Mommy Confession: My Daughter Loves Those Filthy McDonalds’ PlayPlaces

I’ve always depended on my parents for help with my daughter when things got hectic. It’s one of the nicest things about living in the same city as my entire extended family. There is always someone to pick up the slack when you need to work late, run errands or take a little “me time.” Ever since my daughter was born, I’ve turned to my dad first for those random evenings when I was otherwise engaged.

My dad and my daughter have a really amazing relationship. She’s his “little engineer.” They have activities and projects that she doesn’t do with anyone else. My dad is the one who likes to take Brenna to the local Amish farmer’s market. They pick out unpasteurized cheese, fresh sweet corn and green beans. My dad helps my daughter with her construction projects that I could never figure out. Lately he’s teaching her robotics. And… my dad takes her to fast food playplaces, something she can never convince her own mother to give in to.

It all started during those evenings when I was working late. I would have just a few more hours of work to finish up once every couple of weeks. I would call my dad, who was on his way home from work at the exact same time I normally left the office, and ask him to swing by and grab Brenna from the sitter’s. And in the hour that I was finishing up, my dad would take my daughter to a fast food restaurant with an indoor playground.

I understood the logic behind it. He never knew if I would be a half hour or closer to an hour and a half. My picky eater would always go for chicken nuggets and apple slices. And then she would be entertained no matter how long I took. After a while, those silly little playplaces became “their thing.”

Let’s all be honest, fast food playplaces can be gross. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the bacteria you can find in those things. We’ve seen the parent who basically drops their children off, as if McDonald’s were a babysitter. And then there’s the nutritional content of fast food to talk about. There’s a reason that most moms I know avoid these things like the plague.

But my daughter loves them. And I have to admit, I just don’t mind.

My little girl knows the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods. She knows that fast food isn’t something to eat all the time. She knows that she needs to balance it out with fruits and veggies.  Her stomach doesn’t actually handle fried foods well, so I’m not really in danger of her wanting french fries on a daily basis. A couple nuggets every once in a while is really all she can handle.

I realize that playplaces can be downright filthy, but I just have a hard time getting worked up about it. I throw some anti-bacterial on her when she’s done. I toss her in the shower when she gets home. Kids encounter germs everywhere. Every bathroom they walk into, every grocery cart handle they touch, and every park they play at have germs. Kids somehow manage to handle it and move on.

I know some other moms look down on fast food playplaces. I’ve had people tell me, “I can’t believe your little girl has been to one. Aren’t they… trashy?” No. They’re tubes and nets and slides and they make little kids happy. They’re cheap entertainment. And for my daughter, they’re her special treat when she’s hanging out with her papa. In the grand scheme of things, I think that there are much worse forms of entertainment for my daughter to be obsessed with.

(Photo: holbox/Shutterstock)

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  • Justme

    I live in Texas. It’s the summer. Outside is off limits between the hours of 10:00am and 4:00pm which means an AWFUL lot of time spent indoors with a busy 17 month old. So what do we do? Lots of play dates at Chick Fil-A (but not for any political or religious reason – I just really love their sandwiches) and at the indoor play area at the mall. Is it germy and full of children whose parents don’t properly supervise? Absolutely. BUT does it wear my child out while simultaneously making her squeal with glee? Yep. And that’s all that matters. No shame in the public play area.

  • Andrea

    Most kids love them and most parents think they are the most disgusting places on earth (gas station restrooms included). When mine were younger I let them lose in them those places and then have them take a bath in Purell later (kidding!)

    What are you gonna do..part of growing up.

  • Lastango

    Well, I’ve been reading about how kids exposed to germy environments grow up healthier than those who have too much protection.
    On the other hand, though, there’s a new problem coming up: parents who don’t get their kids vaccinated. In decades gone by, everyone got a shot for just about everything. Now, it’s fair to wonder what wiped-out-50-years-ago diseases the little ones might be carrying.

  • Julie

    We as a family don’t ever eat at fast food restaurants. But my mother does and she’s the prime babysitter. So, I have a feeling that a McDonald’s playplace will fall into the same category for my daughter when she gets older as it does for yours. Only with her Grammy and not her Papa. We are not germaphobes in this house (as evidenced by my unvacuumed carpets and dishes in the sink- I have a newborn so I think I have an excuse?) so I don’t think I’ll have a problem with it. I don’t want my child growing up in a sterile bubble so that when she does encounters some germs, her immune system can’t handle it. Dirt and germs are a part of life. I’m not saying I’ll let my child go around dirty, but I’m not going to follow her around with antibacterial hand wipes either.

    On another note, and I’m sorry to be the jerk to point it out, but I found this article kind of hard to read with all the typos. Could use some serious editing.

    • NotThumper

      Most of the articles are like that. I don’t think anyone ever proofreads.

    • Julie

      Yeah, I know but this one was especially bad.

  • LiteBrite

    You’re not alone. My kid does too.

    But you know, any indoor play area is full of germs. There are a couple of indoor playgrounds my child loves, including a children’s museum. I’d hate to see what some of those displays look like under a microscope. However, on a cold Wisconsin winter day, they’re the perfect outlets to get some of that boy energy out.

    This is the way I see it: yes, those places are full of germs, but so is everywhere else. He could get just as sick taking a 30-minute trip to Target as he would playing in an indoor play area.

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