Is it OK for an adult to join or start a game with some unfamiliar children (if they don't object)?

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    We need more context for this. I mean, the situation is entirely dependent upon what you mean by unfamiliar and game. Playing tag where you sweep 3-year kids up into your arms with random kids you met in the park, probably not okay. Playing Cluedo with a bunch of teenagers at someone's housewarming, probably okay.
    – deworde
    May 19, 2013 at 21:02
  • I think the question should be kept broad, to encourage comprehensive answer. What factors are decisive? (Child age, your age, the game in question, presence and distance to parent, region, urbanisation). Are rules different in big cities with high population density and many fences between all yards?
    – Anonymous
    May 20, 2013 at 10:53
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    @Anonymous Keeping the question broad will not encourage comprehensive answers. At the scope you currently have it, comprehensive answers could encompass dozens of pages or more. The description of what we consider a poor fit for our site includes this wording: " This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ.". Unfortunately, this falls pretty clearly into the "overly broad" area. Please consider editing along the lines deworde suggests.
    – user420
    May 20, 2013 at 12:00
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    @Anonymous Yes, all of those affect the answer. I mean, you could start a fairly successful forum purely devoted to stories and debates about when it is and is not acceptable to play with a child and to leave a child to play by themselves. Give us an example so we know roughly your situation. If someone then has a similar question but with different bounds, that can be linked to this one.
    – deworde
    May 20, 2013 at 13:15

1 Answer 1


This all depends on where you live. If you live in some countries, where they adore their kids, then this would be considered par for the course. I remember walking down a street with our (then) three year old daughter in one such country. A waitress came out of a cafe, picked her up, and carried her into the shop. 30 seconds later they re-emerged, our daughter sporting a freshly made ice cream.

The same thing just wouldn't happen in the UK.

The rule I would use is: if an adult is present with the kids, and you have made enough eye contact with the adult to know that they don't mind, then by all means join in or even start a game. If however the child is on their own, then I wouldn't initiate a game. If they initiated one, by kicking a ball to you, or whatever, then by all means kick it back, but be wary.

There are two real issues here. If you live in a country / neighbourhood, where it may be dangerous for kids to play with strangers etc, then by initiating any such contact, even with the best of intentions, you are encouraging that kid to play with strangers.

The second issue, is that your actions may very easily be misconstrued. The other day, I stood in our daughter's playground with all the other parents, waiting for the bell to ring. A little girl (I am male) had found a tennis ball, and decided that I would be a suitable goalkeeper. I had no idea who her parent was, but kicked the ball she rolled to me back to her. This continued for a few minutes until her mum noticed she was playing with a stranger, albeit, a fairly reluctant one. The mum told her daughter to play somewhere else (I noticed with some sad irony that she didn't actually volunteer to play with her herself, but continued yakking on her phone). At that point I felt fairly uncomfortable, despite the fact that I had stood in the same playground for the last four years.

I'm not saying the second point is how things should be, I am saying it is how they actually are, at least in my neck of the woods. Its a sorry state of affairs, and I always love going abroad to places where kids are treated with so much more warmth and friendship than they are in the UK.

  • 3
    Alternatively, it's so nice to live in the UK where people ask before abducting your children to fill them full of sugar. It allows you to tell the difference between waitress and kidnapper.
    – deworde
    May 20, 2013 at 12:38
  • 1
    You view the world through your specs, I'll view it through mine. May 20, 2013 at 18:45

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