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What Children's Playground Behavior Says About Them


When Timmy pushes Georgie off the swing at recess, it’s just kids being kids, right?


Many adults would be inclined to think so. However, playground behavior is indicative of things beyond mere play. In fact, it’s become a favorite subject of many psychiatric and pediatric studies. Some even theorize that playground behavior could predict adult personalities.


From a casual observer’s point of view, though, here’s what some children’s behavior in the playground seem to say about them.


The Leader


When a routine is established around a playground (usually during school recess and lunch break), chances are the kids will form or join groups and cliques. A leader-type will emerge among them. You can spot The Leader by the way he or she organizes teams and referees games. The Leader can get a bit bossy sometimes, but the ultimate goal for these types is to make sure that playtime is done right.


The Bully


In contrast to The Leader who wishes to organize groups to really enjoy playtime, The Bully simply wants the playground all to him/herself. This type will not hesitate to push other kids on top of a slide, grab swings, and do all sorts of aggressive things just to establish territory.  


The Troublemaker


The Troublemaker may seem a lot like The Bully at first, but though some aspects overlap, subtle differences set them apart. While The Bully is hell-bent on taking over the entire playground one scared kid at a time, The Troublemaker wishes to create as much mischief as possible. For this type, playtime means unleashing pranks on hapless playmates and creating mayhem just for the heck of it.    


The Meek


Introverted types typically fall under The Meek category. They are subservient to The Leader, easily succumb to The Troublemaker’s pranks, and often cower when The Bully is around. Left to his or her own devices, The Meek would rather wait until there’s an available swing or space in the sandbox (preferably without the other types within spitting distance).


The Observer


Gifted with a keen sense of perception, The Observer is the child who doesn’t mind being alone. They can entertain themselves even without the benefit of playground equipment because nature alone will suffice. The Observer is a benign presence in the playground; often content with watching The Leader, The Bully, The Troublemaker, The Meek, and other playground personalities interact without feeling the need to participate.

Alan Weiman
Alan Weiman