Simple Struggles of a Stay-At-Home-Mom: Danger at Local Play Place

After a trip to our local McDonalds play place my eyes have been opened and I am terrified more than ever about society, business operating policies and the safety of our children.

This is such a difficult blog for me to write as I am still shaken by the events of last night and even more terrified after what I experienced/witnessed today.  On Wednesday, September 5th I took my son Mason, 15 months and his friend Alana, almost 3 years old to McDonalds play place to get out some evening energy after we tried playing outside but the mosquitoes were eating us alive.  I took them to McDonalds located in Crofton, in the median on Rte 3.  They have the biggest play place around and while it is not as clean as Chick-fil-a's play place I do love that this one has steps to allow my son who doesn't have the height yet to get all around the play area. 

After arriving at McDonalds I took the kids shoes off and let them go at it, they were both up the stairs and heading across the cargo nets in seconds.  Of course my son was about half way through the cargo nets when he started calling to me... so my shoes came off and up I went.  This was not my first time crawling through a play area with him and WILL NOT be my last.  After going around the front cargo net the kids skipped the slide and decided to go through the back cargo net.  This takes them to a platform area, an area where I discovered something terrifying. 

While my son and his friend were standing on the platform the leaned into the netting that serves as the "walls" of the play place.  All kids love to lean into these, lick them, try to climb them, etc...  As they started leaning I noticed that the one side was completely disconnected, it had been cut.  Not a small hole but the entire panel from top to bottom.  This was the highest section of the play place.  I wasn't sure how high up we were but after looking down I could see that if a kid fell through they would not only have a long drop but would also hit mutliple support beams on the way down. 

I only had my cell phone with me but I took multiple pictures as well as a video.  I took the kids out and went and got the manager.  The manager on duty took my word for it, and looked at the pictures I had taken as he did not want to climb up and see for himself.  He did get the other family out and locked the play place down.  I obviously posted the video to my facebook page and shared it with all of my friends and groups as a warning to parents to try to climb through at least once if they can because this is terrifying and who knows how long this was like this as we reported this to the manager at 8:30pm, so kids were clearly playing all day and I have a feeling this had been like this for awhile. 

I woke up this morning with a bad feeling so I went ahead and called the McDonalds and asked what time the play place opened.  I was informed, "it's already opened up for the day".  I freaked, grabbed my camera, tape measure and headed up there.  When I arrived there were kids already playing and a daycare leaving, with at least 6 kids.  I went around and informed all of the parents sitting there what the situation was and how I had informed the management last night of the situation and clearly they didn't care about our childrens safety.  I then grabbed my camera and tape measure and headed up to the top where the cuts in wall nets are.  First thing I did was drop the tape measure down and from a seated position where the opening was and measured to the floor.  So, if a child was in a seated position and fell through the opening they would fall a whopping THIRTEEN FEET! 

While I was up in the play place, blocking the opening, I went ahead and called corporate who took all the information as well as my contact information and told me they would forward the message to the appropriate party.  I asked them if they could contact the store immediately and tell them they NEEDED to shut it down and I was told that they would have to locate the appropriate contact information, I assume because they are franchised and would try to get in touch with them as soon as they could.  This seemed obnoxious to me as I am not only watching out for the safety of my child and other children but I am also helping them prevent a billion dollar lawsuit. 

After taking yet another video and multiple pictures depicting that nothing had changed and showing the measurement of the distance from the platform to the floor I proceeded out of the playset and off to find the manager on duty.  I ended up speaking with manager Jiu Davis who shut the play place down immediately but was not very polite when dealing with me.  It seemed as though she was irritated that I brought this to her attention because now it was something she had to deal with today. 

I also went ahead and contaced NBC 4 after I discovered that the play place had been reopened this morning after I brought the danger to the attention of management last night.  I am waiting to hear back from them to see what if anything they have been able to discover regarding the dangerous play place that I have not. 

** I might add that manager, Jui Davis informed me that the play place had been inspected 2 weeks ago... I pointed out to her that all that meant was that that opening could have been there for 13 days.  Plain and simple, someone needs to crawl through the play place and inspect it daily because clearly there are sick people out there who thought it would be funny to cut open a wall at the highest point of the play place which children climb through all day, every day.  While I would love to say that this post is not meant to scare you, it is.

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Cindy Bryl September 06, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Good for you and THANK YOU for looking out for your children and mine. I can't say I know many people who would have gone to these lengths! You at least have one appreciative mom.
Joe Robinson September 07, 2012 at 10:48 AM
Years ago they had the ball pit in there and all the kids were getting sick. Crofton Pediatrics referred to it as the 'playplace virus'. You would bring the kids in and the first question was 'have you played at McD's lately? We stopped letting the kids play in there. It's so disgusting and now, dangerous as well..
Candace Fontaine September 07, 2012 at 10:49 AM
Oh my! I have 3 children that LOVE this playplace. I have not been in a while but always watch carefully because some of the things are very high off the ground! THANK YOU so much for looking out for the safety of the children! WOW!!!
Tanya September 07, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Bravo!! This summer we ventured to the play place on one particularly hot, muggy day because the kids just couldn't play outside. We don't go to McDonald's very often because honestly I just don't like their food at all. I was absolutely disgusted with the filth in the play area and cut the play time short. After leaving my school aged girls were telling me there was a dried, moldy nugget up in the climbing structure. About 2 days later I noticed something on my sons neck -- it turned out to be ringworm. I'm certain he contracted it while we were there. They should have taken some of that money spent on the nice fancy double lane drive thru and put it towards the safety of our kids!
Christine September 07, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Nice of you to go through all of that trouble to hopefully avoid a child from getting hurt or killed. However, I try my best to avoid those places. Most of the kids are so pushy and trample my boys. When we want to let the kids go to a place to run, jump, climb & bounce we either head to the Roly Poly Gym or Joyful Jumps in Bowie.
Katie Fisher September 07, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Unfortunately pushy kids are everywhere. I run into issues everywhere because my son is so physically advanced that people often forget he is only 15 months... so while he can play with the big kids they need to be reminded once in awhile to be careful of the "baby". The benefit of play places like they have at McDonalds and Chick fil a are they are always open versus the ones you mentioned that only have open play at certain times. We go to those for "planned" play but these are nice for those last minute plays or when weather ruins your plans.
susan September 07, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Thanks for posting. We live in GA and have had similar situations. We had snakes in the ball pit and the structure itself was gross. One mom contacted a lab to check for just how many diseases were on them. We stick to Chick fil a because they post a signed cleaning schedule.
Crofton Mom September 07, 2012 at 12:31 PM
THANK YOU for writing this column, for your extensive follow up, and for your efforts above and beyond to protect our kids. We are doing our part to spread the word. In the meantime, DONE with Rt. 3 McDonalds!
Katie Fisher September 07, 2012 at 12:41 PM
I can't seem to see the video which I posted, so here is the direct link if anyone wants to watch it and see more clearly the area and how easily my 15 mth old got to the spot (for the mom who said, "most kids can get up there") https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wufmKKWhBOw&feature=g-upl
Ally Spencer September 07, 2012 at 12:46 PM
It really is one dirty, dangerous place! A couple of years ago there was a bird flying around in there. When it got real quiet the bird would fly down and eat the food that was on the floor. I told the manager and he shrugged and said they were aware of it. I told him that if the Health Dept. stopped by they would shut it down! So he propped the outside door open to see if the bird would leave. It didn't, but we did. Several months later we stopped by there again and there was once again a bird in the play area! I told a manager and she said that the owner didn't want to spend the money on getting a professional to remove the bird. It really is disgusting. Haven't been there since. Might have to do a spot check and see if they have reopened the play place since your complaint! Thank you for your diligence.
Amy Applestein September 07, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Thank you so much for informing all of us. We want nothing more than for our children to be safe and how sad this can't be done at our local McDonalds. I will inform all my friends of the situation. This particular store needs some help so maybe this will get them down to business and make the necessary changes.
Alan Simpson September 07, 2012 at 01:38 PM
I have to agree with those saying this place is disgusting. When my kids were little we witnessed a kid vomit all over the slide and the employee just wipe it up with just a towel while never closing it down. We had to warn several parents just arriving not to play on it while I told the manager. The manager has never cared that the play place is disgusting.
Danielle Stevenson Baxter September 07, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Good for you Katie. Sorry the manager didn't treat you so nicely. They should have been thanking you. Please let us know what happens.
Denecia September 07, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Applause to you! Thanks for looking out for all the other mamas & their littles!
Crofton Resident September 07, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I don't have any children but still find this appalling. Looking at your pictures, I can see that it would take the company about 5 minutes to use wire/zip ties to re-connect that netting to the pole next to it until they could replace it completely! And if that doesn't work, SHUT DOWN the play area completely, or at least block off that portion so children can't go near the dangerous area. Unbelievable, and yet not, that your comments were not handled more professionally by the manager on duty. You would think a child's life - and the risk of a lawsuit - would scare them into immediate action.
Elana September 07, 2012 at 03:04 PM
That is terrible. I honestly try not to go to that McDonalds because i always find the play area to be dirty and have food in the tunnels and everything since they allow food in that area-- the kids bring the fries and stuff in the play area with them. My 2 year old was playing in there and came out holding a chicken nugget that she found in there... GROSS!! They shouldnt allow food in there and i find that its generally not clean. I much prefer Chick-fil-a play area even though its not as big. Thank you for bringing this to everyone's attention.
Katie Fisher September 07, 2012 at 03:49 PM
The problem that I have is that clearly everyone agrees that the place is not cared for properly, AT ALL...... but no one fights for better. Of course it is easier to just go elsewhere but I would rather bust my butt and try to make it better for my child and other children. We shouldn't HAVE to go elsewhere for our kids to play in a CLEAN and SAFE play area... plain and simple. Trust me, I'm not finished.
jackie September 07, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Thank you i just left there with my daughter who wanted to play but i was in rush so we just went though the drive in once again thank you.....
Laura H. September 07, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I worked for McDonalds (a corporate restaurant), years ago and the policy is that they playplace is supposed to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized at least once a day. there is no reason for a properly maintained playplace to have a "moldy" nugget if they were following the cleaning schedule. One the other hand,all McDonald's towels are stored in a sanitizing solution so wiping up a child's vomit in the slide with a towel is in fact appropriate and disinfecting the slide (which is anti-microbial when manufactured). It is a shame that this restaurant's play place isn't properly maintained and maybe they should remove it as so many other McDonald's have already done.
tanya close September 07, 2012 at 05:02 PM
i was there about 3 months ago and that opening has been there i made my kids stop playing cause a little boy almost fell out of it. so sad
Edward September 07, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I understand your action (and commend it), but I also see this as reasoning for Mc Donalds to just close down the play area... Or at very least make it a rather lame "safe" single level area... If they are not going to manage a safe environment for the kids, then maybe closing em down is the thing to do...
Ebony Sims-Morris September 07, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Whitney Ball September 07, 2012 at 05:49 PM
What time were you there yesterday (Thursday, September 6th) ?? I took my 2 year old son there to play around 10:30am and the play place was definitely open :(
Calique September 07, 2012 at 08:44 PM
That's atrocious. Not as much that the netting was compromised, but that multiple managers slacked off on PERMANENTLY closing the area until repairs could be made. When the first manager closed it, he should have put notes on the doors of the PP, AND made it unmistakable that the PP was NOT to be opened the next day, nor AT ALL. He should have contacted corporate, or the franchise owner, per McD policy, IMMEDIATELY. This is an EMERGENCY situation, not something to be overlooked or put aside in order to clean the shake machine. Second, with regard to the assumption that some sick person purposefully cut the netting with the intention that a child get hurt... there may be a less dramatic explanation. Perhaps it was cut to afford access to another part of the structure to make a repair and then through neglect was not reattached. At any rate, thanks for bringing this to everyone's attention.
Susan Dunn Valentine September 07, 2012 at 08:44 PM
I applaud you for your tenacity. This is why Mothers have to be their child's advocate. Thanks for sharing.
Patrick H. September 07, 2012 at 09:40 PM
It is my understanding that this franchise is not one of McDonalds but one of several owned by a holding company in Crofton. Instead of going right to the newspapers did you think of filing a complaint with the Board of Health in A.A. County. They have a pretty good reputation for a quick response. It is also my understanding that going sockless is not allowed and that they even sell socks for a dollar to those that do not have them. We all need to watch out for all of our children and I am appreciative that you have given us a heads-up on this location (I have friends that have stopped going there because of the cleanliness issue). I am not a McDOnald's fan but I wish there was a way to identify which stores are Corporate Stores and which ones are independantly owned. Probably not going to happen so I also thank you for informing us of this.
juliana diangelo September 08, 2012 at 03:48 AM
I hate my kids playing in those things, thankyou for your braveness and integrity, so sad that adults many of them didn't give a crap. Also they r filthy, and I have seen dirty poopy diapers, they smell like feet fungus, because I bet if u asked does someone spray this down with lysol everyday, the answer wd b no, I do know that chickfilet does clean theirs. These are our children!!!! For Gods sake.
Patrick H. September 08, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Please call the Board of Health if you truly believe what you are saying. If you don't then who will?
Patrick H. September 08, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Please call the Board of Health. Someone needs to step-up.
Jennifer Stanfield September 18, 2012 at 04:01 AM
@Katie Fisher, I'm curious to what ever happened with this?


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