I Don’t Let My Kid Take His Shoes Off in Public Play Spaces, and I’m Not Even Sorry

My kid loves public play spaces like Chuck E. Cheese or the PlayPlace at McDonald’s. It makes me cringey taking him but sometimes we need a change of scenery from the playground or our apartment. There are a million reasons I despise those places, most of them involving noise. But the other reason is cleanliness. Look, I’m not a germaphobe, or else I wouldn’t even let my kid play in these kind of structures. I know it’s impossible to keep them super clean because you’d literally have to pay people to follow the kids with a can of Lysol. But still I get super skeeved out, especially in the parts of the space where children are required to take their shoes off. My kid already knows that he is NOT allowed to take his shoes off. I don’t care if he’s the only kid with shoes on.

We go to the McDonald’s PlayPlace fairly regularly. It’s only a 5 minute walk from our apartment and they have WiFi. It’s perfect for these super hot summer days because we don’t have air conditioning. PlayPlaces have a hard and fast no shoes rule. I get that if wearing the wrong kind of shoes they can get hurt or hurt another kid.

Taking shoes off for indoor playgrounds is a no thank you.


But requiring that kids wear socks on a mostly plastic play structure seems less safe. And to me, socks are not a good enough barrier to keep out dirt.

And since it’s summer, most kids aren’t even wearing socks if they’re wearing sandals. I have yet to see a mom pull a pair of socks out of a bag to put on the kids while they run around. Which means, they’re running around on those things barefoot. Honestly, how often do PlayPlaces get wiped down? Maybe twice a day? The employees can’t really clean the stuff if there are kids running around it. And because there is no real federal regulation on the cleanliness of the structures, I’m sure many of the locations that still have PlayPlaces are pretty lax about cleaning. Ours is quite clean from what I can see (I’ve never gone up in there) and my kid never comes out looking grimy but I mean, germs are everywhere. It’s inevitable, but I will do the little things I can to make the experience a little bit cleaner for us.

The other problem with requiring the removal of shoes before entering? Those kids are running back and forth like a pack of wild dogs. Young kids are not going to put shoes back on to chase each other around the dining room of McDonald’s. So that means they’re tracking the regular floor dirt back into the play structures anyway on the bottoms of their little feet. Yes, those floors get cleaned fairly frequently, but come on, there’s still dirt on the floor. Once when we were playing in the PlayPlace, a little girl demanded that my son take off his shoes. I looked up to see him standing in front of me with one shoe in his hand. ”Mommy! I need to take off my shoes!” I looked at him with big eyes. ”You put those shoes back on IMMEDIATELY.” I sat him down and put his shoe back on while he pouted.

Sorry, not sorry kid.

All I’m saying is, requiring kids to take their shoes on a play structure is kind of ridiculous. It’s not safer by any means. And having no shoes on is seriously gross. I shudder thinking about all of the tiny little sweaty feet that are running around in there. The thing is, it’s easier to take him to the bathroom and wash his hands before he sits down to eat than it is to wash the bottom of his feet before I put his shoes back on to go home. I’m usually trying to wrangle a screaming kid who doesn’t want to leave because he’s having too much fun. Whether kids have shoes on or not they’re tracking dirt and germs around. At least when they’re wearing shoes, it’s easier to leave those germs at the front door when you get home. And either way, my kid is getting a bath after an afternoon at the PlayPlace.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

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(Image: iStock / patchareeporn_s)

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