all that matters. At the end of the day, he won’t remember any of it.

    A wonderful thing happened when my oldest turned three. He began to understand why we had to leave, and that we would be able to return to the fun things we do, as long as we don’t throw a tantrum… We had to walk past the play area once or twice, because he had thrown a fit the last time we had visited. It wasn’t fun to see him sad, but I was able to use that feeling the next time we went. I said it was time to go and if he started to show signs of a tantrum, I would ask “Do you remember what happened last time you had a fit? We didn’t get to come play and have fun the next time we were at the mall. Would you like to get ready to go now, so we can play next time? Or do we need to skip it the next time we come to the mall?” He put his shoes on and there was no tantrum! Thank goodness! It doesn’t work for everyone.. My sister in law uses the timer on her iPhone. Her little man will play until he hears the alarm and gets ready to go all on his own! You just have to find what works for your family.

    Enjoy these moments, even the tough ones. They all matter!

  3. At least your little guy is 2 1/2! I had to pull my 5 year old young man out of a play area which resulted in a tantrum and an ugly public parenting moment. Later he was able to say that he just didn’t like being taken out like that. I think he didn’t have enough time to get ready to leave. Sometimes even preparing them that they will need to leave in a few minutes doesn’t help either. I try to always frame it as a learning experience and let them know that we will keep practicing play time. Next time I will “front-load” and make sure he understands what I expect. Hopefully it will go better for me but there are no guarantees!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.